Text by Marisa Flórido about “Nimbo/Oxalá”
In these happy sad tropics, nature is imposed on the imagination like the domain of the ambiguous: at the same time both a view of paradise and mysterious domain of uncontrolled powers, beyond any measure or direction. Man, faced with the exuberant and unexpected nature, stood at the crossroads between his redemption and his inexorable contingency.
Between the ocean and the mountains, Rio de Janeiro has spread between its demolished hills and reclaimed swamps, between violent deforestation and tropical epidemics. Although the city’s image is mixed with the seductive nature of the tropics, it also reproduces in the now winding and at times regular outline, the symbolic force of this duel between presence and void, boundary and the boundless, logic and chance. In the successive changes in its geography, the destruction of the forests and water, lies the doubtful feeling of adoration and extortion, exaltation and hostility.
However, even if the city once was the shelter against an attractive but brutal nature, it has now increasingly become the dimension of insecurity and existential anguish, a sphinx devouring a man who moves on nostalgically seeking in nature moments of refuge and restoration.
Artifice and nature then mix together: after all, the world’s largest urban forest in the mountainous heart of the city was “built” in the 19th century. And it is said that it reinforces its wild fertility, replanted only by one Major and six slaves. The city would worship its old enemy and restore it, accessory within its boundaries but imperious over its roofs. Nature, monumentalized, is the green fabric on which the gaze, saturated with urban images – the vast and atrocious grey of the megalopolis -, takes refuge and rests. Yet, between the city’s places – which the logic of the monument would hierarchise by function – the Christ Redeemer statue occupies the peak of this reforested mountain: arms open over us.
“Nimbo/Oxalá” is an interference by Ronald Duarte in the patio of Gustavo Capanema Palace, a symbol of Brazilian modernist architecture, whose design expresses some of the main ideals of Le Corbusier: the building suspended from the ground, fruition and total view of an open corner-less space, antiseptic and absolute control over chance and the unexpected. So, one Friday, the weekday consecrated to Oshalá, twenty actors dressed in white and carrying fire extinguishers, release a large white cloud. An artificial cloud, of course, but which conveys to us irruption of the sacred and designation of the infinite in pictorial tradition.
Oshalá is an interjection that comes from the Arabic In as Allah, meaning “God willing!” But it is also the Brazilian name of a high divinity among the Yoruba orishas, a contraction of Orixa-n-la, “the great orisha”. If the place is a natural crossroads of the gods and humankind, a fixed point that submits to knowledge and order, realms and creatures, it so happens that, on these sides of the Atlantic all gods came together, to dispute and share the souls and spaces, the cosmogonies and miseries.
Oshalá, syncretised with Jesus Christ, is an orisha of an ambiguous nature, with no defined gender, of man’s creation. Just as ambiguous as the manifestation to the Yoruba divinity in the straight-lined temple and transparent planes of modern rationalism, with its yearning for omnivision and its civilizing promise of humanity. A protective promise, but totalitarian and arrogant. A terrifying promise, since it is haunted by anything that would escape it from the linear domain, such as clouds, crossroads and singular desires.
Until night and tiredness slowly swallow (the image of) the dawn and breath of the day. As if the body, regulated by the speed of the machine, is aligned with the drowsy afternoon and the earth turning on its axis, demanding its sleep and the promise of any kind of diversion. A diversion that can escape the invariable mechanical time of the everyday life, of the lesser and greater brutalities of this city. To meet, perhaps at the crossroads, flowers, clouds, the pulsing of bodies and of stars, the joys of these sad tropics. – Marisa Flórido Cesar