In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic, the home has played a precarious role. Not unique to the world’s present circumstances, history has shown that domestic spaces often resided in unstable political environments, particularly within many countries in twentieth-century Latin America. Such was the case for many who lived in Brazil during the military dictatorship (1964–1985). Seeking more freedom, some artists and historians left Brazil, while some who remained were taken from their homes and imprisoned. As a witness to such atrocities, Brazilian artist Lygia Pape (1927–2004) used her artwork to emphasize the home as a site to contest the military dictatorship’s actions. While scholarship has tended to focus on Pape’s woodcuts and Neoconcrete works, this paper investigates Pape’s artwork Divisor [Divider] (1967) and the photographic series Favela da Maré (1974–1976). In doing so, I emphasize an understudied site in her career: working class areas called favelas. Overlooking favelas’ importance in Pape’s career is problematic because during the dictatorship the government instituted a favela eradication policy. Using social art historical analysis, this paper argues that Pape’s depictions of favela communities in Chácara do Cabeça and Favela da Maré counteracted favelas’ destruction by documenting their presence. I find that Pape’s works provide an alternative analysis as one not focused on favelas’ connection to poverty, but rather in relation to innovative spatial syntax and scenes of everyday life. It is through Pape that one learns how artwork functions not merely as an aesthetic choice, but also as a way to confront societal assumptions about space, geography, and ultimately the places people call “home.”


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