My First Trip to Brazil Told Through Generative AI

Nettrice Gaskins
4 min readSep 30, 2023
Dancer innovator Mercedes Baptista + Midjourney

To create this image (above) I made a Photoshop collage from a photo I took of a floral print on a wall at Jongo da Serrinha, plus a photo of a young Mercedes Baptista who was a legendary Brazilian ballet dancer and choreographer. I took a photo of her statute in Little Africa on Monday. Next, I imported my collage and added text prompts in Midjourney that were inspired by my time here in Rio de Janeiro. Here is my generative AI portrait of Brazilian Samba pioneer Clementina de Jesus:

Samba pioneer Clementina de Jesus + Midjourney

My subjects for generative AI are usually Black women who are at rest, feeling joy or happiness, working, and dancing. Texture and color interaction is also important, as well vintage textile prints from around the world. The process of using Midjourney and other tools to make these images is often therapeutic. I can see the output in my mind before attempting to create the images. For example, I created the following image after visiting the Maré favela (Maré means “tide”). It was a windy evening and the water at Copacabana beach was choppy.

Conceptualizing Maré using Midjourney

We visited the Marine Aquarium of Rio de Janeiro or AquaRio and I was inspired to create this image of an Afro-Brazilian mermaid:

AquaRio Mermaid + Midjourney

We visited Little Africa, a place with a rich history, heritage and a long history of slavery is all too often overlooked. We spent most of the time in the Port Region of Rio that has historically been home to a strong Afro-Brazilian community. We walked around ​​Pedra do Sal, a popular samba spot for locals and tourists. The area is widely credited as the birthplace of both samba and Carnival. The following image was inspired by our visit to Jongo da Serrinha. Jongo, also known as caxambu or tabu, is a dance and musical genre of Black communities from southeast Brazil. Performers are greatly influenced by West and Central African culture.

Jongo Dancers + Me + Midjourney

In the Jongo-inspired portrait I layered over the main Midjorney image with other output (ex. Jongo dancers). When we visited the Maré favela (mentioned above), I took in the sights, sounds, and expressions of the people who lived there. Me and my group spent most of the day at the favela and when it was over I created a new portrait, which is another collage of MJ output images. The same Afro-Brazilian woman from my imagination is in the Jongo and Maré images. I was channeling the nurturing energy from these places when creating them.

Maré + Me + Midjourney

The claim that all users of generative AI are taking the easy way out (or in) to create images haven’t considered artists like me who are finding new ways to collage the ideas/words/images from our lives and find new ways to express these things. It’s not like any digital process I’ve used before.

Mercedes Baptista II

Using the environments around Rio such as floral wallpaper from the favela, nature, and even textile patterns, along with a variety of images (ex. Black women) and descriptive words is a more personal journey in the world of generative AI. The possibilties in this world are immense.

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Nettrice Gaskins

Nettrice is a digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM education.