Brazil’s beautiful books

This is not my photo. This is Ademar Ferreira Mota, a.k.a. Chocolate, 63. He is a camelo from Itajai, Litoral Centro-Norte, and was the star of a documentary called O Vendedor de Versos . Click on the image to see the report and a youtube video of Chocolate.

Cycling along the very touristy Tambau Beach on his way to the money changer on Avenida Nego, Kris stopped to check out a camelô (street vendor with a rolling/moveable cart) selling cheap little pocketbooks on the esplanade. With ugly paper covers and dark grey paper inside, the tiny books are just something for people to read as they lie on their towels in the sun, and then throw away before leaving the beach. Just seeing books for sale on the beach was weird: to think that people would choose to read! Kris assumed they would be nasty little romance, crime, or espionage novelettes— bite-sized disposable pulp fiction for the masses, but when he browsed the covers he was amazed to find authors he knew well: Julio Cortazar. Mario Vargas Llosa. Dostoevsky. Joseph Conrad. Dickens. Chekhov, of all people. It was astounding. To occupy themselves while sunbathing, Brasileiros read the classics. God almighty.

I found the same thing when I went to check out the bookstores in João Pessoa’s shopping malls; what strikes us is the high quality of the books available.

Livraria LeituraI mean two things by “quality”. First, the selection of titles/ authors is delightful. Charles Bukowski’s poetry, for instance, is conspicuous. I saw the complete essays of Virginia Woolf, in a gorgeous edition, with a jacket covered in velvet-flocked scarlet leaves and flowers; a massive tome of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories, with all the fantastic illustrations Harry Clarke did for them. The Complete Odes of Pablo Neruda (this one had me sorely tempted.) Just hundreds of the best literature, art, philosophy books, all beautifully presented and prominently displayed at the front of the bookstores, not just relegated to a small shelf in the back.

I also mean the physical forms of the books themselves, the books as objects. Fine publishing seems to be alive and well in Brazil; there were so many really beautifully produced books: embossed jackets, stamped foil titles, gilt or coloured page edges, ribbon bookmarks, sometimes a mix of different papers in one book, coloured printing on thick, soft ivory paper like cloth. Sometimes the text was printed in colour, too. Some of the books had deluxe finishing touches, like embroidered fabric bellybands, or clamshell boxes with leather straps and buckles. Some of the art books were oversized, nearly two feet long and a foot wide, with black & white photographs printed in silver halide.

A bookstore here is like a church for people who worship good design and beautifully made things. I spent hours in every one, looking at everything, though I could hardly buy these books (and I really longed to be able to buy these books in English. Some titles, like Neruda’s Complete Odes, are out of print in English. Very sad, as they are poems rich enough to eat…)

Once or twice I found a pretty book and was pleasantly surprised to find that it cost the same as a cheap hole-in-the-wall lunch, so I skipped lunch, bought the book, and snuck it home.

Po de Lua (Moondust) by Clarice Freire

Books from Brazil

Ivory pages with blue edges, this pretty book looks like someone’s Moleskine sktchbook, with all the text written by hand, and little drawings in coloured pencil. Not sure if it’s a poem, but the subtitle is “To lighten the seriousness of things”; I think it’s light, inspirational philosophy.

Freire is a young Pernambucana, from Recife (just two hours away from here). She plays with the way words are made up, connecting different parts to each other like Lego, coining new ideas and meanings.

Books from Brazil

Books from BrazilClarice Freire’s Po de Lua website has more of her drawings and poems.

Books from Brazil

Por Que Oxala Usa Ekodide by Descóredes M Dos Santos, with illsutrations by Lenio Braga, 1966.

Books from Brazil

Ekodide is a feather from an Amazon parrot, used in the initiation rituals of Orixa (Orisha) and Candomblé. This beautiful book, with its quirky handwritten text and powerful drawings by Lenio Braga, tells the story of how the ekodide came to be used in the rituals.

Books from Brazil

Books from Brazil

Fantasias by Flávio de Carvalho, with poems by Katia Canton

These gouache paintings were done by Carvalho, an architect and designer, as costumes for the ballet performance A Cangaceira, in 1953. Contemporary poems by American Katia Canton accompany each of the 15 designs.

Books from Brazil

Books from Brazil

Books from Brazil

Books from BrazilBuying brand new books is A Big No-No on this trip. Our budget can’t handle such extravagance and the rule is self-imposed. We are supposed to stick to second-hand bookstores, or (better yet) swap the books we’ve finished reading for different ones on the yacht club’s shelves (usually a dismal, ragtag selection of pulp novels), but I simply couldn’t resist these three art books, and bought them as my souvenirs of Brazil, as well as for the inspiration.

