The intentions in the book God bless John the Baptist! A contribution on the St. John’s Bath of Corumbá - Mato Grosso do Sul it was been to tell, visually, the element of the story of the festive event permeated by religious principles, showing the rites and rituals, devotion, joy and festivity of the apex , which happens at bathing the saint in the waters of the Paraguay River. It was assumed, as the prerogative to support the preservation, construction of a memory and the apprehension of a reality.

It is estimated that there are currently over one hundred groups of “feasters” of the St. John’s Bath in the city of Corumba - Mato Grosso do Sul. Such groups can be identified by their Christian names, although they receive a reference nickname for emotional proximity or geographic location: Monte Castelo Community, Place of Mrs. Berê, Mrs. Concha, Sha Onça, Mrs. Janet, Clemilson, Mrs. Oraide, Mrs. Maria Paula, Pepe, St. John’s Baptist Spirit Tent, Ilê Afro Axé Orixá Spirit Tent, Ilê Axé Ti Oxum Blessing Home of Mother Oxum spirit tent, Spirit Tent of Umbandista Caboclo Estrela do Norte, among others constituent elements of intangible and prominent heritage being presented in pictures.

It was necessary to be attentive to the explosions of fireworks, proclaiming another year’s cycle of prayers and / or a festival that would begin in “feasting communities.” Visual artists responded to the call, which includes the acceptance of the invitation to the challenge of building a cooperative work. In search of the elements we had in order to emphasize the whole forming the identity of this ancient tradition. The St. John’s Bath of Corumbá that we present stands not for a mapping of numerous groups, types and religions, but by focusing on the strength of the relationship of cohabitation and religious commitments of people who are starring in this popular event.

Although there was a script and a research about what we intended to carry out, for a few moments the photographers were taken by the condition of the unexpected to record the festival. Thus they faced the challenges of short light intensity for, in most cases, the prayers and festivities take place at night. So they decided to dispense the use of flash for not interferring in the scene. The apparently unfavorable conditions, technically (lighting), and the production (immediacy), both were used as esthetic strength, becoming a guiding thread throughout the book.

In that moment, the curatorial position has always been working towards dialogue to resolve uncertainties and settle for the convictions of photographers, even to those who were in disarray with the propositions of the action of trustees. One of the directions was to identify and highlight elements that, besides those already predefined, were present, but perhaps obscured, or that appear by recurrence, opposition or exclusivity, such as the rites and rituals that precede the bathing of the saint, the ambience of “feasting communities”, sometimes by day, sometimes overnight, religious syncretism constant in some communities, the ashes of the bonfires, the waters of the Paraguay River, etc.. Thus, the highlights were spontaneously raised points already at work. Other references were translated to point out nuances of the city of Corumbá, and stronghold of this intangible heritage.

Therefore, there was a compromise with a form of esthetic expression. This is not a formal research on the subject. The abolition of subtitle was part of a team decision, which chose to avoid the interference of page numbers, detailed descriptions, and references.

A clean design and rich images of signifiers is the obvious ... And here it is!

Hélènemarie Dias Fernandes
Curator