Water Carry Me Go Artist Profile: Carol Barreto (Brazil)

In anticipation of the fashion-art exhibit Water Carry Me Go, we’ve created a series introducing all of the designers involved. Read the rest of them here.

Carol Barreto – Brazil

carol barreto black

Carol Barreto is a black feminist woman and fashion designer from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Carol is a Professor and PhD student at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA). She has been showing her collections in runway shows since 2001. In 2013, Carol was invited to represent Brazil at Dakar Fashion Week. In 2015, she presented her “VOZES Collection: Fashion and Ancestries” in the fourth edition of the Black Fashion Week in Paris – she was the first Black fashion designer from Brazil to present a collection at a fashion event in the city. We’re proud to introduce Carol as one of the featured artists in Water Carry Me Go.

1) How did you approach the theme of water for your piece in Water Carry Me Go?

For Water Carry Me Go, I reemployed my research about Yemoja, a Yoruba spirit who is considered to be the mother of all Orishas, that I had initially conducted for an earlier collection of mine titled Fluxus Collection. Fluxus centred on the African Diaspora and was a provocation for viewers to think over the social value of contemporaneity between Afro-diasporans across the world. Using my findings, I created a conceptual garment for Water Carry Me Go that is connected to Mami Wata, a mermaid Goddess that reoccurs in oral traditions throughout Africa and the Caribbean. Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that developed among communities brought from West Africa as slaves, carries within it one of the most popular Orishas (‘orixás’ in Latin America), Yemanjá. The personage of Yemanjá originally comes from ancient Yoruba mythology about Yemoja; she is the goddess of the ocean.

According to the spiritual outlines of Candomblé, Yemonjá represents the essence of motherhood. Every year in February, thousands of Yemanjá devotees participate in a colourful celebration in honor of the Queen of the Sea. At the end of the ceremony, offerings are thrown to the water by local fishermen, and a massive street party ensues—I live on the street where this takes place. Yemanjá is widely worshipped throughout Latin America, including in the south of Brazil, Uruguay, Cuba and Haiti, but the strongest and the most popular cult is maintained in my hometown of Bahia, in Black Brazilians’ hearts and culture. My personal Orisha is Yemanjá.

2) What motivated you to be involved in this project?

I was motivated by Water Carry Me Go’s potential to push forward our struggle against racism and to act as a vehicle of resistance for Black diasporas who have been subject to European colonialism and neo-colonialism. The theme of the exhibit, water, has been and continues to be a vehicle for our dispersion and a source of our mythologies, and is a salient theme in our identity as Black diasporans. Additionally, by showcasing our cultures and speaking about our contemporary identities in the Black diaspora, we are working against a tradition of colonization that continues—the marginalization and erasure of our cultures. Being invited to participate in Water Carry Me Go is an opportunity for me to take part in this discussion as well as pay homage to my favourite Orisha, Yemanjá. It is my first time exhibiting my clothing designs at a museum and an art gallery. Fashion is usually perceived as functional, never artistic. I get to work with an interesting team an an honourable production staff during an important month of commemoration, where I also get to celebrate my presence as a Black, Brazilian, Feminist Woman.

3) What does your workspace look like right now? Is there anything else you want to add?

My atelier is currently divided in two cities. Maria Viana, my seamstress, is working in Lauro de Freitas (Bahia, Brazil) and Juliana Fonseca, my accessory designer, is working in Cruz das Almas (Bahia, Brazil). Both of them were my students at fashion design university, and we have a lot of experience working together. We have created samples in an attempt to be as close to our conceptual proposal as possible, and we’re working hard to get the dress finished!

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