His Excellency, The State Minister for Culture of the Federal Republic of Brazil
Pierre Verger was not only a wonderful person and gifted
photographer, he was also a constant wanderer between worlds.
With his more than 60,000 photographs, his travelogues from
five continents, and his academic studies on Afro-Brazilian
religion, all of which he left behind for us, he forged a
path of mutual understanding between Europe, Africa, and our
For a half century Pierre Verger lived and worked in my native
city, Salvador da Bahia. His ties with the art bohemia there
were as warm as those with dignitaries of the Bahian Candomblés *).
He seemed to have a greater respect for the wisdom of the
African priests, who he visited regularly on his field trips,
than for the over-precise Parisian intellectuals, who sometimes
paid him a visit in Salvador. In the Afro-Brazilian religion
and world of experiences, he not only discovered traditions
and customs thought to be buried over; he also made it possible
for us to see the boost of modernization that Afro-Brazilians
achieved in their former homeland. In doing so, he gave new
life to a transatlantic dialog that fell silent ages ago.
Verger’s work uniquely documents how the cultural heritage
of Africa and Europe, in religious practices, music, dance
and theatrical forms of expression, has consistently renewed
itself and so helped in mastering the social reality involved.
His photographs emphasize just how important the aesthetic
component was and is for the self-confidence of their protagonists.
Considering the extent to which black slaves of the past and
their ancestors were forced to reconstruct and "reinvent"
Africa on the other side of the Atlantic, they substantially
designed the new societies of Brazil, the Caribbean and North
America at the same time.
In this year, with the UNESCO commemorating the suppression
of slavery 200 years ago, in the first, now independent Republic
of Haiti, these wonderful photographs by my friend, Pierre
Verger, also represent a message of reconciliation between
the so-called Old and New World.
For making this marvelous German-Brazilian project possible,
I would like to warmly thank the State Minister for Cultural
and Media Affairs, Dr. Christina Weiss, and the Embassy of
the Federal Republic of Germany in Brasilia, as well as our
friends from the Goethe Institut, The Pierre Verger Foundation,
and the publishing house Das Wunderhorn.
Brasilia, July 19, 2004
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