Indigenous Amazonian Artist Denilson Baniwa’s Work Showcased in New Princeton University Art Museum Exhibition

PRINCETON, NJ – An exhibition of work by the Indigenous Brazilian artist Denilson Baniwa will open at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge gallery. The exhibition features work that engages with themes of Indigenous rights, colonial history, and environmental destruction. 

Denilson Baniwa: Under the Skin of History (April 13–September 1, 2024) showcases the breadth of Baniwa’s work, including drawings, photography, sculpture, and digital collages that challenge established colonial narratives and foreground Indigenous knowledge and resistance. The exhibition’s title comes from the artist, who has described his process as getting “under the skin of history” to expose the “poorly healed scars” of colonization. 

Baniwa—who is from the Baniwa Indigenous people of the Amazon—is one of the most prominent Indigenous Brazilian artists working today. He is co-curator of the 2024 Venice Biennale’s Brazilian Pavilion, renamed the Hãhãwpuá Pavilion to use an Indigenous name for Brazil. Baniwa sees his art and curatorial work as a form of Indigenous activism, raising up voices that have long been silenced or ignored. 

In his art, Baniwa often recontextualizes and revises historical imagery and archives to highlight Indigenous perspectives. In one series of collages included in the exhibition, he inserts science-fiction aliens and monsters such as Godzilla into images pulled from century-old publications on the Amazon, complicating narratives of invasion and environmental threat. “Through provocation and irony,” says co-curator Carlos Fausto, “Denilson proposes a rereading of colonial history, intervening in historical images and documents and imbuing them with new meanings.” 

The exhibition includes prints from Baniwa’s Natureza Morta (Dead Nature) series, which turn satellite images of cleared rainforest areas into crime-scene silhouettes of a shaman and parrot, alluding to the human and animal costs of industrial farming. “Denilson’s work can often seem playful or inviting at first,” co-curator Jun Nakamura notes, “but the more one spends time with it, the more one is made aware of the serious stakes at play, the very real threats—to environment, to culture, to life—that he is confronting in his work.” 

Baniwa’s relationship with Princeton University began in 2019, when he was invited to a workshop called Amazonian Poetics, and he returned last fall in preparation for this exhibition, when he met with students, studied University collections, and made art in response to the works he viewed. In his Fera Utopia series, jungle-themed Playmobil toys restage images sourced from sixteenth-century colonial books and a nineteenth-century Amazonian expedition archive at Princeton University Library, drawing parallels between the exoticizing perspectives of earlier colonizers and children’s toys produced today. In two large maps made for the exhibition, aesthetics and imagery inspired by early colonial maps meld with references to contemporary pop culture such as K-dramas. Co-curator Miqueias Mugge explains, “in reframing the Library’s collections, Baniwa combats fantasies of conquest, exoticism, and erasure embedded in these archives.” 

During his 2023 residency at Princeton, Baniwa was accompanied by the filmmaker Thiago da Costa Oliveira. Oliveira and Fausto’s short documentary, Right of Reply, will premiere in the exhibition, offering a glimpse into Baniwa’s thinking and process. The title refers to the right—guaranteed under Brazilian law—to defend oneself against public defamation. Baniwa asserts, “I, as an Indigenous person, demand from the state and the colonizers a right of reply so that there is more than one discourse in this story.” 

Under the Skin of History showcases the inquiry and collaboration fostered by a university museum and prompts us to engage Baniwa’s important work and to see the University’s historical collections with fresh eyes,” says James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director of the Princeton University Art Museum. “It’s important work that finds an important context in the ongoing exploration of some of today’s most probing artists we are presenting at Art@Bainbridge.” 



Denilson Baniwa: Under the Skin of History is co-organized by the Brazil LAB, the Department of Anthropology, and the Princeton University Art Museum, and is co-curated by Jun Nakamura, assistant curator of prints and drawings at the Museum, the Brazil LAB’s Carlos Fausto, Princeton Global Scholar, and Miqueias Mugge, associate research scholar. Co-sponsors of the project include the High Meadows Environmental Institute, the University Center for Human Values, the Humanities Council, the Program in Latin American Studies, and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies. Additional supporters include the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Department of Art & Archaeology, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Effron Center for the Study of America. 

About Art@Bainbridge 

Art@Bainbridge is made possible through the generous support of the Virginia and Bagley Wright, Class of 1946, Program Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art; the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art; Joshua R. Slocum, Class of 1998, and Sara Slocum; Rachelle Belfer Malkin, Class of 1986, and Anthony E. Malkin; Barbara and Gerald Essig; Gene Locks, Class of 1959, and Sueyun Locks; and Ivy Beth Lewis. Additional support for this exhibition is provided by the Africa World Initiative; the Program in African Studies; the Graduate 

School—Access, Diversity and Inclusion; the Department of African American Studies; the Princeton African Humanities Colloquium; the Department of Music; and the Program in Linguistics. 

About the Princeton University Art Museum 

With a collecting history that extends back to 1755, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, featuring collections that have grown to include more than 115,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe. Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. 

The main Museum building is currently closed for the construction of a bold and welcoming new building, slated to open in 2025. 

Art on Hulfish, a gallery project of the Art Museum located at 11 Hulfish Street, is open daily. Art@Bainbridge, a gallery project at 158 Nassau Street, is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission to both galleries is free. 

Please visit the Museum’s website for digital access to the collections, a diverse portfolio of programs, and details on visiting our downtown galleries. The Museum Store in Palmer Square, located at 56 Nassau Street in downtown Princeton, is open daily, or shop online at 

Media Contact: Emma Gordon |