Shared Roots

A visual journey of cultural connections between Brazil and South Africa.

Ahead of her first solo photo exhibition in South Africa, we chat with the Brazilian photographer Renata Larroyd. Titled ‘Shared Roots,’ the exhibition delves into the cultural connections between Brazil and South Africa. It’s happening throughout February at the Nosso decor and lifestyle store in Sea Point. The exhibition launch is set for Monday, February 5, at 5 pm, featuring a talk-and-walkabout with Renata.

Shared Roots Renata Larroyd

Tell us more about this exhibition and what visitors can expect?

At the Nosso store, visitors can expect an immersive journey into a world where storytelling, culture, and art converge. I’ve curated a visually captivating and culturally rich experience that goes beyond a mere display of photographs. I’ll be hosting an interactive storytelling session on Monday evening, the opening of the exhibition, where visitors can engage directly with the narratives behind the photographs. This is an opportunity to provide insights into the cultural contexts, personal stories, and the creative process involved in capturing each image. Exclusive limited edition prints of select photographs will be available for art enthusiasts and collectors.

What makes this body of work so unique?

I invited two talented embroiderers, Patrícia Saraiva and Rosele Martins, to intervene in the photographic images, creating a symbiosis between photography and textile art. The embroidery duo contributed embroidery, texture, and dynamism to everyday Afro-Brazilian life during this ancestral Bahian journey. By joining forces with these artists, the partnership breathes new life into the images, infusing each photo with rich Brazilian craft, tradition, and Bahian culture.

When and how did your relationship with South Africa begin?

It all started back in 2005 when we opened our family home to a bright and adventurous exchange student from South Africa as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Welcoming this young individual into my family not only deepened my understanding of the rich cultural tapestry of the country but also sparked a personal connection that would later influence my career.

Then in 2018, I took a transformative step by enrolling in the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Program at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg. The decision to move to South Africa was a conscious choice to immerse myself in a culture to dedicate myself solely to photojournalism, focusing on social issues in Africa related to education, gender, and local subcultures.

The following year, as an alumna of this program, I found myself contributing to the cultural and social dialogues of South Africa through The Mail & Guardian.

My interest in ethno-photography has a lot to do with the years I spent in Johannesburg. I then returned to Brazil, and following Covid, I started a new line of research in photography: the influence of African culture on everyday life in Brazil.

What would you say are some of the cultural ties between Brazil and South Africa?

The cultural ties between these two countries are evident in the vibrant spirit of both regions. During my time in Bahia, Brazil, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the lively atmosphere and rich cultural expressions I found in South Africa.

The rhythmic beats and colourful street celebrations, reminiscent of Brazilian carnivals, echoed the dynamic energy of South African festivals. The music traditions, such as samba in Brazil and various genres in South Africa, showcase the influence of African rhythms and how they contribute to a vibrant music scene that always inspires my photographs.

Brazil and South Africa have a history of diverse indigenous influences and colonial legacies, contributing to unique artistic expressions, dance forms, and storytelling traditions. Both countries emphasize the importance of festive and communal gatherings, especially on the streets. Africa’s influence on Brazilian culture is profound and diverse, stemming from the country’s history of African slavery and the subsequent blending of African traditions with indigenous and European cultures.

This exhibition will also show Afro-Brazilian religions with roots in African spiritual traditions, where they incorporate rituals, dances, and ceremonies that honour deities.

How did your journey as a photographer begin and what drew you to this art form?

The camera my parents used to have during my childhood always caught my attention. It was a gift from my grandmother, and I found myself captivated by the way it froze moments in time. The ability to capture emotions, tell stories, and express creativity through visual art drew me into the world of photography.

I never really thought photography could become my profession; I have a business degree. At the age of 26, after having lived in 6 different countries, I realized I wasn’t happy at all. So, I joined the Career Coaching Program, and there I started to receive the first inputs towards photography and also building self-awareness and strengths.

The first photography course I did was as a hobby, and after that, I never really stopped studying it. Over time, my passion for photography deepened as I explored different genres, from portraits to landscapes, street photography to abstract art. The continuous learning process in the field kept me engaged and motivated. Photography became more than a hobby; it has become a medium through which I can share my unique perspective and connect with others.

What would you say you are known for?

As a documentary photographer, my lens is my storytelling tool. I am known for my ability to easily connect with my subjects. Capturing raw and genuine emotions in my portrait photography. Whether it’s joy, vulnerability, or introspection, I strive to tell compelling stories through the eyes and expressions of what and who I photograph.

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