Design and Technology in Slavery

The African skills and knowledge that built the new world and inspire the present.

Untitled (1900/1900) by Alcides CruzAfro Brasil Emanoel Araujo Museum

The history of the African presence in Brazil has long been associated with stereotyped contributions to folk culture. However, as we seek to review our historical perspectives, we're able to identify other contributions that represent the African influence in the formation of the country.

The permanent installation Art, Adornment, Design and Technology in the Slavery Period at Afro Brasil Museum sheds light on the skills and tools that had already been developed and mastered by the African men and women and exploited by the Portuguese colonizers.

Their skills went far beyond legwork at plantations and their master's houses. Ingenuity and innovation were tools of survival, allowing black men and women to develop specialized instruments and technologies.

From mining techniques... astrological devices that could track climate change...

...instruments of plantation, and others.

Perceptions of visions that were so natural, they were invisible (2020) by Heloísa HariadneAfro Brasil Emanoel Araujo Museum

Thus, it can be said that the African legacy in Brazilian history goes beyond the arts and culture, being an essential element in the technological and economic development of the country.

Without African labor technologies implemented during slavery, there would be little or almost nothing of what we know today about how Brazil constituted itself as a state, as 3⁄4 of its history is based on the exploitation of enslaved African workers.

This artwork was inspired by the African mastery of technology during the period on slavery, and created in celebration of Black Consciousness Day in Brazil, observed on November 20th.

In this work, the artist Heloísa Hariadne deals with this theme to highlight the technical-scientific knowledge left as an African legacy in Brazilian daily life and culture, through the diverse knowledge of what the enslaved had and used to create countless instruments for different purposes.

The work also seeks to demystify the superficial idea that black contributions to the formation of Brazilian society are restricted only to artistic and cultural aspects, also breaking with the common sense maxim that African history begins with slavery.

In this way, it is also possible to think about the coexisting relations between the knowledge elaborated in the past and how they reinvent themselves today, through relations of ancestral searches through possible dialogues between the past and the present.

Credits: Story

Text and research: Douglas Araújo
Arwork: Heloísa Hariade

A special collaboration between Afro Brasil Museum and Google Arts & Culture.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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