History cannon 46 | 016234
This cannon was found underground next to the Gate of Minerva where today is the entrance courtyard of the National History Museum in Rio de Janeiro. In the same space, the Minister of War, Marechal Carlos Bettencourt, was stabbed
to death by a soldier who, two months after being arrested,
was found hanged with a bed sheet in his cell. The Minister
of War had just arrived in Rio de Janeiro from the Canudos War where he was responsible for the death of hundreds of prisoners of war, including men, women and children.
The Canudos War (1895-1897) was an armed conflict
between Brazilian Army and members of the community led
by Antonio Conselheiro, in the interior of the State of Bahia.
In 1890, the region was experiencing a crisis due to the dry
soil and the large unemployment brought by the recent end of slavery. A mixture of socio-religious leader, Antonio Conselheiro became a central figure leading to the formation of a legion of followers. Around 1895, according to historian Eduardo Bueno, about twenty thousand individuals settled on an abandoned farm creating a type of commune with means of subsistence.
The landowners of the region, uncomfortable with the
situation, joined the Catholic Church and started to pressure
the government, creating rumors to justify an attack on
Antonio Conselheiro and his group. They were made up of Karimbé and Kariri indigenous groups, but the vast majority were blacks, many of them ex-slaves and Quilombolas who
had long been walking through backlands in search of work
and better living conditions. At the start, three military expeditions were defeated by the community but by the end, the entire camp was destroyed, houses were burned and survivors beheaded.
It is estimated that almost twenty thousand individuals and
five thousand military personnel were killed. During the war,
the main newspapers in Brazil sent correspondents to the
area, one of them was Euclides da Cunha, a famous writer
in Brazilian literature, who in 1902 launched a historic book
Os Sertões, narrating the tragedy, and condemning the
military actions under the command of the Minister of War, Marechal Bettencourt.
The Canudos war resembles a retroflux into the past.
And it was, in the full meaning of the word, a crime.
Let us report it. (fragment from Os Sertões, Euclides da Cunha)
The resistance that took place in the Canudos War is due to the union of those who were marginalized. The people of the African diaspora, brought and commercialized in the slavery period, even after its abolition, continued to struggle to survive with dignity and against the endemic prejudice throughout Brazilian history. Police abuse towards black people today
is evident of the intolerance rooted in society.
In 2020 in the United States, a black man, George Floyd,
was asphyxiated by a police officer after he was accused of trying to use a counterfeit twenty dollars banknote in a convenience store. Officer Derek Chauvin applied his knee
on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes causing his asphyxiation. This case has mobilized citizens not only from Minnesota, the American State where the incident occurred,
but also around the world. The case became notorious
because someone registered the murder in her cell phone.
In 2019 in Brazil, 75% of registered homicides were of black people. It makes us wonder how many of these deaths were
due to police abuse and not covered by the media. Racism is increasingly propagated by the growing role of authoritarian government encouraging violence to their law enforcement.
Our first step was to ask “what is the smell of death?”. Science’s answer is a surprise because they maintain that the body after death exhales hexanol, a fresh odor of cut grass. As the days go by, the decomposition process brings unexpected smells such as nail polishing.
This research was developed by the University of Huddersfield in England. It also raises the theoretical possibility that each body, after death, develops a unique odor coming from the unique combination of the liberation of chemical substances. It could be said, a kind of olfaction digital impression. We then started the process of developing the Smell of Death simulating the odor of body decomposition since we didn’t have access to Cadaverine and Putrescine. We added the animalic and carnal Castoreum, a musk and amber note with strong and pungent characteristics that remind us of leather, today recreated synthetically for ethical reasons. The accord also captures the humid, grey and cold state of death and a narcotic and opulent floral from white flowers.
That is the cannon’s history and the reasons
it is associated with the Smell of Death.
These questions are bridges between you and
passages of Brazilian History - past and present.
Contribute in the construction of the
smell's collective imagination.
Are there prejudices against death and its smell?
How does the Smell of Death feel like?
Do you remember a moment you had
to face this smell? How was it?
Since our olfaction vocabulary is reduced can you create words to describe the smell of death?
Could a respirator used in Covid19 change the
smell of death in your imagination?
Curiosity: It was common to bury cannons under the soil of fortifications for the purpose of safeguarding them, that is, hiding them for some urgent situation. This was found in a demolition made at the Museu Histórico Nacional in 1922 for the occasion
of the centenary of Brazil's independence.