“Only Cannibalism unites us. Socially. Economically. Philosophically.” *

Our civilised societies have a long held fascination with the primitive. The Europeans devised the colonial ‘Other’, the Moderns espoused the perfection of ‘Natural Man’, and now we have the anthropological fantasy of the ‘Last Cannibal Tribe’.

Recent developments in gene technology have revealed that all present day human cultures, at some stage, consumed the flesh of their own.

What’s Eating Gilberto Gil? explores the history of the cannibal trope, its impressions here and its potential ‘fabulation’ across the shifting dynamics of contemporary global life – invariably edging towards transgression, transformation, and ultimately, consumption of a manifest tabu.

*Oswald de Andrade, Manifesto Antropófago. In Piratininga 374th year of the deglutition of Bishop Sardinha.


What's Eating Gilberto Gil?
Photograph: Kate Elliot

What’s Eating Gilberto Gil? is a performance-lecture that explores our common flesh-eating history and its contemporary legacies. From ancient socio–religious origins, colonial captivations to more recent forms of cultural anthropophagy, cannibalism has shaped our civilization.

The lecture uses history, popular culture, art and music to discuss recent ideas about race, settler-colonialism and necropolitics.

Gilberto Gil is a cultural icon from Brazil. He was one of the key artists of the Tropicália movement, a short lived but influential movement that propelled cultural revolution in the late 1960s. Between 2003 – 2008 he served as Brazil’s Minister for Culture where he became a figurehead for innovative and progressive thinking.

This performance-lecture was re-written and performed a number of times in Australia and abroad over 2010-11, in both art and academic contexts. Each event culminates in the audiences’ ritual ‘cannibalism’ of Gilberto Gil.

Lecture script (2011)
What’s Eating Gilberto Gil?

Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney.
First performed at Momentum Sydney, curated by Rachel Rits-Volloch.