Path | Antonio Obá, 2022

Arts and heritage
Antonio Obá’s installation touches on the history of Dutch-Brazil. The Oude Kerk has a direct relationship to this colonial rule. For example, the Brabant sailor Hendrick Corneliszoon Lonck (1568-1634) was buried in the church (the exact location is unknown). His military action as captain general of the West India Company allowed the establishment of the Dutch colony in northeastern Brazil in 1630. Sailors and administrators of the WIC (and VOC) were frequent visitors to Oude Kerk. Some served as churchwardens, others were buried here. Obá’s Path highlights and questions this shared history. The installation includes sculptures and paintings. The works are located in symbolic places in the centre of the church, including in the High Choir and under the Vater-Müller organ. In Path, Obá played with the meaning of religious icons and rituals and reflected on the fusion of cultural traditions as a result of, among other things, colonial history. Iron Garden formed an artificial field of flowers in the High Choir. It consisted of two rows of swinging sticks to which 2,400 bells were attached. Obá invited visitors to walk along the 10-metre path and set the 'field' in motion by hand. The bells refer to liturgical bells, but also to the signalling function of church bells to announce approaching danger. This ambiguity was also found in the other works. Two paintings hung at the end between the pillars and depicted intimate, imaginative, and at the same time disturbing scenes. In front of the High Choir, in the middle of the church, the work Suspended Children was to be found. A spiralling work that consisted of mirrored panels and hand-painted banners depicting children playing. The mirrors multiplied the banners, playing with spatial perception. Without context, the figures seemed to be floating in midair. The mirrors referred to an old West-African religious tradition of hanging mirrors and bottles on trees. A tradition that continued in the Americas after the Transatlantic slave trade. On the very opposite side, right under the organ, the triptych Malungo was displayed. The work reflected on the power of Christianity and the domination of Catholics in Brazil. Enslaved people who forcibly migrated from Africa to South America had to leave behind not only their homes but also their own religious and cultural traditions. Two paintings with black figures hung from gold-plated panels, taking a place of honour above the blackened statues of saints, which lay in the bins in front of them. A golden chalice and a bottle of cachaça took centre stage on the altar. On the walls in the Collegekamer, three white canvases were placed. On them, steel nails formed squares. The title Pregação referred both to the meaning of the word in Portuguese, 'preach', and to 'pregar': to secure or hold something with nails. In the same room, a wooden sculpture had been set up as a trailing trace of prayer. In this work, Totem, Candles had been burnt down to various heights.