The “Fragments of Memory” Project consists of a series of illustrated posters created by Brazilian artist and graphic designer Pablo Parra. They are based on the biographies of Africans who experienced slavery in the 18th and 19th century, in different contexts and parts of the world. The art-work was developed in conjunction with the production of the research for Volume 10 of the UNESCO General History of Africa on Global Africa, edited by Professor Paul E. Lovejoy. Parra was introduced to primary sources, biographical accounts and historical images as references for the works. He also took part in workshops with scholars in association with the UNESCO Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage who contributed to the UNESCO General History of Africa volume. The methodology of the project is based on a dialogue about History and Art-Making organized by Bruno R. Véras. Pablo Parra was invited to portray five individuals from the era of slavery. The fragments of their life stories are included in the Freedom Narratives website, a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Through a pop art and graphic-novel style, Parra expresses feelings and visual concepts of the African Diaspora as a dynamic expressive culture. This Exhibit is a Public History initiative which aims to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the UNESCO Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage during the United Nations International Decade of People of African Descent.
Pablo Parra (PunkArt Macumba) is a Latin American graphic artist and illustrator born in Mococa,
São Paulo, Brazil. His artistic style mixes aesthetic inspiration from political artistic
movements such as punk, Latin American hip-hop and influences from the work of visual artists
such as Emory Douglas and Basquiat. His illustrations feature strong and contrasting colors. He
worked for several years as Art Director for key communication agencies, most notably in
Argentina and Brazil. In parallel, his career as an illustrator led him to exhibit his art in
international art events and circuits in Brazil and abroad.
The concept of “diaspora” is key to Parra’s aesthetic and imaginative process of creating his graphic depictions. Mystical and diasporic references to African-based religions are present in his drawings mixed together into a punk-conceptual style. Parra translates his inspiration into his online art-profile “PunkArt Macumba,” visually establishing these connections. In the Fragments of Memory Project, Parra combines historical references to the characters he represents with his personal aesthetic choices and motivations as an African-Brazilian man and a political being from the periphery of São Paulo. This exhibit asks the audience to consider the connections between diaspora, gender, slavery and the creation of freedom through five personal historical trajectories.
The exhibit is under the direction/co-curation of Bruno R. Véras, a historian with experience in public history and digital scholarship. He has worked in theater, documentary, creative media and other mediums in Brazil, Canada, Uganda, South Africa, and the United States. The co-curator, Fernanda Sierra Suárez, is a graduate of the Culture and Expression program at York University. Her passion for social justice and, cultural and artistic practices has allowed her to play a variety of roles within cultural work in Mexico and Canada. The project includes an international team of researchers from Canada, Brazil, Nigeria, Turkey and USA in partnership with UNESCO.
Baquaqua was born in Djougou in what is today northern Bénin around 1824. While serving as a court official, he was enslaved and despatched southward through the Kingdom of Dahomey and shipped to Brazil in 1845. He escaped slavery in New York City. He intended his autobiography, which was completed in Canada, as an abolitionist pamphlet that he hoped would enable him to return to Africa in 1854.
Osifekunde was born into an aristocratic Yoruba family from Makun in Ijebu (modern Nigeria). After his enslavement, he was sent as to Rio de Janeiro in 1820. Seventeen years later in 1837, his master took him to Paris, where he became free. He returned to Brazil where he had a son, but in 1842 a gang beat him to death.
Catherine, first named Ngeve, was born in Angola. She was kidnapped along with her two sisters in early 1833 on a beach and taken on board a slave ship destined for Cuba. The ship was wrecked, but she was rescued and taken to Spanish Town. In 1841, she joined a mission to the Gold Coast, where she was a teacher for the Protestant Basel Mission Society in what is now Accra.
Gracia Maria Magalhães probably came from Angola. As a slave, she was known as Gracia Guiné but later was known by the same surname as her master. Although she had no children of her own, she was able to acquire a cassava mill, purchase the freedom of the man she married as well as buy and then free two slave after she had earned her own freedom. She became a member of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, where she was buried.
Nadir Ağa was born in the 1870s in the Oromo region (modern Ethiopia). When he was only nine years old he was enslaved and shipped to Mecca, where he was castrated and spent 3 years being educated in Arabic. He was then sent to Istanbul to serve the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II. He was freed in the revolution of 1909 and subsequently earned his living by establishing a dairy.