Emanoel Araújo, a renowned artist and teacher who founded the Museu Afro Brasil in São Paulo, died on September 7 at his home in São Pualo. He was 81 years old. The news was confirmed by the institution he founded; a cause of death was not given.
“Emanoel Araujo has always been a patriot who raised and spread Brazil and the culture of our country,” the Museu Afro Brasil said on Facebook.
Born in 1940 to a family of traditional goldsmiths in Santo Amaro da Purificaçã, a small city in Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia, Araújo came to learn many crafts, including carpentry and linotype printmaking after his father forbade him and his siblings from becoming a goldsmiths. He continued his studies in printmaking and engraving at the Escola de Belas Artes da Bahia (UFBA), and went on to exhibit successfully, with his first solo show coming in 1959.
Araújo became known not just for his prints but for his sculptures, whose sharp geometric compositions diverged sharply from the more organic scenes he cut into linoleum of women, folk dancers, and cityscapes. Early in his career he fell in with a group of architects that began collaborating with them to create massive concrete sculptures.
In 1981 to 1983 Araújo was the director of the Bahia Museum, and from there went on to teach printmaking and sculpture at the City University of New York. When he returned to Brazil in 1992, he was named director of the Pinacoteca in São Paulo, one of the country’s most important art museums. Holding that position for a decade, Araújo helped revitalize the institution and also led a redesign of the museum.
In 2004 Araújo opened his own museum, Museu Afro Brasil, as a public institution to honor the Afro-Brazilian histories and arts that have molded Brazilian culture. The museum was established with Araújo’s personal collection of Afro-Brazilian art and artifacts.
Despite his identities as a Black and openly gay man, Araújo managed not to just survive in the face of racism and homophobia in the country as both artist and museum leader, but he thrived, able to complete the most important work of his life, Museu Afro Brasil.
“The museum is my greatest work, it’s the work I’ve always wanted to make, this is a legacy I want to leave for the Afro-Brazilian culture,” Araújo said in a short documentary.