Portraits of Brazil with Disabilities is the first-ever initiative that seeks to foster critical, reflective and collaborative visual and verbal micro-histories of disability in Brazil through the production of co-created artistic pieces and podcast episodes. This project has been realized through the combined efforts of various collaborators and researchers across Brazil and Canada, and has been headed-by and launched through the efforts of Dr. Pamela Block and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Western Ontario in London Ontario Canada.
The initial call for collaborators resulted in the selection of 22 proposals which were developed by prospective contributors during the months of October and November 2021. The aim of this call was to integrate the virtual gallery present on this website with the podcast channel “DEFIÇAS PORTRAITS”.
This project has been deeply influenced by visual activism projects tied to academic studies of disability in Brazil. We are also influenced through the works of researchers such as Dr. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, as well as activists such as Alice Wong, a journalist who spent years collecting narratives of activists and artists with disabilities, and forming the Disability Visibility Project in the United States. Projects such as Restoring Autism led by Dr. Patty Douglas, as well as Dis Assembly run by Estee Klar and Adam Wolfond, have also acted as useful references for us. Emerging from within certain circles of Brazilian disability studies, we also chose to employ the term “Defiça”. Our choice to use this term is political in nature, as it seeks to draw attention to the increasing revision of words referring to disability in Brazil.
Portraits of Brazil with Disabilities is a project that has been, and continues to be, constructed in an alliance with various contributors. The origins of this project all sprang from Dr. Nádia Meinerz encounter with the ethnographic research of Bruna Teixeira, a MA in social Anthropology and founder of Ateliê Ambrosina (an NGO that focuses on feminist art). In her research project, titled “Deficiena: the Photocollage as an Ethnographic Practice of Disability" (2019-2021), Bruna engages with disabled female “interlocutors” - which she calls partners or co-creators - in Alagoas Brazil. In her research, she attempts to shift the perspective of thinking about disability from the ethnographic portrait to the frontier of activist and feminist art.
Our logo is thus inspired by one of the photocollages co-created throughout this process, and reflects concerns raised by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson regarding how public stares are suffered by disabled bodies, and questions what can happen if we maintain our gaze? Medusa represents the entity who has the power to master the gaze, in order to defend herself. To manipulate and freeze the one who stares. Snakes are complex. They envelop, capture, threaten and protect. Just like "Witches", Medusa is also a mythical female form portrayed as cursed, thus we decided to reclaim and re-signify her image. Our logo was thought of as a powerful way to re-represent ourselves.
Alongside Dr. Pamela Block, various individuals have contributed to formulating, organizing, and executing this project. NGO artivist Ateliê Ambrosina (from Maceió/AL Brazil) has played a leading role in local project coordination and realization duties, and Bruna Teixeira has acted as a key technical consultant. Local production efforts have also been led by Olga Aureliano and Malta Lee. Audio descriptions and English translations have been provided by Felipe Monteiro, Deise Medina and Matthew Medeiros. Dr. Nádia Meinerz (of the Federal University of Alagoas - UFAL) has acted as a key fundraiser and co-investigator in this project. During the initial stages of the application process registration the Defiças Portrait team also received assistance from Dr. Valéria Aydos (an anthropologist and president of Brazilian NGO Abraça), and Rita Louzeiro who did the first Audio Descriptions (ADs) for the creation of this website.
NGO Ateliê Ambrosina
NGO Ateliê Ambrosina
technical consultant and graphic artist
local producer and transcriptionist
NGO Ateliê Ambrosina
audiodescriber and translator
Support in the Registration and
Mobilization of the Project
Audiodescription of the Initial
Stage of the Project