In the old church, Antonio Obá dives into Brazilian religions and rituals


The triptych under the organ. ‘The work is an altar and shows how the different religions we have in Brazil differ from each other. But I try to put them on the same level. “Statue Gert Jan van Rooij

Antonio Obá (1983) grew up in Brasilia, a city built in the 1950s. Brasilia became the capital of Brazil in 1960. Modern buildings reflected the expectation of a bright, new future.

In 2019, Obá came to Amsterdam to explore the space of the Oude Kerk. “I was really impressed with the history and the architecture. I have a great passion for architecture. In Brazil, there is a lot of baroque in ancient historic cities. But here it felt like I was in a maze. ” Obá wanted to store everything in that maze in his memory.

One of the works now on display in the Oude Kerk is somewhat older. It was made in 2015 and now stands under the organ. The shape of the triptych is immediately reminiscent of a medieval age. “It started from a study of all the religions we have in Brazil. We have the Catholic faith that came to the country from Portugal. And there are Afro-Brazilian religions and traditions. The work is an altar and shows how the religions differ from each other. But I try to put them on the same level. ”

Saints among charcoal

Obá is a Catholic by birth, and in his teens he seriously considered attending seminary to be trained as a priest. So he grew up with the rituals that he depicts in his work. In the lecture hall, a side room of the Oude Kerk, he shows panels with a pattern of iron nails. “The title Pregnancy refers to preaching, but the word also refers to a verb that means something like ‘hit a nail on the head’. ”

At the site of the choir, a kind of garden has been laid out, an artificial flower field.  2400 bells are mounted on two rows of swingarms.  Statue Gert Jan van Rooij

At the site of the choir, a kind of garden has been laid out, an artificial flower field. 2400 bells are mounted on two rows of swingarms.Statue Gert Jan van Rooij

Obá was also eager to learn more about the other religions in Brazil. About candomblé for example, which has many parallels to traditional African religions where ancestors are honored. “Believers seek contact with gods who are said to represent natural forces.”

Obá presents small saint statues between blocks of charcoal, as if it were a barbecue. The pictures are, so to speak, sacrificed. “At first glance, you might think it’s destruction, because it’s like a campfire. But by throwing them on the fire, the numbers can rise. There is a height, they ascend to the heavens. It is not destruction, but a transformation. ”

Obá has traditionally replaced the wine on the altar with a bottle of cachaça, a kind of Brazilian rum made from sugar cane. The latter is crucial because sugar cane was important to the Brazilian economy during colonial times.

In the lecture hall, Obá shows panels with a pattern of iron nails.

In the lecture hall, Obá shows panels with a pattern of iron nails. “The title Pregacão refers to sermons, but the word also refers to a verb meaning something like ‘hitting a nail on the head’.”Statue Gert Jan van Rooij

Lynchfest

The works specially made for the exhibition also deal with the meaning of religious icons and rituals. They can be seen mainly in the central axis of the church, where traditional religious rituals took place. The work hangs in the middle of the church Suspended children, which consists of 37 mirrors and 74 painted banners surrounding a spiral stand. The shape is reminiscent of a chandelier.

“The work has to do with Strange fruit, a song by Billie Holiday. In the southern United States, blacks were lynched, and in the song, the hanging bodies are compared to fruit on a tree. When I got into it, I was very impressed with how normal it was. The lynchings were also used as propaganda. Postcards were made of it. ”

“A tree can have two meanings. It was used to cause pain, people were hung on it. But beyond that, a tree is a symbol of life. That’s why I have replaced the hung ones with children playing.”

In the center of the church hangs the work Suspended Children, which consists of 37 mirrors and 74 painted banners surrounding a spiral stand.  Statue Gert Jan van Rooij

In the center of the church hangs the work Suspended Children, which consists of 37 mirrors and 74 painted banners surrounding a spiral stand.Statue Gert Jan van Rooij

2400 clocks

Further on the site of the choir in the church there is a kind of garden, an artificial flower field. 2400 bells are mounted on two rows of swingarms. The artist invites the visitor to walk past it and touch the bells so that the square in the Oude Kerk is filled with sounding.

According to Obá, the work is related to the chandelier with children. “When I touch it, it’s like a voice from the past that I call out. The work is also reminiscent of the cotton plantations in America or the sugar cane plantations in Brazil. ”

The bells are a prelude to two large paintings hanging between the pillars of the choir in the Oude Kerk. “When I thought of the exhibition, the image of a road kept coming into my head. I thought of the road as a metaphor for something you are about to discover. That you start thinking about yourself. ”

Two figures are central to the paintings. A child stands on poles and is surrounded by two toddlers, twins. The second canvas depicts a blind man. Both characters stand at a crossroads in their lives. They leave things behind and embark on a new adventure. In a way, the paintings form a self-portrait, zt Obá. “The blind man does not know what he will encounter on his way, but he still runs. It’s not autobiographical, but there are elements of myself in it. ‘

Antonio Obá: Path, until September 13 in the old church.

Detail from Suspended Children Image Gert Jan van Rooij

Detail from Suspended ChildrenStatue Gert Jan van Rooij

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