Árvores do Brasil celebrates the diversity of Brazil’s literary and visual cultures by exploring the ties that bind artists, writers, and public intellectuals. In this sense, the exhibit considers some of the ways that Brazil’s genealogical imagination has evolved over time. How does the study of literature and culture reveal, conceal, contest, establish, and confirm genealogy? Genealogical research is a process of investigating hidden bonds and the connections that unite individuals, families, and generations. It is the study of origins, and these extend vertically and horizontally. Its horizons are always receding. Genealogical work is historically oriented with a view towards the claims made by the present on the past and vice versa.
Árvores do Brasil began as a class experiment at BYU in how genealogical thinking can contribute to the study of culture. Inspired by the way that the oak tree has come to symbolize genealogical connections in the United States, students enrolled in Portuguese 351: Survey of Brazilian Literature during Winter Semester 2020 considered how trees native to Brazil might inform the way we think about the intellectual connections between writers and artists in Brazil. This exhibit thus constitutes an invitation to reconsider the relationship between form and content in the context of Brazil’s rich cultural traditions.