Black Gods in Exile  /  The Project

Press Release

Black Gods in Exile

Under the patronage of the Brazilian Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil

Photography exhibition: 2 September - 7 November 2004
Opening: 1 September, 7 pm, Museum of Ethnology, Berlin-Dahlem, by State Minister of Culture Christina Weiss and Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil

Black Gods in Exile presents for the first time in Germany more than 300 photographs by the French photographer Pierre Fatumbi Verger (1902–96) and the multimedia photo installation Trance_Territories by the Brazilian artist Mario Cravo Neto (born 1947). The two friends have explored the religious world of Afro-Brazilians in great depth and offer a fascinating documentation of the cultural practices and religious rituals of the 'Black Americas'. Today they are among Latin America's most important photographers, and have also exhibited their photographs at events such as the São Paulo, Mercosur and Dak'Art international art biennials.

Exactly 200 years ago, slavery was abolished on Haiti and the New World's first 'republic of black citizens' was established. With this anniversary in mind, Black Gods in Exile investigates the cultural exchange between Europe, Africa and the Americas from the time of slavery to the present day. Haitian voodoo, Cuban santería and Brazilian candomblé are revealed as cultural links between the two sides of the Atlantic.

For the 12 million or more abducted slaves and their descendants, the African religions offered a means by which to establish an identity and process conflict in their new home. In his direct photographic style, Pierre Verger captured the meaning of these everyday rituals for modern creolised societies. 40 years before a theory of post-colonialism was ever formulated, he had already made it a reality in his own life. While in Latin America Pierre Verger is considered one of the twentieth century's most important photographers and visual anthropologists, in Europe, which he left during the Second World War, he has remained largely unknown.

This first major exhibition of photographs by Pierre Verger and Mario Cravo Neto in Germany gathers photographs from five decades and offers a unique insight into Afro-Brazilian life and religion. The topicality of the works lies in their potential to contribute to a new understanding of religion and ethnic identity in modern, multicultural societies.

Black Gods in Exile will be opened with a ritual by candomblé priest Balbino Daniel de Aula. His place of worship in a suburb of Salvador was visited often by Pierre Verger. Many of Mario Cravo Neto's photographs were also taken there.

The exhibition is a co-production by the Goethe-Institut and the Pierre Verger Foundation in Salvador da Bahia, in co-operation with the Museum of Ethnology, Berlin-Dahlem, and the State Museum of Ethnology, Munich. Between now and 2006, it will be shown at the Museum of World Cultures in Frankfurt am Main, the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, the Museum of Ethnology in Munich and, in excerpts, in the Jeu de Paume in Paris.

Funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation).

Two books on the photography of Pierre Verger and Mario Cravo Neto will be published in parallel by Das Wunderhorn, Heidelberg.

Pierre Verger travelled all five continents as an internationally renowned photojournalist for The Daily Mirror, Match Magazine, LIFE, O Cruzeiro, Paris Soir, La Prensa, Unesco Kurier and other publications. In 1946 he arrived in the coastal city of Salvador da Bahia, which became his home for 50 years. His house now accommodates the Pierre Verger Foundation, with his library and an archive of some 62,000 photographs. In Germany, Verger became known through Hubert Fichte and Eleonore Mau, whose books Xango and Petersilie were produced with his support.

Mario Cravo Neto studied photography and sculpture under his father, the sculptor Mario Cravo Júnior, who was a close friend of Verger. Cravo Neto lived in Berlin during the 1960s, before moving to New York and then returning to Salvador in 1970. He has an extensive knowledge of Verger's work and curated the last exhibition of Verger's lifetime in New York. Cravo Neto has received numerous awards and is today considered one of Brazil's most important photographers. The 160 photographs in his photo and sound installation Trance_Territories, a homage to Pierre Verger, convey the aesthetics and omnipresence of the Afro-Brazilian religion in Salvador da Bahia. Sensuous and supernatural experiences, which meet in the ritual practice of candomblé, structure his photographs down to the smallest detail.

Glberto Gil, world-famous musician, composer and presently Brazilian Minister of Culture, has given his patronage to Black Gods in Exile. Gilberto Gil was a friend of Pierre Verger for many years and documented his life and work in his widely acclaimed film Messenger Between Two Worlds, which will be shown in the exhibition.

Further information:

Contact - Goethe-Institut Liaison Office in Berlin:
Ulrike Hofmann-Steinmetz, phone: +4930 - 25906 470, email:
Tina Balla, phone: +4930 - 25906 510, email:

We will be pleased to send you photographic material on request.


<< back

© Organizers Black Gods in Exile