The History Tram – The presence of black heritage in the Museu Histórico Nacional

By Museu Histórico Nacional

The
educational project “History Tram” was created in order to offer guided tours
focused on themes originated from the collections and exhibitions of the MHN.
This is the first online version of this project, and we will maintain the
central idea of a dialogical and collective construction of knowledge aiming the
transformation of society. In a visit along the “History Tram”, questions, debates,
and critical thinking are important goals beyond the visit.

Projeto Bonde da História (2019-05-14) by Diogo TubbsMuseu Histórico Nacional

The History Tram - The presence
of black heritage in the Museu Histórico Nacional

This guided visit emerges as a reflection on how the legacy of Afro-Brazilian culture is represented in the MHN exhibitions. It is not only a question of highlighting this legacy, but bringing a new critical perspective on this collection, revealing how it becomes part of the museum and also how it can be useful for visitors to end the tour by asking themselves about racism and the condition of black people in Brazilian society today. Another fundamental mission is to point out what is missing and contribute to the acquisition of new collections that represents the role of black people in the Brazil’s history.

Portugueses no mundo (2010/2013) by DesconhecidoMuseu Histórico Nacional

Since when has the presence of black people in the Brazilian territory started? Why did it happen? Was it a "spontaneous" occupation process? The beginning of the traffic of black people from the West African coast was part of an international commercial context involving several regions of the globe. In this showcase, the displayed objects help us to reflect on this issue.

Painel - Rotas do Tráfico Negreiro - Exposição Potugueses no Mundo - MHNMuseu Histórico Nacional

Was slavery gentle? What elements make us think that? How can we think differently? Did Africans offered themselves to be enslaved? Were kidnapping and enslavement a mild processes?

What was the attempt in destroying the humanity of these people? One method was to erase the pillars that made up their identity, such as the imposition of a Christian name, as well as their identification through the name of the port from which they were embarked towards Brazil.

The panel numbers help us to have a dimension of the contingent of human beings that have been trafficked to Brazil for over 3 centuries.

After arriving in Brazil, where were most of these Africans sent? What were the working conditions on the plantations? The Portuguese in the World exhibition features a model of a sugar cane mill and, on the right, you can see some forced labor instruments present on the plantations. Highlight: the sugarloaf molds - in the foreground - that were used in the refining of the sugar cane.

Battle of Guararapes (ex-voto) (1758) by UnknownMuseu Histórico Nacional

In this scene from the Battle of the Guararapes (Batalha dos Guararapes), we can see an example of the idealized Brazil of the fusion of the “three races”. Was that a peaceful process? Was there a constant level playing field? Do observe in the painting the space reserved for the Portuguese, blacks and indigenous people. Does the Portuguese centrality mean anything? Who appears in a lower position?

In this detail, it is possible to observe an army contingent formed by enslaved black people who saw the possibility of a promised freedom after fighting alongside the Portuguese. Highlight: the command of Henrique Dias (16-- / 1662), a freed black slave who commanded the contingent of slaves during the battle.

Mordaça, Barras de ouro, Moedas de ouro e cobre e Conjunto de medidas de capacidade.Museu Histórico Nacional

Here is an object that makes the dialectic between resistance and control concrete. The gag was used to prevent slaves from swallowing gold nuggets or precious stones. Being in the possession of one of latter meant the possibility of purchasing freedom. Once freed, did that really mean being free?

Tronco de Castigo (Século 18) by Século XIXMuseu Histórico Nacional

In the face of constant punishment and torture, it was necessary to resist and confront. What were the “quilombos”? How did the enslaved people get there? Was dying a way to resist?

Dom João VI listening to Father José Maurício at the harpsichord (study) (1880/1936) by Henrique BernardelliMuseu Histórico Nacional

In certain circumstances, some black people were able to ascend socially or have more rights guaranteed by virtue of their artistic activities. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, some of these people became famous among the Portuguese elite.

Saint John the Evangelist (1780/1810) by Mestre Valentim da Fonseca e SilvaMuseu Histórico Nacional

It was necessary to master artistic techniques and European aesthetic tastes in order to please the court and guarantee better living conditions.

Party Sunday at farm (1920/1929) by Hans NöbauerMuseu Histórico Nacional

Is Brazil a racial democracy? What does that mean? Does racism really exist? Are we racist?

Altar de Oxalá (2010) by Emanoel AraújoMuseu Histórico Nacional

In contemporary Brazil, the promotion and recognition of cultural manifestations of African origin have become a symbol of the fight against racism and prejudice. Are these manifestations respected? Are they on an equal footing with other cultural manifestations?

This is the first gallery in the State Building exhibition that covers the independence process up to the beginning of the republic. Let’s take a look at the collection and search for elements related to the black culture. What role did black people and their descendants play in this process? Did becoming an independent country affect the structures of Brazilian society?

The various forms of violence against the bodies of the enslaved people – dehumanization, rape, and animalization - have shaped relations within the slave system as a way of subjugating and justifying the structures of the Brazilian society. This gallery is called Wealth and Slavery - when rotating 360º, do observe the objects that represent the country's elite who maintained their habits and culture by means of the slave system.

Alegoria do Ventre Livre (Século XIX) by A. D. BressaeMuseu Histórico Nacional

Was May 14, 1888, radically different for most black people in Brazil? The Áurea Law (Golden Law) is a culmination of a struggle that spanned years and that had several both known and anonymous characters. Going through confrontations, struggles, escapes, manumission, laws... But just as important as the law, we have to observe how Brazilian society maintained or not certain structures even after the formal signing of a document. How did the country deal with the inclusion of these people in society when it comes to the fight for rights and citizenship processes?

A caneta da Redentora (2010/2013) by Lau TorquatoMuseu Histórico Nacional

Which objects do we choose to represent a historical moment? What is the symbolic importance of this choice? Which objects should be chosen? Who makes these choices and why do they become part of a museum collection? Facing a process of countless struggles, which object could otherwise represent the abolition of slavery in Brazil?

The Citizenship in Construction exhibition features sections on different rights. When we think about black representativeness in politics today, we realize that we are still a long way from achieving equality on this issue. Is it possible to untie this low representation with all the slave structure that the country sustained for more than three centuries? Is it possible to disconnect this from the lack of public policies that attack these issues over the years?

Credits: Story

Roteiro original do Bonde da História - A Presença Negra no MHN: Erika Azevedo e Stephanie Santana.

Roteiro adaptado: Aline Montenegro, Diogo Tubbs e Stephanie Santana.

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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