Little Africa and Tia Lúcia’s art museum: A tribute to Lúcia Maria dos Santos
To tell the story of the city is to tell the story of its characters. Lúcia Maria dos Santos, Aunt Lúcia, an icon of Carioca culture, especially in the region known as Little Africa, left us in September. But her legacy of struggle, wisdom and art remains alive.
In tribute to this matriarch, the Museu de Arte do Rio inaugurates a new exhibition space in the library with the exhibition Little Africa and Tia Lúcia’s art museum: A tribute to Lúcia Maria dos Santos. In the same gesture that affirms female protagonism, it also opens the Women in the MAR Collection exhibition.
To present this artist’s work to the public, this black woman, mother and resident of the Morro do Pinto, alongside paintings that are characteristic of her work, we have brought together a little known series of drawings and collages for this exhibition, in which surfaces and lines take on a more abstract character. Also present are her paintings in experimental formats, made from recycled materials, scraps of paper and posters, mostly organized in a numbered series in which the artist’s projective impulse is clear, which points to the naïve character and spontaneity frequently attributed to her creations. Her notebooks of poetry and drawing, in which she liked to inventory the titles of the works that, linked together, themselves constitute true poetry.
Since MAR opened 5 years ago, Aunt Lúcia had been a constant and striking presence in its activities. In an interview published in the newspaper produced in the context of the Neighbours of MAR programme, she said:
The first time I went to an exhibition was by accident. I was a Catechism teacher. When I returned from the Mass at Candelaria with the children, they escaped and ran into the Banco do Brasil Cultural Centre. I had to go inside to get them ... Museums were for rich people, it was very difficult to enter. It was such a big, beautiful thing with nobody there. The museum is for everybody and at the same time it is nobody's, you cannot deny people access.
Many years later, in her intense relationship with MAR – for her, a sign of union and also her home – Aunt Lúcia performed the much-longed for appropriation of cultural spaces by the people of her surroundings and the city, acting not only as a spectator, but as a protagonist of countless workshops and festivities, as well as exhibitions such as The Rio of Samba: resistance and reinvention, which is still on show.
By inventing herself as an artist, despite everything in her life that had denied her access to this privileged place; by bravely overcoming the concrete and symbolic barriers separating popular culture from legitimate artistic manifestations, Aunt Lúcia teaches us to construct new ways of being and doing for cultural institutions. Ways of being and doing that, in their best condition, requalify the role of art and help us build a more democratic, diverse and egalitarian society.
Hail Aunt Lúcia!