Antonio Obá, Pregação, 2015

Body, ritual and miscegenation in Antonio Oba’s production

Born in Ceilândia, in the outskirts of Brasília, and raised in a catholic family, PIPA Prize 2017 Finalist Antonio Obá investigates and reconfigures a certain Brazilian religious tradition. Interested in the pursuit and affirmation of his own body, Obá found in the field of performance his ideal realm. There, he’s able to reproduce a kind of ritualistic aspect of religion. “The anchoring point [of my work] revolves around the statement of the presence of the body,” he tells PIPA Institute Curator Luiz Camillo Osorio in an exclusive PIPA Prize interview.

The centrality of the body in his work is intimately related to the desire he has of understanding his own identity, mixing intimate memory and a larger social context that exists long before him and has defined his place in society. Obá frequently examines what it means to have a black, miscegenated body, a “body cast to the shadows that now claims its positionality speech.” The result is a work that brings to the surface reflections on racism, acculturation processes, miscegenation, religious rituals, masochism and eroticism.

Although working primarily with performance, the artist also draws, writes and paints. His interest and aptitude towards art comes from an early age, and was developed in High School, largely thanks to the help and support of a dear teacher. Yet, it was only as an undergrad student that he starting taking his calling seriously. Enrolled in a Marketing Bachelor course, Obá heard from one of his maisters, an artist himself, that he couldn’t become a true artist unless he had the discipline for it. A month later, he dropped out of the Marketing course to study Visual Arts at the Faculdade de Artes Dulcina de Moraes (FADM) instead.

The influence of a number of teachers and professors was, by the way, a major one when it came to the decision of making and studying art. “Today, I am also a teacher, ” he says. “I think that this is essential if you want to provide an education that is both aesthetic and sensitive”. The artist also highlights the importance of, as a black artist, occupying art spaces in order to be seen and heard by people. “I put myself in this situation: I am a mestizo, I build my affective and familiar relationships in a catechizing tradition and most of the artistic references that contributed to my background came from of an European aesthetics construct; as I said above, this is a cultural and educational problem.” One he is actively – and daily – fighting to change. 

Watch Antonio Obá’s exclusive interview for PIPA Prize 2017 and read here his interview with Luiz Camillo Osorio:

PIPA Prize 2017 Finalists’ exhibition opens this Saturday, September 23rd, at 3p.m. We’ll see you there!

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