Sandra Benites has been hired as the new adjunct curator for Brazilian art at Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP). The appointment marks a major milestone for Brazil since Benites is the first indigenous curator to join the staff of a major arts museum in the country. She is of Guarani Nhandewa heritage and is currently a doctoral candidate in social anthropology at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.
“We are extremely fortunate to be able to bring Sandra Benites to our team and are already collaborating with her in different ways,” said Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director of MASP. “This marks a turning point at MASP as well as in the whole landscape of museums in the country, as we lead the way in terms of constructing and offering more plural, diverse, and inclusive cultural narratives, not only by discussing and exhibiting indigenous art, but also by being able to do this under the exceptional guidance of Benites.”
Among the projects Benites will begin working on is “Indigenous Histories,” the museum’s yearlong program of exhibitions, publications, workshops, courses, and talks that will be dedicated to indigenous art and voices in 2021. The initiative was recognized by the Sotheby’s Prize, which honors curatorial excellence and provides funding to institutions that are working to present shows on overlooked areas of art history, earlier this year. It will share the $250,000 prize with another indigenous art project, an exhibition that is being co-organized by the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, the cultural center Casa do Povo, and the indigenous prayer house Kalipety.
Commenting on the upcoming program, Benites said: “The project of the exhibition ‘Histórias indígenas’ at MASP is very important to awake indigenous memories, since most of them have been asleep. When we speak about histories, we speak about ancestral knowledge, and the objective here is to tell these histories from an indigenous perspective about ‘ywy rupa,’ which is the Guarani notion territoriality.”
Since 2004, Benites has worked in indigenous education. She served as a teacher at an indigenous school in the city of Aracruz, Espírito Santo, in the Guarani community from 2004 to 2012 and was a pedagogic coordinator at the Municipal Secretariat of Education in Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, where she advised indigenous schools in the region. Her curatorial projects include “DjaGuata Porã: Rio de Janeiro Indígena” (2017–18) at the Museu de Arte do Rio and an upcoming exhibition on indigenous leaderships at Sesc Ipiranga, São Paulo, which will open in 2020.