“Architecture is white, elitist and male-centred.” This emphatic statement comes from architect Gabriela de Matos, who set up the Black Women Architects (Arquitetas Negras) project two years ago, in order to identify, catalogue, disseminate and potentiate the work of Black women in architecture. Born in Minas Gerais State, she graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC) in Belo Horizonte, with graduate studies at the Minas Gerais Federal University (UFMG). Through social networks, she launched a mapping program, inviting Black women architects and designers to introduce themselves and talk about their lives and works. In just a week, over 300 participants had signed up. With crowdfunding of around USD 20,000 (BRL 98,000) she then produced the Arquitetas Negras magazine, in digital hardcopy versions. This was “a manifesto showing what it’s like to be a Black woman architect in Brazil,” she explained at the launch of this publication last year.
According to her, this mapping project showed that most Black women architects are working in their field, but not with major firms, with their works rarely featuring in magazines or exhibitions. The data also underscore the importance of inclusion policies – such as racial quotas and the University for All Programme (ProUni): most of the Black women architects engaged in this mapping project graduated less than ten years previously.
Confirmed as a speaker at UIA2021RIO, this architect stresses that issues related to race and gender are intrinsically linked to the formation of cities: “the Black population – women above all – suffers the most from poor urban planning,” she says.
After graduation, Gabriela worked for the Contagem and Governador Valadares local governments. In 2014 she set up the Brandão de Matos architecture firm in Belo Horizonte. This year, she was appointed vice president of the São Paulo Chapter of the Brazilian Institute of Architects (IAB-SP), and has been encouraging discussions not only about the visibility of Black women in architecture, but also the role of architecture in promoting inclusion and equity.
“When I arrived at the Bahia Federal University in the early 1970s, there was only myself and one other Black student, out of a total of 120 newcomers accepted for the architecture course. And looking back over all the terms, there were only four of us Black students in the entire School.” With a degree in Architecture and an MA in Culture and Society, Zulu Araújo is another speaker confirmed for UIA2021RIO.
A Black Movement militant since his youth, he has always worked in the cultural field. Immediately after graduation, he took over the Culture Department at the Bahia State Chapter of the Brazilian Institute of Architects. Subsequently, he headed up the Regional Actions and Exchange Department of the Bahia State Culture Bureau.
For ten years, he directed the Olodum group, a cultural organisation set up in 1979 in the State capital, Salvador. For him, it plays an extremely important role: “Not only during the Carnival festivities, but also in the history of the Black community and the struggle for equality. It is the biggest and best Afro-Brazilian cultural happening of the past forty years,” he says proudly.
This architect also spent a notable period at the Palmares Cultural Foundation, which was set up to buttress the preservation of cultural, social and economic values rooted in Black influence on the formation of Brazilian society. From 2003 to 2007, he was its Director for Afro-Brazilian Culture Promotion, Exchange and Dissemination, and chaired this Foundation from 2007 to 2011.
Since 2015, he has been the Director-General of the Fundação Pedro Calmon Foundation, an entity linked to the Bahia State Culture Bureau that supports reading, books and archives, together with heritage activities. He vehemently underscores the importance of affirmative actions policies promoting racial equality: “with regard to accessing higher education provided by the government, the quotas policy and ProUni paved the way for more than 300,000 Black students to enter universities over five years. Before these policies, we did not have even this number of Black students in almost 2 centuries, since 1808, when the first institution of higher learning was established in Brazil: the School of Surgery in Bahia.”
Having represented Brazil’s Ministry of Culture to the Portuguese Language-Speaking Community (CPLP) between 2004 and 2011, he directed the Latin American Culture Centre at the University of Brasília (Casa da Cultura da América Latina/UNB) in 2011 and 2012; that same year, he coordinated the Latin American and African Art and Culture Festival (FLAAC).
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