From sculptural braids spelling out words to meticulously sculpted clay accessories, Mascarenhas’s work presents creations rich in cultural layering. We check in with the Dazed100 winner to talk about their upcoming project and the importance of creating for a cause.
For our readers not acquainted with your work, can you tell us about your artistic practice?
Hi everyone, my name is Janice. I'm a Brazilian black artist. I was born in Rio de Janeiro, a place where anything can happen. My work and my research talk about the duality of the universe, connecting my experience in Candomblé with my visual research, especially what I see in Rio de Janeiro, through art I seek to tell the result from those two extremes. My art today is a result from the past, using clay with my visions of the future. I refer to the Yoruba [people’s] myth that humans came from the clay. In technical terms, I’m a cultural curator and creative director. I do many handcrafts; I’m always uniting all this in my art.
In consideration of your creative background, was an artistic career always in your future?
Yes, my grandfather was a painter. For 5 years my dad sat with me and taught me how to draw. He told me how art made my grandfather's life comfortable but also troubled. I have always been close to art, I have been sculpting since I was 7 years old, my family encouraged me to do so.
You grew up in a favela in Brazil, places where Eurocentric canons infamously attempt to assimilate Afro-Brazilian identity. Surrounded by such inexhaustible western ideology, where did you find creative role models to look towards?
A favela is a place where Brazilian history is still alive. We have many similarities. A funk beat for example looks a lot like the rhythm in macumba and macumba is an Afro-Brazilian religion. My references came first from my lifestyle in the favela and my learning in Candomblé. I was pregnant at 17 years old like a lot of the girls in favela, I was supported by the black community in Brazil. I want to tell the world what ubuntu means.
Upon introduction to the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion did your view of braiding and the spirality within the medium of hair change in any way?
Yes, of course, hair is an important symbol to the religion, I’m still learning and I'm always impressed with new discoveries.
Growing up in a place fed by a media influence that works to dissolve ethnic identity, especially through the imposition of western beauty standards of hair texture and style. Did you find the intimate relationship with the medium of hair within your art allowed yourself, or others, to resolve these harmful sentiments projected upon POC?
I faced and still face many external rejections that try to make me swallow, but I believe a lot in orí (head in Yoruba) the place where all the strengths and the weaknesses are kept. I strive to live surrounded by people who think like me, creating art to understand the world, and at the same time returning to society with patience and dialectic to contextualise with facts the naturalness of our black world.
You’re the recipient of the 2021 Dazed100 award — congratulations! Can you tell us some more about your vision for the winning project?
I wrote a film script which mixes documentary images, sculptures and other artwork and 3D interactions. We will start recording in March.
With the Dazed award and the recognition that’s followed, what opportunities and evolution do you think this will bring you in your practice?
The recognition has brought me opportunities in the fashion market and also the respect of seeing me as more than a hairdresser, hair tells the story of civilisations. I intend to make room for black aesthetics and art in the market, both for me and for other Afro-Brazilian artists.
Given that the majority of recognised work on POC identity is agonisingly created from an appropriated narrative, has your success impacted your local community on any level?
For sure. In addition to the film bringing [forward] more than 30 black artists and professionals, I am also constantly sought after by other artists who tell me about my trajectory being a reference, because of this search I am studying the creation of a project that aims to launch new artists to the market and use the platform of sales in NFT to move money fast to invest in the creative needs of each artist.
With this recognition, does there now feel like there is a responsibility on you to spotlight other creatives who have been overlooked by the western perspective?
Yes, and I always try to bring new stories when I have the opportunity.
Within your art you often integrate the medium of clay, are there any other materials you’d like to explore within your work?
Actually, I use other materials, such as woven hair, plaster and even metal. I'm always exploring new techniques and raw materials. I like to reuse materials and use things I find in nature.
In a previous interview I read about how you’re currently organising a festival in Brazil with a female only line-up, for black and queer people. Which I commend by the way - I think there’s a necessity for celebration of underrepresented talent in the industry. Was this idea a response in disdain to the white, cis male line-ups we so often see in current festival announcements?
Yes, these spaces organised by cis men have mostly the straight male target audience and are rarely comfortable for all bodies, even black spaces of black music, have been dominated by the white Brazilian elite. I hope that in July I will be able to bring together the 10 artists that I have been curating with my team, all women and queer people.
A couple of months back you took part in the Fantasy event where you auctioned your first NFT of your work, entitled YE Ô. The funds raised from this went towards social causes. Can you tell us some more about this project? And are philanthropic fundraisers like this something you hope to partake in more in the future?
I donated 90% of the funds to the institution, a floor for the bia, a project from Bianca Kalutor, the initiative focused on buying a shelter to support trans narratives in Rio de Janeiro - Brazil. They are open to donation: and 10% from the money goes to the artist in the photo, Diameyka Odara, a Brazilian singer. I believe in income redistribution and people's awareness, crises should never be experienced alone and that's why art should be on the market, that's what I believe.