The Secretary of Culture for the city of Rio de Janeiro between 2017-2019, Nilcemar Nogueira is currently involved in a debate about the creation of a museum highlighting Brazil’s involvement in the slave trade.
Of African-Brazilian heritage herself, Nogueira was chosen by the city’s new mayor, Marcelo Crivella Nogueira to run the project. As the founder of Rio’s popular Museum of Samba, she has a strong background in museums and culture in the city.
After a role as president at the Foundation Museum of Image and Sound, Nogueira joined her brother Pedro Paulo in the foundation and administration of the Centro Cultural Cartola. She then created the Samba Museum in 2015. She was also the director of the Carnival at Estação Primeira de Mangueira.
With regard to the proposed slavery museum, Nogueira has suggested the museum should occupy a 19th-century warehouse on the Cais do Valongo. The 150,000-square-foot building is suitable it was designed by a black engineer, André Rebouças, which was virtually unheard of at the time.
“A museum about slavery cannot hide in its name the historical dimension … it must redefine it,” she said. “If the history of slavery is one of violence and the violation of rights, then it’s also one of resilience and indestructibility of the human spirit, the acts of resistance and rebellion, the force to recreate an identity and community; finally the fight to conquer liberty.”
However, her plans have been seen as controversial for a number of reasons. The potential name of the museum, in Portuguese, bears an unfortunate acronym. Museu da Escravidão e da Liberdade , or “MEL” means honey in Portuguese. Another issue was that the panel charged with the creation of the museum is mostly white. Perhaps most importantly, the theme of the proposed museum – slavery and liberty – has been seen by many academics as in some way glossing over the country’s involvement in the slave trade by giving equal billing to a period of liberty following abolition.
Nogueira holds a doctorate in Social Psychology from the State University of Rio de Janeiro, a master’s degree in Cultural Property and Social Projects from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation.