Damage control : black women's visual resistance in Brazil and beyond



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Jezebels, Mammies, and Matriarchs… These labels signify racialized and gendered social constructions that transnationally pervade the lives of black women. By contextualizing black women’s artwork as visual responses to social subjugation and objectification, one can discern the (literal) materialization of black feminist epistemology through artistic production and the aesthetic concerns that drive expressive work. This thesis therefore analyzes black Brazilian artist Rosana Paulino’s work as a visual form of resistance to three major “controlling images” of black women in Brazil as sexually promiscuous, domestic laborers, and unfit mothers. Her work represents not only the Brazilian black woman’s experience; it broadens and deepens the conversation on black women’s art in Africa and its diasporas, where similar stereotypes exist. Several of Paulino’s personal statements and artworks address subjects that parallel those made by black women artists--María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Lorna Simpson, Zanele Muholi, and Wangechi Mutu, to name a few--whose artwork is also considered in this paper. Articulated to an international community of black women artists, Paulino’s artwork contributes to the development of a space in art history for the representation of black Brazilian women that enriches understandings of other established areas, be they social, artistic, medical, sexual, cultural, political or economical.