Home - Black Gods in Exile

Photos by Pierre Verger and Mario Cravo Neto


The Project

Pierre Verger

Pierre Verger

Pierre Verger

Pierre Verger

Pierre Fatumbi Verger

Under the patronage of the State Minister of Culture of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Gilberto Gil.

Mario Cravo Neto

Mario Cravo Neto

Black Gods in Exile

Photo exhibition and supporting program,
September 2004 - Summer 2006

On September 1, 2004, the cooperative program Black Gods in Exile celebrates the opening of an exhibition by the photographers Pierre Fatumbi Verger and Mario Cravo Neto and begins its interdisciplinary supporting program at the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin.

The project investigates the cultural transfer in the Transatlantic Triangle (Africa - the Americas - Europe) from the period of slavery up to the present. Special focus is given to the works of visual anthropologists, artists and literary personalities, who deal with the cultures of the 'Black Americas'.

Black Gods in Exile will be officially opened by German state minister of culture Dr. Christina Weiss and the Brazilian minister of culture Gilberto Gil, the project's elected patron. The Brazilian musician-composer Gilberto Gil was a longtime friend of the photographer Pierre Verger and documented his life and work in a widely acclaimed film.

The exhibition - a co-production of the Pierre Verger Foundation in Salvador/Bahia and the Goethe-Institut - will be shown until 2006 at the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin, the Museum of World Cultures in Frankfurt a.M., the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart and the Museum of Ethnology in Munich. The catalog is published by Das Wunderhorn publishing house, Heidelberg. The project is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

According to UNESCO studies, 12 million slaves were abducted by Europeans to the so-called New World. The collected memory of this atrocity - the greatest theft of human life in world history - was kept alive on the other side of the Atlantic in ritual practices of the Brazilian Candomblé *), Haitian voodoo, and Cuban Santería.

The Exhibition

No other twentieth-century photographer explored or documented the mutual cultural relationships and continual transfer of knowledge between Europe, Africa and both Americas as thoroughly as Pierre Verger (1902-1996). While in Europe his work remains relatively unknown, in his chosen homeland, Brazil, and reaching into Latin America, Verger has long been considered one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century. He played a major role as a forerunner of visual anthropology and also influenced an entire generation of artists, literary personalities and academicians on both sides of the Atlantic. His photographic work, largely created between the 1930s and 1950s, significantly contributed to understanding the (self)image of modern, multiethnic societies in the 'Black Americas' (Roger Bastide). In Germany, Verger became known through Hubert Fichte and Eleonore Mau, whose publications Xango and Petersilie could only be completed thanks to his support.

Pierre Fatumbi Verger

traveled the five continents as an internationally recognized photojournalist for Paris Soir, Match Magazine, Daily Mirror, LIFE, La Prensa, O Cruzeiro, Unesco Courier, and other publications. It was in the year 1946 that he first went to Salvador de Bahía, henceforth his second home; and alongside his numerous travelogues about Africa, he captured the life of this uncrowned capital of Afro-Brazilian arts and culture (with over 3,000 places of worship) in riveting photographs. Since the 1950s, countless volumes of his photography were published in France and Brazil, but which today are out of print.

Up to his death in 1996, Verger led a modest existence in a suburb of Salvador and was an active member of an Afro-Brazilian religious denomination. Today his former home functions as the Fundaçao Pierre Verger, which makes available for this project various materials from the Verger Estate, consisting of circa 62,000 largely unpublished photographs as well as his library and written correspondence.

The Concept

emphasizes Verger's central importance in the areas of cultural studies, ethnology, and cultural anthropology. The universal approach of this self-taught photographer provided an entire generation of researchers from various fields of study with a new way of viewing multi-ethnical and multi-denominational societies and how they function. Above and beyond that, Verger's friendship and intellectual solidarity with the best-known anthropologists and ethnologists of his time, and with artists and intellectuals of the Parisian surrealist and Brazilian modernismo movements, make him a key figure of the twentieth century Black Gods In Exile gives today's German public the opportunity to rediscover in Pierre Fatumbi Verger an ideal mediator between Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Christoph Bertrams, Forum Goethe-Institut Berlin,

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Further information:

Press release
Print version

Venues, dates, programs

Pierre Verger
110 photos, quotes; biography, portraits, texts

Mario Cravo Neto
44 double photo pages, biography

Book/Catalog to each artist, with essays

Pierre Verger Foundation