Making Ceramics and Heritage in a Brazilian Quilombo: Reflections from Itamatatiua

Making Ceramics and Heritage in a Brazilian Quilombo: Reflections from Itamatatiua
16 May 2019, 5.30pm - 7.30pm
G17, Pearson Building (North East Entrance), Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT

Katerina Chatzikidi, ILAS

What is ‘quilombo cultural heritage’ and how does a ‘traditional practice’ transform into heritage in a Black rural quilombo community in the Brazilian northeast? How has the transmission of an old apprenticeship changed since it was recognised as part of the country’s intangible heritage? 
Itamatatiua ceramics evoke, and tap into, a widespread imaginary of how ‘traditional’, ‘authentic’, and culture of ‘African-descent’ looks like. Quilombolas, the makers of the ceramics, are well-aware of the powerful evocative power their traditional practice has acquired in recent years. With a growing awareness of political rights and an established participation in quilombola social movements, the potters of Itamatatiua creatively communicate their ceramic production in order to call for visibility in a context of extreme land insecurity. On the other hand, and while official ‘heritagisation’ processes aim at protecting craftwork, less and less people are involved into the production of ceramics. The makers express their preoccupation about the future of their practice and its significance for quilombo land regulation. 
This paper calls attention to modes of production and political engagement that have almost entirely been neglected in the anthropological literature on Brazilian quilombos. By investigating the ways Itamatatiua pottery relates to the socio-political context from which it emerges, it shows that ceramic craft work has acquired a rather powerful symbolic role in the community’s everyday life, being directly attached to its land struggle. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research in Itamatatiua, a quilombo in Maranhão state, this presentation seeks to explore politics of heritage-making; the various nuances of quilombo cultural heritage, their influence on practices on the ground, and their significance for quilombola struggles for the establishment of land rights.

All welcome. Followed by a wine reception.
With the kind support of UCL Anthropology Department.

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Olga Jimenez
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