Gold leaf, iron frames, goblet, cachaça, charcoal, candles, and images in plaster Dimensions variableHistorisches Museum Basel, Barfüsserkirche
Fittingly placed in the Barfusserkirche, Antonio Oba’s Malungo is a sanctuary inspired by those found in Baroque churches in Minas Gerais, Brazil. A meditation on the Catholic religion, Oba’s sanctuary questions the historical evangelization of enslaved Africans and the church’s relationship to wealth and splendor. In an inversion of espoused morality, gold takes pride of place over the figures of saints, who have been cast onto the floor and concealed in a bed of charcoal. It is not difficult to imagine the charcoal as a metaphor for the Black body, exploited for labor and oppressed by faith. The mixing of these two elements speaks to the artist’s intention of sanctifying the figure of the enslaved African, even under the specter of lucre and false faith. A chalice filled with cachaca takes center stage on the altar – flanked by candles – replacing sacramental wine as the blood of Christ.