Xica da Silva
Acrylic and Gold Leaf on Wood Panel
Created by Mark Steven Greenfield as a part of his series, "Hey-Lo".
Francisca da Silva de Oliveira (c. 1732 – 1796), also known by the name Chica or Xica da Silva, was a Brazilian woman who became famous for becoming rich and powerful despite having been born into slavery. She was freed by her master who owned diamond and gold mines and they had 13 children together. In 18th-century Brazil, colonizers and enslaved people were both overwhelmingly male. In part due to love affairs and children born between Portuguese men and African and/or enslaved women, freed former-slaves were predominately female. Stereotypes about non-white women were abundant during the colonial period and while gender, race and color worked together to systemically disadvantage Black women, some individuals — such as Xica — used their perceived hyper-sensuality to invert gender and power relations to become socially and economically mobile. Much of Xica da Silva's life is legend, but historical documents show that she was extremely rich. Her life has been a source of inspiration for many works in television, films, music, theater and literature. She is popularly known as "the slave who became a queen."