As camélias

“As camélias do quilombo do Leblon” is a song performed by Brazilian artist Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, a tribute to the fight against Brazilian slavery in the 19th century. I was inspired by the song about the quilombos. A new collage of drawings and photos, coloured with bistre on wood tells us their history.


At the end of the 19th century Leblon was a rural neighborhood, outside the center of Rio de Janeiro. The only connection between the centre and Leblon was a rail trail which ended at Jardim Botânico. After this train journey a passenger continued his route along the shores of the lake Lagoa de Rodrigo Freitas until he reached the Atlantic Ocean. The Portuguese merchant José de Seixas Magalhãe had a farm of camellias, Japanese flowers who were popular

at that time. He had a liberal vision on society and was against slavery. On the grounds in Leblon he settled the first community of "quilombo abolitionista".

The term "abolitionist" refers to the abolition of slavery. A quilombo is a community of slaves who liberated themselves by escaping. The "quilombo abolicionista" is different from the quilombo communities of the past. There is a connection between the quilombo and the world outside. The quilombos tried to gain civil rights, while others from the past stood against the colonial society. These "quilombos rompimentos" fought against the large landowners and lived in isolation. One of the legendary figures of that struggle was Zumbi, the leader of Palmares, a quilombo community in 17th century.


Seixas was a member of the Confederation Abolition of Slavery. Slaves who escaped, were employed on his farm. The farm was called "Quilombo Leblond" which refers to the name of the district. The quilombolo fought against slavery and cultivated the camellia, a symbol for the abolition. During that time the camellia was rare in Brazil. The flower wasn't apparent, just like liberty. Seixas had a good relationship with princess Isabella, the first feminine leader of post-colonial Brazil. As a gift and sign of appreciation Seixas sent regularly flowers to the palace in Laranjeiras where the princess lived. In 1888 the princess signed the law Aurea, the abolition of slavery. Although her popularity this law wasn't approved by the conservatives. A year after the abolition a putsch put an end to the monarchy. Nevertheless the camellia stayed symbol against slavery.

At present, the farm doesn't exist anymore, but there are still quilombos in Rio de Janeiro. Near one of the richest neighborhoods, along Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas you can find the quilombo Sacapã and in the quarter of the port, next to Pedro do Sal there is another community called "Pequena Africa" (Little Africa). In 17th century slaves were sold in this district. Until today these communities fight for their existence.  

formaat: 80-60 cm
jaartal: 2016

collage, tekenkunst

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