Andrade was one of the founders of Brazilian modernism and a member of the Group of Five, along with Mário de Andrade, Anita Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral and Menotti del Picchia. He participated in the Week of Modern Art (Semana de Arte Moderna).
Andrade is best known for his manifesto of Brazilian nationalism, Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto), published in 1928. Its argument is that Brazil's history of "cannibalizing" other cultures is its greatest strength, while playing on the modernists' primitivist interest in cannibalism as an alleged tribal rite. Cannibalism becomes a way for Brazil to assert itself against European postcolonial cultural domination. The Manifesto's iconic line is "Tupi or not Tupi: that is the question." The line is simultaneously a celebration of the Tupi, who had been at times accused of cannibalism (most notoriously by Hans Staden), and an instance of cannibalism: it eats Shakespeare.
Born into a wealthy family, Andrade used his money and connections to support numerous modernist artists and projects. He sponsored the publication of several major novels of the period, produced a number of experimental plays, and supported several painters, including Tarsila do Amaral, with whom he had a long affair, and Lasar Segall. His role in the modernist community was made somewhat awkward, however, by his feud with Mário de Andrade, which lasted from 1929 (after Oswald de Andrade published a pseudonymous essay mocking Mário for effeminacy) until Mário de Andrade's untimely death in 1945.
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