Maria Thereza Alves

Recipes for Survival
Seeing you

Recipes for Survival (1983), University of Texas Press, Austin 2018.

Artist book with photographs and text.

The artist book "Recipes for Survival", written and photographed by Alves in 1983, will be published after 35 years at University of Texas Press, Austin, in November 2018. With a foreword by Michael Taussig.

Pre-order the book through University of Texas Press

"My family happen to be descendents of indigenous peoples and former African slaves and Europeans of unknown origins. In Brazil, histories force us, as the subject, to become and remain the ‘other’. This is because of the large gap between the reality of the writer or photographer or artist (in almost every case, a Euro-Brazilian) and those who are photographed, written about and/or asked to participate in artworks. I feel that such work has a tendency to usurp and then incorporate such subject matter into a needed construction of self by someone outside of our reality, which also reinforces the violent mechanisms that deny existence. Recipes for Survival, references the cookbooks my mother learned from once she left to work as a servant in the cities. These books contain recipes for “Brazilian” food, and yet they list ingredients that are inaccessible financially to the poor. Instead I decided to include our own recipes from home for indigenous bread made from manioc meal that is not listed in “Brazilian” recipe books. (Such publications also do not, for example, describe what to do with leftover rice: if you have an egg, it can be made into rice cakes, which are very tasty when fried.)

Recipes for Survival is an attempt to document as active agents those who are critically engaged with history. There are only a few actual recipes in Recipes for Survival; instead I asked people who or what they would like to have photographed or written about. Maria requested that the old man who was not being fed enough be photographed. Jefferson asked that I photograph his neighbour who had no more food. I asked people how they would like to be photographed. A smuggler asked for a photograph that would depict one of his jobs. Maricota, an elderly neighbour, removed her kerchief so that I would see her still obsidian-black long hair; she was one of the few in the village who was not afraid to say she was indigenous (massacres of entire indigenous groups are still in living memory).

I asked them what I should write about. Julio urged me to articulate the need of subsistence peasants to keep their land. Francisco asked me to write down the story of the oldest person he knew. Jose Antonio feared being made into a slave (a not uncommon practice in Brazil) by working in a plantation far from home; he asked me to go there so I would know where he was and he wanted the plantation overseer to see me writing about it. So an attempt began to define ourselves and to make our history.

This work has yet to find a publisher."

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