Many of the artists, writers and musicians associated with tropicália came of age during the 1950s during a time of intense optimism when the cultural world had been encouraged to play a central role in the creation of a democratic, socially just and modern Brazil. But a military coup in 1964 had brought to power a right-wing regime at odds with the concerns of left-wing artists. Tropicália became a way of exposing the contradictions of modernisation under such an authoritarian rule.
The word tropicália comes from an installation by the artist Hélio Oiticica, who created environments that were designed to encourage the viewer’s emotional and intellectual participation.
From its beginning, tropicália was seen as a re-articulation of anthropophagia (cannibalism), an artistic ideology promoted by Oswald de Andrade.