Setting foot: deconstructing the sapatão
Group Exhibition curated by Ursula Maria Probst at Kunstraum NOE. Vienna, 2013


For "Setting foot: deconstructing the sapatão" (in Portuguese "Fincando o pé: desconstruindo o sapatão") Roberta Lima uses cultural etymologies to discuss gender restriction and categorization. She creates a parallel of two different cultural contexts (Brazil and Austria) in two different periods of time (1978 and 2013) through a dialog between two sculptures. The first sculpture called "Eu vim pra ficar - I came to stay" is a memento of her childhood: a sandal preserved in bronze.

Lima goes back in time, looking not only into her personal history, but also into the Brazilian cultural records of feminism to disclose old mechanisms of body control and homophobic mind setting. Lima's research includes the gay magazine "Lampião da Esquina" (1978 - 1981), published in Brazil during the military dictatorship.

Sapato: shoe (m); sapatinha : little shoe (f); sandalinha : little sandal (f); sapatão: big shoe (m). In Brazil, slangs that link women's shoe size and sexuality are turned into stereotypes created by a hetero-normative society that acts often in a pervasively way. Whereas "sapatão" is the term to designate masculine women, "sandalinha" or "sapatinha" ("inha" is the diminutive suffix) stands for a more feminine lesbian.

The second sculpture, "Eu tô aqui pra ficar - I'm here to stay", a concreted pair of Havaianas - once symbol of precarity in Brazil, today a product of global economy - creates a paradox between strength and fragility. Like a foundation, the concrete blocks are a metaphor for Lima setting foot in the Austrian art scene and exposing her identity.

In attempt of deconstructing the sapatão, Lima plays with contrasts of shape and representation. The sculptures are made of different materials and textures, carry different meanings, and emphasize the otherness.


Melissa Antunes de Menezes




Picture credits:
Bronze sandal: photo © Carin Mandeli
Concreted Hawaianas: photo © Antonia Wagner-Strauss
Lampião da Esquina
Selfpotraits by Roberta Lima
Video still from "Epistemische Gewalt" - Marissa Lobo and Roberta Lima diskutieren das Konzept des "sapatão"
Exhibition views by Roberta Lima and Antonia Wagner-Strauss


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