The exhibition Queer City: Stories from São Paulo, displayed at Schwules Museum between November 2017 and January 2018, had at least two major positive consequences. At first, it called the attention of the LGBTIQ* Brazilian community in Berlin, who massively attended and actively participated in the opening. Just one month before Stories from São Paulo was launched, news from Brazil reported that “queer” exhibitions were being canceled, theater plays were being banned, and artists were being persecuted there, as the ongoing political crisis that followed president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016 worsened.
Some Brazilian young mothers living in Berlin gathered and executed a German version of the demonstration “WE Love Queermuseu”. That was a protest, originally carried out in New York, against the early closure of an exhibition at Santander Bank’s cultural center in Porto Alegre city due to complaints from far-rightists. When asked about what inspired them — cis-gender, allegedly straight women — to support that cause, they said: “Whenever we or our children return to Brazil, we don’t want them to grow nor live in a intolerant land”.
The second effect came soon after: artists and collectors in Brazil became aware not only of the existence of the Schwules Museum, but of its interest in material from overseas. Meanwhile, uncertainties surrounding Brazilian politics deepened. That country’s general elections will take place in October. Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva leads the polls, but is expected to become ineligible, since he is serving his 12-year prison sentence for corruption and money laundering. In second place, there is representative Jair Bolsonaro, currently facing accusations of racism and encouragement of rape at the Supreme Federal Court, and also notorious for recalling Brazil’s last dictatorship as a good time, better than nowadays. Worried about their own country’s future, and hopeful that a solid institution such as the Schwules Museum is capable of and willing to properly store their items, two artists and three collectors have donated material to the museum in August.
One of the artists is photographer Pedro Stephan, whose portraits capture the lives of transvestites and transgender women in the late 2000s, either working as prostitutes in downtown Rio de Janeiro or partying in the outskirts of that city. His photos have been exhibited in Europe, namely Portugal and Italy, but remain unseen in Germany. Cartoonist Nerone Prandi has also sent originals and posters with his witty drawings of homosexual males. As time passed by, it is possible to see Prandi’s work focused more explicitly on politics, reflecting Brazil’s recent history to a certain extent.
Furthermore, physician Murilo Moura Sarno, museologist Victor Antonio Aquino Urresti, and journalist José Gabriel Navarro have sent print media, pamphlets, and books issued in Brazil aiming the LGBTIQ* community. These include, for instance, issues of extinct magazines like Sui Generis, popular in the 1990s, and Revista S, which illustrated the drag scene of Rio during the first years of the 21st century.
The material is now part of our archive, which lacked items from Brazil until recently. Hence, at the end of the day all donations represent a bond between Schwules Museum and Brazilians, a new connection, established in the context of Queer City: Stories from São Paulo, the museum’s first exhibition 100% focused on Brazil.
Text by José Gabriel Navarro.