Journalist and writer
Journalist and writer
Aline Motta’s research on her heritage not only provides us with insightful work on memory and archival research, it also offers powerful counter-narratives to Brazil's history and its knotty relationship with the past.
Who are your ancestors? Where do they come from? What does your family tree say about you? These questions hold significant meaning to Aline Motta, who, since 2016, has been researching her ancestral roots. Drawing from archival research, fragmented family memories, traditions and storytelling, she meditates on her own past, and raises questions about the construction of Brazil’s history.
After Motta’s project 'Pontes sobre Abismos’ (Bridges over the Abyss) was selected for the programme Rumos by the institute Itaú Cultural, she dedicated herself to tracing her African heritage. This led her to dig into oral lores, public and private archives and photographs taken in Brazil, Portugal and Nigeria, and is presented in her work in various formats – from performance to photographic installations, combined with collaborations and characters that she met along the way.
For the project 'Filha Natural’ (Natural Daughter), the spotlight is given to Motta’s great-great-grandmother Francisca, who was enslaved on a coffee plantation in Vassouras, just outside of Rio de Janeiro. Following a hint dropped by her grandmother, Motta discovered the death certificate of a woman named Francisca, who was described as one of the Ubá farm's “assets”, alongside two stereoscopic photographs taken by Revert Henrique Klumb in the 1860s. Could this woman be her ancestor?
In search of an answer, Motta visited the old plantation, which remains mostly the same aside from the senzala (slaves' quarter), now converted into a tennis court. With the help of Claudia Mamede, a community leader she met on her trip, ‘Filha Natural’ unveils the story of her findings. Past and present images of objects, documents, photographs printed on fabric, and the colonial architecture overlap, whilst Mamede and her great-great-grandmother share the role of protagonist.
As with many of Motta’s previous projects, 'Filha Natural' formulates a powerful counter-narrative to Brazil and its treatment of memory, its colonial past and the unequal present. ‘How much fiction exists in reality? Which architectures remain standing and which ones have disappeared? Which structures of thought still prevail?’, Motta asks in the project's introduction. The image of Mamede staring at Klumb's stereoscopic photograph in what was once the senzala, can be easily read as a metaphor for the Brazil of the 21st century – a country that needs to interrogate its past in order to navigate a hazy present.
About Celso Filho
Celso Filho is a Brazilian journalist and writer, based in Amsterdam. For several years, he's worked as arts reporter for the daily newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo (Estadão) and has collaborated with media outlets from Brazil and other countries. He currently works on communications for the platform Futures Photography.