top of page

Painting to Hang the Sky -  reflections on Aislan Pankararu's Exhibition Abá Pukuá

Helenice Vespasiano *

“Singing, dancing, and experiencing the magic of hanging the sky are shared by many traditions. Hanging the sky broadens our horizons; not in a prospective sense, but existentially. It enriches our subjectivities (our dreams and imaginations), which are precisely what the times we live in want to consume. (...) at least let’s keep our subjectivities alive, our visions, our poetics of existence.”

Ailton Krenak**


In February 2020, the walls of the corridor of Unit II of the University of Brasilia Hospital were converted into supports for 21 paintings by Aislan Pankararu. The then medical student from the University of Brasilia was holding his first exhibition, called Abá Pukuá - Homem Céu [Sky Man], with the support of the institution's administration and Humanization Commission. 

This exhibition was born out of the artist's urgency and agency. Urgency to exist on his own terms and to claim his presence and identity facing the tensions of the encounter with the university and the hospital. It is also from this urgency that Aislan’s own artistic work is born, the gesture of painting converted into an act of resistance. Painting, here, means to exist and to state the terms of his existence. By painting, he is speaking for himself and no longer just being spoken for by others.

The appearance of the Sky Man, Abá Pukuá, provides us with images of the individual and collective trajectories of diasporic indigenous peoples. The body-biome of the back-country indigenous people remains firm and flourishes even after long periods of drought, like Mãdaka'ru (2020). In the work entitled Pankararu (2020), the white paint on kraft paper evokes the white clay used for body painting and brings the connection with the tradition from which emerge the pipe, the maraca, the straw hat, and the “imbú”. Some of these images hurt the flesh because they reverberate personal and collective experiences of prejudice and violence suffered in a city permanently marked by the memory of Galdino Pataxó, present in the work Money, dinero and selective justice (2020).

The works in this exhibition are mostly figurative, and it is already possible to glimpse in them the elements that will compose Aislan's most recent works. Here the paint is laid out on the support with exact, precise gestures, transmitting robustness and firmness to the compositions, which evoke the firm soil of the hinterland [sertão] and the spiny forms of the caatinga, Pankararu's native territory. The figures have strong, angular strokes, and seem carved on the support like woodcuts, as if the images had been removed from the paper, and not deposited on it. In this way, the meaning of Aislan's pictorial construction suggests itself from the inside out, in a movement of making visible something that has always been present.

Abá Pukuá is a being in the vastness, a sky man. His overflowing into images gives form to the invisible and enhances its agency in the world. Its appearance in paintings tells us how art, with its ability to summon the gaze, can agency ruptures with the colonial structures that bury identities and subjectivities.

*Student of Theory, Criticism, and Art History at the University of Brasilia. Occupational therapist and member of the Humanization Commission of the University of Brasilia Hospital. She was part of the team that, together with the artist, organized and set up this exhibition.

**In the book “Ideias para adiar o fim do mundo” [Ideas to Postpone the End of the World]. Companhia das Letras, 2019.

bottom of page