During the 2015 summer term, nine art majors in Jackson State University’s College of Liberal Arts had the opportunity to visit Salvador Da Bahia, Brazil, as part of the JSU Passport to the World study abroad program.
“It’s actually one of the only places that I wanted to go (to), so when they brought up the opportunity I just took it.” senior Chris Skipper says. Daria Davis, also a senior adds “It was surreal. It was nothing that I expected it to be.”
During slavery, Brazil imported more slaves than the U.S. Salvador was one of the world’s . Although the official language in Brazil is Portuguese, Salvador is heavily influenced by the African diaspora. Thus, the city retains a lot of African culture and customs, clothing, music, food and religion. The students brought back the sights and sounds of Salvador and their experiences culminated in an exhibit entitled “Experiencing Culture through Design,” which is currently on display in JSU’s Liberal Arts Gallery.
It was a life-changing experience for the students to “see people who looked like them but lived a different way,” Kenyatta Stewart, an associate professor of graphic design who accompanied the students on the trip, says. He notes that there was a real connection between the students and the locals.
While in Salvador the students teamed with organizations to work on three specific projects- two social causes aimed at cultural awareness and helping the disadvantaged; and one aimed at tourism.
Creche Orfanato Minha Vo Flor is an orphanage. “It’s a little different when you think in terms of a traditional orphanage,” Stewart says. Because all of the children aren’t actually orphans. Some have parents who can’t keep them for various reasons but they come and visit and sometimes take the children for the weekends. “It’s just people with big hearts who started this and they survive off donations.”
Olodum, originally a band that played the carnival, evolved into a socially conscious and active unit that also educates children through the arts, especially music, providing activities that boost self-esteem. If you know Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us” (1996) and the official 2014 FIFA World Cup Song “We Are One (Ole Ola) (Olodum Mix)” by Pitbull featuring Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte, then you’re already familiar with the Olodum sound. When you visit the exhibit at JSU you’ll hear a recording of the rhythmic drumming of Olodum playing live in the historical district of Salvador.
“Wish you were here” is a promotional campaign designed to increase tourism in Brazil and encourage participation in the JSU Passport to the World Program.
Photographs of the students’ work including billboards, mailers, postcards and three types of websites line the gallery walls. One wall hosts a slideshow highlighting images captured on various excursions throughout Salvador. Some slides show scenes captured during the 2013 trip to Rio. The images reflect the area’s rich Afro-Brazilian culture.
“We went to Brazil for two weeks where we did all of the research. When we came back it was two weeks spent on campus where they completed the projects,” Stewart says. “The university provided us with iPads, so most of the photographs and some of the graphics that you see in the projects were actually (done) with iPads. A lot of the research to develop these projects was done on iPads as well.”
Those who attended the exhibit’s opening reception Thursday, September 10 from 4 to 6 p.m., had the chance to experience the smells and tastes of Brazil. Stewart prepared a Bahian style fish stew called Mukaka, which is made with white fish, coconut milk, palm oil, cilantro and other ingredients. Cans of Guarana Antarctica, Brazil’s national drink were also on hand.
“Experiencing CultureThrough Design” is on display in the Liberal Arts Gallery inside the Dollye M. E. Robinson building at the corner of Dalton St. and Lynch St., at JSU. The exhibit runs through November 5. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.