In “Maraca”, Gabriela Noujaim presents four new works that comment on the interconnection between ecological imbalances and exploitation of common natural resources by mankind. After the heavy rains that affected the city of Rio de Janeiro between March and April 2019, the artist felt inspired to approach the coordinated action of the elements water, fire, earth and air in her artistic processes.
This multidisciplinary research follows the scientific narratives in contemporary art that comment on the Anthropocene1 as a central subject to describe the geological age in which we find ourselves today; and in which humans have been recognized as causing agent of constant impacts on the environment, feeding a force field between the notions of destruction and conservation.
Thus, the artist creates an alert about the model of consumption and disposal, its relationship with climate change and the conflicting horizons that can be seen from the reflections of the non-preservation of natural goods.
The addressing of this issue is due, in large part, to the years of collaboration and experiences exchanged among Noujaim and the Indigenous community of Aldeia Maracanã. Such relationship mentioned in her works in an attempt to rescue and disseminate the ancestral knowledge of the native peoples, guardians of the preservation of forests and the existence of humankind as a collective.
The title of the exhibition also highlights the ritualistic culture of various indigenous ethnic groups who live threatened by the weakening laws and public policies that defend their rights, such as their land demarcation and protection systems. The Maraca is a musical instrument made of gourds, stuffed with seeds and may have a distinct name in each community. This tool has a healing function and can also be used as a purifying object by the hands of the shamans in sacred ceremonies as well in the dances and festivities.
The artist situates her practice at the intersection of art and activism and explores cinematic interests through sound assembly and the scenic experience of the installation as a path for communicating the layers of meaning contained in her works.
In the video installation “Water”, the images of melting ice2 in the coldest regions of the globe play a role as one of the most recognizable demonstrations of the impact of human activities in the Anthropocene era. In this work, fragmented pieces of mirror on the floor are the representation and reflection of this ruin. In the juxtaposition imagery of the video, the waves of São Conrado (cost of Rio), filmed by Noujan and mixed with images carefully selected from the Internet, make it sound like conceptual markers of the planet's temperature and rising of ocean and sea water levels.
In the video “Terra”, the artist's hands are stamped by the geometry of indigenous design, simulating the ophidian movement until her image comes into symbiosis with the forest; in a metaphor that affirms the resilience of the various indigenous peoples in the defense and conscious use of land.
While in “Ar”, the practice of historical erasure and the contempt of governments for public policies regarding science, culture and heritage are denounced; In this work the artist mentions the National Museum, which was destroyed by fire in September 2018.
In the performance “Fire”, the game of managing time and pain suggests love as a method to alert society about the excesses authorized by the political and economic model experienced today. In this context the artist asks: Whom or what would you stand in the fire for?
The exhibition revives subjects previously addressed in the artist's career. Noujaim has been developing her work motivated by the legacy of feminist3 art practices as she deals with the female body, territories disputed by power structures, the reproductibility of images and the review of historical narratives in Art History.
Interested in the potential of art to help us imagine other choices and possibilities, in "Maraca" the notions of permanence and risk revealed by Gabriela Noujaim present a document of the current world reality and the possible consequences for years to come.
1 FERRÃO, J. “O Antropoceno como narrativa: uma lente útil para entender o presente e imaginar o futuro?”. Biblos, [S.l.], n. 3, p. 205-221, mar. 2018. ISSN 2183-7139. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 31 jul. 2019.
2 REISS, J. “Terra incognita: exhibiting ice in the Anthropocene”. In: Art, Theory and Practice in the Anthropocene. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press, 2019. P. 77-86.
3 de ZEGHER, C. Introduction. In: ARMSTRONG, C.; de Zegher, C. (Org.). Women Artists at the Millennium. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006. P. XV.