Werllayne Nunes, “Xangô e a dança dos leões,” 2009
Virile, daring, and righteous, Xangô punishes liars and thieves. Noted for his pride, he is never willing to take second place…Xangô, the orixá of thunder, is so popular in Brazil that, in Recife in the state of Pernambuco, his name is used to refer to religious groups of Yorùbá origin.
Faces, colors, and cultural and religious traditions from my native Brazil and other African diasporic countries are the subjects of my current series of paintings. My main interest lies in challenging the ways in which the media typically portrays peoples from the Global South. Photos and other visual images often depict a one-dimensional people whose identities are defined solely by helplessness and powerlessness stemming from their socioeconomic conditions. This recurrence of these images ascribes a superficial identity to people from these regions and fails to recognize their agency. Using these images as a starting point, I lift figures out of their depicted contexts and place them in colorful backgrounds that recall patterns of contemporary design in order to counter representations of people of the Global South as primitive. I then juxtapose these portraits with images that represent cultural or religious symbols in order to create a kind of visual magical realism characterized by the simultaneous existence of two conflicting perspectives—reality and fantasy.