Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as “Lula,” won the presidential election by a fraction of a percent over conservative incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. Recently exonerated after now-overturned corruption and money laundering charges landed him in prison in 2018, Lula, a leftist member of the Workers’ Party of Brazil, has garnered immense support from the nation’s artists, culture workers, and intellectuals as a fierce advocate for environmental protections and for the working class.

Yesterday, October 30, the results of the high-stakes election were announced, and Brazilian artists took to social media to celebrate Lula’s return to office after Bolsonaro’s targeted attacks on the arts and culture sector of Brazil’s government and economy.

Bolsonaro dissolved Brazil’s Ministry of Culture immediately after taking office in 2019, citing his campaign promise to cut public spending irrespective of the fact that cultural funding only made up less than 1% of the total federal budget. That same year, the Brazilian government introduced controversial new limitations to the Rouanet Law, the main instrument for non-government organizations to seek funding for arts and culture projects. Bolsonaro’s office, notorious for its intentional disregard for any COVID-19 safety measures, also held cultural funding as a bargaining chip through the thick of the pandemic by only distributing funds to organizations that promoted “face-to-face interactions between artists and spectators.”

Paulo Nimer Pjota was among the Brazilian artists who publicly celebrated Lula’s return. (screenshot Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic via Instagram)

In the last few weeks, artists across Brazil and the diaspora have used their social media platforms to encourage their followers to vote for Lula over Bolsonaro. Many of them highlighted the negative impacts Bolsonaro has had on not only the arts community, but also on the sociopolitical and environmental wellness of the nation. Now, the same artists have posted their celebratory statements, sharing feelings of both reassurance and hope for the future of Brazil.

Brazilian Illustrator Laercio Cubas Jr. has been following the election closely through his digital work. Throughout the campaign, he had posted several original political illustrations in support of Lula’s return to office — some of which Lula’s official Twitter account retweeted. Cubas told Hyperallergic that Brazil’s artists “always remained combative” when human rights are at risk.

“The last four years have been of orchestrated cultural destruction at the hands of the extreme right,” Cubas Jr. said, echoing critics of Bolsonaro’s anti-culture policies. “Our new generation of artists joined the previous generation and was certainly decisive in an election that ended with less than 1% difference between candidates. The feathers won over the weapons.”

Mixed-media photographic artist Vik Muniz also took to Instagram to share his happiness about Lula’s election, calling it a “victory for all Brazilians.” Before Muniz added the celebratory post to his grid, he made a tribute to a close friend of his, actor and comedian Paulo Gustavo, who had passed away from COVID.

“It was sad to watch his departure from afar, suffocated by the disgusting cacophony of the circus of negligence and politicization of the inept and inhuman president of the republic,” Muniz wrote, encouraging his friends and followers to vote in memory of Gustavo and everyone else who died needlessly due to Bolsonaro’s refusal to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic.

Brazilian painter Cristina Canale believes the election results will have ripples far beyond the region. “I am very happy and relieved,” Canale told Hyperallergic. “Given the importance of Brazil in the ecological issue, it is a victory for the world as well,” she added, referencing the fact that Bolsonaro lifted a majority of protective deforestation restrictions, allowing loggers to rapidly chip away at the Amazon rainforest and encroach on Indigenous territories for resources.

Prior to the election, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado published a video statement on social media consolidating all of the ways in which Bolsonaro’s leadership has harmed Brazil. Salgado pleaded with his followers to vote in favor of unification and democracy to protect the nation and heal from the damage of Bolsonaro’s regime.

“This government has led to a total rupture in Brazil’s internal relations,” Salgado wrote in English, translating his video from Brazilian Portuguese. “Sunday we have to be judicious, we have to vote for the reunification of Brazil and for democracy.”

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Rhea Nayyar

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...