35th Bienal de São Paulo
6 Set to 10 Dec 2023
Free Admission
35th Bienal de
São Paulo
6 Set to 10 Dec
Exhibition view of the work of Zumví Arquivo Afro Fotográfico during the 35th Bienal de São Paulo – choreographies of the impossible © Levi Fanan / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo

Zumví Arquivo Afro Fotográfico

What does it mean to constitute a photographic archive of, through, and for Afro-Brazilian life? Zumví Arquivo Afro Fotográfico [Zumví Afro Photographic Archive] is the closest answer we have. Founded in 1990 by Lázaro Roberto, Ademar Marques, and Raimundo Monteiro, and physically housed between Pelourinho and Fazenda Grande in Salvador, Bahia, Zumví archive houses 30,000 photographs (as well as personal documents, posters, postcards, and various documents) spanning three decades. It is a community archive to the core, without institutional support nor bureaucratic bluster. Its vast cache of images aligns sights and routes of protest alongside everyday street scenes – shaping a visual space that reveals precisely how spheres of social and political life unfolded in Bahia during the final decades of the twentieth century. Engaging various photographic perspectives, these pictures grasp the pain and pride, love and insistent possibility embodied in the condition of Blackness.

As a whole, Zumví Arquivo Afro Fotográfico is an assertion of Afro- Brazilian existence and autonomy, articulated through the notion of aquilombamento. Functioning as more than an accretion of representations, the political clarity of the archive’s purpose is immediately legible in its name: a simultaneous contraction of “zum–vi”1 and an invocation of Zumbi, the leader of Palmares, a monumental community of quilombos that resisted the Portuguese and Dutch for a full century (1595–-1695). Through the ongoing efforts of Lázaro Roberto and his nephew José Carlos, Zumvi’s spirit of self-determination integrates the photograph as a site of sociopolitical struggle, a place where movement work can happen. If we take seriously scholar and activist from Sergipe Beatriz Nascimento’s argument that “quilombo is fundamentally a social condition, a place where liberty is practiced, [it is] the acceptance of Black culture2,” we might then consider this archive as a pictorial extension of this social condition. Zumví is a fugitive passageway made photographic, a place where Black consciousness is cultivated in the fix and expands beyond the frame.

oluremi onabanjo

1. “Zum” sounds as zoom (of photographic lenses), and “vi” translates as “saw”. [e.n.]
2.Beatriz Nascimento, “O conceito de quilombola e a resistência afro-brasileira.” Afrodiáspora, n. 6-7, 1985, pp. 41-49.

Zumví Arquivo Afro Fotográfico was created in 1990 by Lázaro Roberto, Aldemar Marques and Raimundo Monteiro on the outskirts of Salvador, and preserves the photographic production of its three founders since the 1970s, with records of political and cultural activities, as well as  images of Afro-Brazilian culture. Its name derives from the combination of the word “zum” (“zoom”), which brings what is far away closer in photography, and “vi”, meaning to have seen or “saw” in Portuguese. Today, the project is directed by Lázaro Roberto with the support of historian José Carlos Ferreira, who work together to make the collection available to researchers in the field of documentation, culture, memory, and race.

For the 35th Bienal, photographies by Lázaro Roberto, Geremias Mendes, Raimundo Monteiro, Aldemar Marques, Jonatas Conceição, Rogério Santos and Lúcio Flávio will be presented.