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Shako and National Trovoa

Dhaka Art Summit 2020

Several artist-led initiatives have been tearing away the cloak of invisibility thrown by structural racism within the art world. The manifesto of Brazil’s National Trovoa, a group of black and non-white women artists and curators which can be seen both as a collective and as a movement, states ‘We understand the need to speak of and to exhibit the plurality of our languages, discourses, research and media produced by us as racialised women’. A rallying call that lives in physical and digital space, Trovoa counts over 150 members and empowers the most disenfranchised members of the art world to become visible together.

Shako – Women Artists Association of Bangladesh – for women and by women – believes art can play a role in healing society. It raises funds for individuals, male and female, who are unwell or in need of medical treatment; uses art to encourage physically or mentally challenged people; and promotes female artists and helps them develop skills. A ‘shako’ is a temporary bamboo bridge, built to make it possible to cross rivers and streams, an apt metaphor for Shako’s work connecting talented female artists to vulnerable communities.

Reflections on blackness and racial subjugation must respond to different histories and contexts. The largest African diaspora in the world is found in Brazil. In South Asia also, the colour of a woman’s skin can subject her to structural prejudice. Skin-lightening creams are used widely across the country, derogatory phrases are directed at women with dark skin or indigenous features, and advertisements for arranged marriages explicitly favour ‘fair skin’. The Collective Body brings together these two generations of female-led collectives from South Asia and South America for a 5-hour tea party to compare experiences, and in their words, to ‘darken our thoughts.’

The results of these discussions was published in Bangla, English, and Portuguese on social media, follow #darkeningthoughts Shako also ran a workshop about black empowerment on 13 February from 4–6pm in the 4th floor workshop area.

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