One day we were all fish and the earth’s belly is Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto’s first solo exhibition on the African continent. Arriving at a time of great political and environmental turbulence across the globe, Neto’s exhibition offers a grounding perspective on the nature of life and the value we should attach to its miraculous occurrence.
At the centre of the exhibition is Neto’s large-scale immersive sculpture Um dia todos fomos peixes (One Day We Were all Fish). The installation, which was originally commissioned for the Blueproject Foundation in Barcelona, fills the main atrium of the gallery in a knitted blue net scented with aromatic spices, inviting visitors to be present and relax into the atmosphere created by the work.
As the title and aesthetic of the sculpture suggests, Um dia todos fomos peixes draws much of its inspiration from the ocean. For Neto the ocean has been a point of fascination since childhood, making it the perfect source material for his ongoing inquiry into the continuity between the human body and natural landscapes.
The netting of the work itself is an abstracted representation of a giant fish, an idea which struck Neto during a ceremony in Brazil lead by the spiritual leader Álvaro Tukano.