Tarsila do Amaral and Oswald de Andrade became two icons in the history of Brazilian modernism. During the 1920s they were married and traveled through the inland of Brazil and the world, in decisive experiences for the definition of their aesthetic avant-garde projects. Together, they idealized Anthropophagy, a modernist strand that advocated the meeting of technical-scientific modernity with ancestral cultural sources. These, in the Brazilian case, referred to the values, traditions and practices of the native peoples. Based on accounts from travelers from the 16th and 17th centuries, Oswald highlighted the habit of anthropophagy, in which indigenous rituals for capturing the colonizers ended with the sacrifice of those imprisoned. The natives followed this rite with the ingestion of human flesh, under the belief of appropriating the strength and virtues of the enemies.
Anthropophagy consisted in the creation of a powerful metaphor, with which the logic of domination of the colony by the metropolis, of the indigenous by the European and also of Brazil by the countries considered civilized, was inverted. Tarsiwald, the nickname by which the couple became known, recorded interests and curiosities about football at different times in their careers. Oswald even said in his memoir that he was a “lazily sports boy”, having played football, swimming and boxing in childhood and youth.
Although they did not develop the argument, the provocation remains: wouldn't “English football”, imported as a civilizing and sanitizing element of modern sports from the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, be an example of the anthropophagic principle? From a foreign phenomenon, football practice was transformed into a Brazilian style and a symbol of national identity in the last century, at the same time that the modernists sought to build the foundations of our artistic originality. This is the lesson of Anthropophagy, which football, in an unsuspected way for many, ends up embodying.
Cover of the book of poems Pau-Brasil, by Oswald de Andrade, published in 1924, one year after the launch of the homonymous poetic manifesto, which invigorates and airs the intellectual search for the sources of Brazilianness. The author’s companion, Tarsila do Amaral, designed the illustrative cover design that stylizes the national flag.
Photograph: Unknown Authorship | Revista Pau Brasil.
In the photo, Santos Dumont goes around the Eiffel Tower aboard his airship number 6, on October 19, 1901, and thus wins the Deutsch Prize. Since then, the feat would be remembered and used in other achievements, such as the performance of Brazilian football teams in Europe.
Photograph: Public domain | Paulista Museum Collection (USP).
Club Athletico Paulistano team on the ship on its way to Europe, in 1925. It was the first delegation of a Brazilian football team to tour that continent. In the photo, Friedenreich plays the guitar.
Photograph: Unknown Author | Club Athletico Paulistano Collection.
In the early 1920s, while approaching the modernists and going on “discovery” voyages of the country alongside Oswald, Tarsila painted not only the icons of modernism, but herself as well. Photograph: Romulo Fialdini.
Artwork: Autorretrato | Tarsila do Amaral.
In the year of the Modern Art Week, 1922, the painter Tarsila do Amaral portrays the modernist Oswald de Andrade, whom she would marry some time later. Photograph: Romulo Fialdini.
Artwork: Portrait of Oswald de Andrade | Tarsila do Amaral.