Ceramics : Casa do Artista Popular

Casa do Artista Popular
Brasileiro artesans produces a prodigious amount of ceramic sculptures, mainly in terracotta.
Casa do Artista Popular
I didn’t take as many photos as I should have—so this post is no indication—but one sees these large, traditional or fantastic, figurines in every souvenir shop, every lobby, every restaurant.

Casa do Artista Popular

There are whole towns, in the interior, that do nothing else but craft tiny scenes from everyday life, boys chasing chickens, women selling vegetables…though I didn’t see them here.
Ceramics
The lights are very “gallery-esque” at the Casa Do Artista Popular (tiny, amber spotlights that one can hardly see by) so I’m afraid many of these photos will be blurry or dark, but they give an idea…

With their tremendous talent for shaping and working clay, one wonders why there seems to be so little experimentation. But I guess that’s what makes it folk art: the artisans have the techniques, but no imagination or desire to break away; they are happy to produce the same time-honoured designs of their forebears.
Ceramics
It probably took a couple of hundred years for them to venture from making religious figures to making secular figures…it’ll probably take another few centuries before the village potters attempt anything so outlandish as a flower vase in the shape of a house…

Chatishine

The Artist as Deus Ex Machina by Chati Coronel 2014
The Artist as Deus Ex Machina by Chati Coronel 2014

“This series started out as an attempt to do self-portraits. I wanted to find the most honest way of depicting myself and because I see myself most often from the inside, it became a depiction of inner landscapes….

The Artist as Spirit Animal by Chati Coronel 2014
The Artist as Spirit Animal by Chati Coronel 2014

“For a number of years, I have been doing a technique of painting in layers. It is a most effective way for me to convey inner histories, building from the deepest level up until I reach the surface.”

The Artist as Disassembled Chandelier by Chati Coronel 2014
The Artist as Disassembled Chandelier by Chati Coronel 2014

“It has always been a journey from the core, from the most essential part of being. From the universal to the very personal image that shows up on the surface.”

Chati’s been re-working her blog, and I just had to post a few images, and some of the beautiful thoughts and feelings that go with them, again (other posts about Chati here & here). I met Chati Coronel nearly 20 years ago, at a very special little secondhand bookshop and café, owned by a literature professor, across from the university, and I have had a girl crush on her ever since. She is one of the most beautiful, radiant women I know…a punk rock Björkshire princess (hey! I like the sound of that :) ) enlightened mother, lover, and Buddhist saint, rolled into one tall, willowy, enigmatic and consummate artist. It has been a while. I miss my friends, my ‘tribe’, my creative space back home, my life with plants and cats in the mangroves. Saudade. Brazilian songs are full of it (though where they’d rather be, I have no idea.) Chatishine.

Woodwork : Casa do Artista Popular

Casa do Artista Popular
More folk arts from the Casa DO Artista Popular…woodwork, this time.
We love the little wall-hung dioramas featuring the workspaces of various craftsmen, such as those who repair the facades of the many old buildings in the city,
Casa do Artista Popular
Madeira (wood) folk art
the pharmacists
Madeira (wood) folk art
the cachaça (rum) makers
Madeira (wood) folk art
and leatherworkers.
Madeira (wood) folk art
Also, this little view of a home interior, with a tiny radio on the shelf, and a sewing machine:
Casa do Artista Popular
Madeira (wood) folk art

The doll room : Casa do Artista Popular

Casa do Artista PopularReally good stuff at the Casa do Artista Popular in downtown João Pessoa. Rooms devoted to various folk arts and crafts. I loved the doll room. Tiny fabric foliões (revelers) just over an inch high, above.

Papier maché puppets…Casa do Artista Popular

Mechanical figurines with whirligigs that produce movements…

Casa do Artista Popular
Large mosaics made entirely of prettily-dressed dolls…
Casa do Artista Popular
and gypsy rag dolls complete with wooden clogs and travel suitcases…
Casa do Artista PopularThe Casa do Artista Popular is a small museum of folk art and crafts, set in a beautifully restored old building overlooking the Parque da Independência, 56 – Centro, João Pessoa – PB

rainy day painting

cerveja Bohemia
The rainy season started a few days ago…and on Sunday the trains don’t run, either (boo!) I stayed home, on the gloomy shadowy boat, shut in to keep the rain out, making postcards out of cereal boxes and sketching a bottle of my favorite local beer.
March 8 rainy day
Also a salgadinho…a fancy name for any savoury snack. This one was sort of like a sausage roll, but made with better pastry. A dollar for three, but they were small.
salgadinho

street art, João Pessoa (Brasil)

street art around Joao Pessoa

street art around Joao Pessoa

street art around Joao Pessoa

street art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoastreet art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoa

street art around Joao Pessoa
street art around Joao Pessoa

street art, Olinda (Brasil)

Olinda street art1
Carnaval em Olinda

Olinda street art3

DSC_0187

Carnaval em Olinda

DSC_0187_2

DSC_0142

Carnaval em Olinda

street art around Joao Pessoa