Remembering Jaider Esbell

Faculty-Driven Exhibition #3
Curated by Daniel Segal, Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History

February 14 – March 25, 2023

Jaider Esbell, Woman with a Basket of Fruit (2013), acrylic on canvas, collection of Pitzer College. Gift of the artist.

Jaider Esbell was born in 1979 in the far northern Amazonian state of Roraima in Brazil. An Indigenous Macuxi, Esbell became one of the most prominent Indigenous artists, of any historical era, in South America after moving to Roraima’s capital of Boa Vista. Esbell died in 2021, while exhibiting at the 34th Biennial of São Paolo and shortly after several of his works were acquired by The Centre Pompidou, Paris. In 2022, a large selection of Esbell’s work was shown at the 59th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale: The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani.

In 2005, the territory where Esbell was born was legally recognized as the Terra Indigena Raposa Serra do Sol (the Fox and Sun Hills Indigenous Land). This followed years of Indigenous activism, both on the ground and in the federal courts, leading to the formal acceptance of the territory by President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”).

Understanding and defining himself an activist-artist, Esbell created works that were political, historical, and always concerned with both Indigenous empowerment and the harms of capitalism to the local and global environments. In addition, as his own work gained recognition, Esbell championed the work of other Indigenous artists in Brazil. 

Esbell was artist-in-residence at Pitzer College, in 2013. During his residency, he co-curated the exhibition Cattle in the Amazon with Daniel Segal, the Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History at the College. Esbell also co-taught a course on Macuxi myths with Pitzer anthropology professor Lêda Martins, and they co-produced, with their students, a collaborative artwork illustrating key Macuxi myths. Esbell’s residency at Pitzer, and Cattle in the Amazon, were generously supported by the Art Field Group’s “art+environment” program, funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Esbell gave the painting Woman with a Basket of Fruit to the College as an expression of his gratitude to the faculty, students, and staff with whom he had worked closely during his months in Claremont.

Read Jaider Esbell’s obituary in Artforum:

Remembering Jaider Esbell is curated by Daniel Segal, Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History, and is the third Faculty-Driven exhibition produced in partnership with Pitzer College Art Galleries.

Feb. 14 – Mar. 25, 2023
Pitzer College, McConnell Living Room

Reception and Comments:
Professors Daniel Segal and Bill Anthes
Tuesday, February 14, 4:15 – 5:00 p.m.
Pitzer College, McConnell Living Room