Fauna Guarani - Xadalu
We are taught to believe that what we call human species results from the development of capabilities and skills that distinguish us from other animals. Or rather, that would rank us on top of them. It so happens that when we detach ourselves from other animals we end up taking a leap to take a stand as dominators, and hence also separating from a collective order in which we once participated in a more integrated way.
None of this corresponds to the understanding of ancestral cultures as the one of the Mbyá-Guarani. To their successive generations — and despite the colonization processes and the attempts of acculturation—, millenary knowledges continue to be conveyed by which beings in the animal and vegetable reigns participate equally in the organization of a cohesive totality. In the Mbyá cosmovision, animals and plants are considered as any fundamental being with the existential experience. They exercise a magic-overnatural role of spiritual implications, and also a material-earthly role related to nature and survival. According to indigenous knowledge, the “beings in the woods” integrate dynamically a thread of social and religious meanings that transcend the individual, their present life and the immediate experience of the now.
It is exatactly something about this ritual character, mediator and communitarian that we already find in the early artistic manifestations of primitive societies. A function that western art would miss or not exercise accordingly, based on the progressive destitution of the wholesome sense of primal that connected man and natures.
With the “Fauna Guarani” project, that has been showcased in the streets and now gains highlights in an individual exhibition at the Bolsa de Arte Gallery, Xadalu takes it to an artistic incursion on behalf of the artistic Mbyá-Guarani mythology, deepening a relation established more than one decade ago with the indigenous cultures and communities.
The intel of these peoples survive spoken accounts, in the daily rituals and the daily practices in villages around Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, being some of them the destination to which Xadalu goes to in his immersion seasons, in those one could call artistic residences. One of the ways by which the Mbyá knowledges are handed over to the youngest regarding the importance of animals and nature, as well as its knowledge and functioning, lies in articraft. More specifically, in the execution of wooden sculptures of miniature animals, worked upon red-hot iron sheets. These are the pieces that usually take villages to the city to expose them on sidewalks, making up a customary — and renegated — image of social segregation.
Based on the meanings and the sculptures shapes that the Mbyá-Guarani assign to the animals, Xadalu provides a graphic treatment to this imaginary and its representations, consonant with the urban art languages that is put into practice by means of its posters and stickers – the so called sticker art. When we make a shift over to the streets of the “beings in the woods” symbology according to the indigenous mythology, Xadalu fabules what would be a spin-off of these animals towards the city. Their motivation is a protest, as though the animals were emissaries of an alert scream to the invisibility of outcast cultures and the fight for the right of peripheral communities.
From the visual point of view and even the formal one, Xadalu explores the enhancing of the real scale of the animals, the power of vibrant colors that elect the force of the broad contours that he inprints. Thus, making his figures of the “Fauna Guarani” effectively seem to yell in a visual explosion once glued onto the urban space, becoming particularized in face of the shrillness of the profusion of such images that compete for the space and the attention around the streets. However, they are not only visual operations, but also conceptual ones, once they do not detach from the processes that originate and engender them.
In order to situate the production by Xadalu, seeking to point out inter-relations and unfoldings in his research of convergences between urban art and indigenous culture, the exhibition also presents other pieces of work, among which some new ones or even those produced in later days. One example is the series “Xe Ramôi”, that already takes part in the collages around the streets of Porto Alegre. They are large posters that call attention for their impact power of the maxim “Resistência Mbyá-Guarani” (Mbyá-Gurani Resistance), printed next to the already expressive images of the indigenous leadership recorded in photography, and whose portraits bring along graphic patterns related to the meanings of indigenous culture.
In other works presented in the exhibition, it is possible to perceive the ways by which Xadalu moves about these different techniques and languages. Besides giving privilege to the graphic processes of the printing such as silkscreen and by the use of photography to obtain images, the research of visual solutions is still accompanied by the accomplishment of 3D objects and works that are inserted in the expanded field of the painting. This leads to observing that their production is overarched by dialogs among graphism, the pictorial, the collage, the seizing and the photographic image.
The contemporary character of the art of Xadalu comes from this blend of references, employed greatly in an intuitive and experimental fashion. From a humble origin the dweller of the periphery, the artist is self taught. He found his artistic path when he took the chance to replace his job of street cleaner for a silkscreen company worker. Upon discovering the creative potentials in graphic skills, he soon started to act and manifest himself as an urban visual artist.
Touched by the conditions of outcast groups, he engaged in indigenous causes as soon as he discovers his artistic verve, expressing his issues in the form of an artistic activism as early as his first works began. Therefore, since he created the character Xadalu, in 2004, and took this artistic name for himself, the visual aspect of his production cannot be detached from the social and political issues that are core to his art pieces.
As the founding gesture of his work, the figure of a small indigenous boy that started to be glued around the city soon multiplied in a kind of viral action in the streets of Porto Alegre, being currently seen in dozens of cities worldwide due to the network established with other artists that share their stickers via mail. Hence, with no overstatement the circulation of the character Xadalu gained an international scale, also enhancing the chance of achieving the denouncement that the artist seeks to convey by means of his works and the evanescence of indigenous cultures.
It is worth stressing here that the production process of Xadalu in the villages takes place in collaboration with the villagers, upon which the works are presented on the streets of the city resulting in actions of urban intervention. This also involves a certain ethics as for the commitment and responsibility of always offering some return and contribution to the communities, as they say themselves.
Whether it is in the streets or the villages that Xadalu sharpens the awareness of his look and finds the elements of his visual manifestations, it is in the moves between these two material and symbolic territories that his production encounters the expressive form and the vibrant power that the images are able to offer as a way to unchain reflections and touch the senses of the imaginary realms.
Exhibition curator “Fauna guarani”, by Xadalu, Bolsa de Arte Gallery. November 2018