Adriana Varejão. Polvo
Adriana Varejão’s fascination with miscegenation and skin colour is explored in this previously unpublished work, which takes the form of a double deck of cards. Here she addresses the notion of interracial identity in her native Brazil. While the Brazilian census traditionally divides its population into five groups according to predefined skin tone patterns (white, black, yellow, red (or indigenous) and pardo*), in 1976 it posed an open question: “What is your colour?” The result was 136 self-definitions. Some of the terms sound poetic or unusual, more figurative than literal, or belong to a specific cultural context. However, the survey and its representation of skin-tone diversity also seem to uncover Brazil’s latent racism in an unconventional way.
Some of these terms, difficult to translate, may sound poetic or quite unusual, and in general point to a meaning that is much more figurative than literal. They also belong to a specific cultural context. But there is a perverse side to this story, as many of the self-denominations raised in this research may have emerged from the difficulty of calling oneself black or indigenous. In this regard, the survey seems to uncover Brazil’s latent racism in an unconventional way. This project allows us to represent more broadly the immense diversity of skin tones that we have, while revealing how subjective and arbitrary notions of colour or race can be.
This list of names and expressions, open to a free interpretation of the corresponding colours, was the origin of this artist’s book.
(*) Generic term that does not define a specific race or colour, used to describe varied and indistinct ‘mixtures’ between whites, blacks and/or indigenous people.