Arthur Ross Gallery hosts Capoeira demo, samba workshop

Formerly home to the largest concentration of African slaves in the Americas and the longest lasting slave system in the Western Hemisphere, Brazil has a rich artistic tradition. But the visual culture of African-descended people living in Brazil has not been a widely exhibited segment of Latin American art.

On April 7, the Arthur Ross Gallery (ARG) will open the exhibition “Samba Sessão: Afro-Brazilian Art & Film,” and as part of a series of campus events showcasing Brazilian culture, the ARG will host a Capoeira demonstration and Samba Dance Workshop on Wednesday, April 18.

Created by slaves stolen from Africa and shipped to South America, Capoeira is a Brazilian form of martial art that incorporates music and dance. The demonstration, scheduled to run from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. outside the ARG, will be led by Alex Shaw, a lead vocalist for the Philadelphia-based group Alô Brasil.  

The samba workshop, scheduled to run from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. inside the ARG, will be directed by freelance dance artist and choreographer Angelica Cassimiro. African in origin and Brazilian in style, samba is a fast-paced and rhythmical dance that emphasizes grace and flexibility.

The “Samba Sessão” exhibition consists of the 15 paintings and three sculptures made during the 20th century that represent different aspects of Afro-Brazilian life, from laboring in the fields to religious rituals and syncretic belief systems born from the experience of New World enslavement. The exhibition is the product of a Halpern-Rogath Curatorial Seminar offered by the Department of the History of Art and led by professors Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw and Tamara J. Walker.

“The confluence of African, indigenous, and European cultural traditions are exemplified in this vibrant exhibition,” says ARG Director Lynn Marsden-Atlass. “We’ve brought Brazil to West Philadelphia with this show that features Brazilian dance, film, music, sports, and food.”

Other campus activities related to the exhibition include a Bateria Drumming session on April 13 at the ARG, and a symposium, “Polo S: Reorienting the Visual Culture of the Early Americas,” on April 13 and 14 at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.

Free and open to the public, the “Samba Sessão” exhibit is on display through July 29.