Garoto com cabelo de pipoca - Atotô
Oil on canvas
180 x 110 cm (70 7/8 x 43 1/4 in.)
In a profusion of symbolic elements, the work Garoto com Cabelo de pipoca superimposes references to Christian iconography and Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion. It represents a young man eating popcorn, leaning against a wall, in an alcove or chapel with celestial blue walls—an unreal and mystical composition. The representation of a dove or turtle-dove and its nest, floating above the figure's head like a halo of glory or a crown of thorns, is particularly striking. Strands of straw rain down on him, subtly adding a second level of interpretation: this is an indirect allusion to the orixa Omulu, the god of infectious diseases and healing, a figure of the reversal of the established order, who is often depicted wearing a straw coat. In his honour, Candomblé followers have the custom of offering popcorn, a food whose bumps are reminiscent of the stigmata of smallpox from which Omulu suffered.
Antonio Oba plays with these symbolic codes to evoke a more personal wound, which he frees himself from in this self-referential painting. By reappropriating the nickname cabelo de pipoca (popcorn hair) given to him by his grandfather in reference to his frizzy hair, formerly a source of shame, the artist reconciles himself with his image and his body, which he now shows as a source of pride.