Dinis Dias: Land of the Negros
Oil on Belgian linen and wood panel 72" x 36"
The painting represents the Garden of Eve, from origin to consumption. On the left, Eve and the African land flourish with beautiful flowers and a placid landscape. In the center, clutching a bag of gold coins, Pope Nicholas V issues his papal bulls—Dum Diversas and Romanus Pontifex as noted by the banderoles—authorizing Portugal to conquer and enslave non-Christian peoples and territories. Dinís Dias was the first Portuguese and western explorer to survey the west coast of Africa. Exploration and discovery of new lands soon turn to exploitation and enslavement of Africa and its people. The ancestral African figures undergo trauma and suffering as they and the land have been manipulated and compromised.
The right panel depicts Eve within a strangler fig tree. For Rosales, the strangler fig symbolizes manipulation, and requires a host to survive. The blossoming of the tree signifies the host has been fully consumed; in other words, Africa and its people have been fully exploited and manipulated.
The triptych format of the painting and its golden background call to mind Renaissance altarpieces. However, instead of aiding in prayer, the work invites audiences to reconsider the entangled histories of Christianity, exploration, and the slave trade.
ExhibitionsGarden of Eve