Santería sparklies

Santería braceletsA few days ago, I bought some beaded bracelets from one of the many Santería shops in town. I chose two bracelets, each, in the colours of three of the Orishas:

Yemayá (blues and crystal clear beads) is the mother of all Orishas. Her name means “Mother whose children are like the fish”, (referring to her fecundity as the source of all living things.) She is queen of the ocean, patroness of seafarers and fishermen, of pregnant women, and is the spirit of moonlight. Often depicted as a mermaid, I bought these bracelets for my friend, who is a real mermaid

Changó (or Shangó) is the most ‘popular’ of the orishas. He rules over lightning, thunder, fire, the drums and dance. He is a strong-willed and fiery Orisha, red and white, and loves all the good things of life: dancing, drumming, women, food and wine. He is ocanani with Elegba, meaning they are of one heart. I bought these bracelets for a fiery artist friend of mine, a Leo, a maven of good food, wine, music, books, and art.

Elegba (also Eleggua or Elegguá) is the owner of the roads and doors in this world. The colors red, black, and white are his. In particular, Elegba stands at the crossroads of the human and the divine, as messenger between the two worlds. Nothing can be done in either world without his permission. Elegba is always propitiated before calling any other orisha, as he opens the door between the worlds and opens our roads in life. He is my personal favourite, a trickster god and a child, and I bought his bracelets for myself.

Santería braceletsSome of you may remember that I made a new journal for myself last year, when the previous one had filled up, and that I chose to decorate its covers with the colours, symbols, sigils, and incantations of Elegba, because I was about to set off on a huge journey around South America for a few years (we are here, currently) and wanted to honour the Spirit of The Roads, the Opener of Ways.

Elegba journal

Retina Reflex

Kodak Retina Reflex We made it to the flea market around the corner last Sunday morning. I actually went in search of the black market for hard-to-find essential things, like laundry detergent and bath soap, which are scarce in regular shops because of the shortages and rationing. I figured that wherever there is a shortage of such, someone will have hoarded the stuff and be selling them off for three times what they paid…but no luck. Ninety percent of the stalls were selling secondhand fashion. There were lots and lots of old shoes and clothes, all too small for a big fat gringa like me! Cheap costume jewelry, three-quarters empty bottles of nail polish, battered-looking handbags, and bridesmaid’s gowns. There were plenty of fried food stalls, and people selling cheap, mass-produced stuff, like plastic food containers, from China (brand new). A few stalls did have second stuff that wasn’t fashion-related: boxes of dusty, tangled computer cables, chipped dinnerware sets, dog-eared playing cards, gift sets of tiny perfume bottles (the kind you buy in-flight on planes) being sold off, one 20ml. bottle at a time. Old things. Worthless things. Sad things. Kodak Retina ReflexI didn’t really expect to find a ‘treasure’ at a market like this. The tang of desperation and hard-times filled the air. But there it was. The treasure. A vintage camera, the Kodak Retina Reflex, made in Germany between 1957 and ’58, still in its leather holster, complete with a bakelite flash unit and reflector dish that looks like a pie tin. And it was in working order (well, maybe not the flash unit)!

-¿Cuánto cuesta?
-Dos mil quinientos. (Bs 2,500.00)

Five dollars.

Sold. To the sweaty gringa who looks like she’s just barely managing to hold back a triumphant roar. I’m in love with it. It looks beautiful, it weighs a ton, and I can’t wait to get some film for it someday, if such a thing still exists (not here…not in a country where you can’t even find bath soap easily!)

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

A city’s historical center

As casas do colonial

I sure hope you like the colonial Portuguese style of colorful, baroque houses as much as I do…because here are some more, and I suspect there will be months and months more of these confections.

As casas do colonial

We took the train into João Pessoa the other day, and walked around the city’s Centro Historico. This is where the city was founded in 1585…not at all near the beaches on the coast, overlooking the Atlantic ocean, but a good way inland, along the sleepy banks of the Rio Paraiba, where ships could dock and load up on sugar and extremely valuable brasil wood coming from the interior (hence the proximity of the railway to the Historical Center).

As casas do colonial

Unlike Olinda, with its very narrow streets and its air of a museum and residential area, the “wedding cake” buildings of João Pessoa are actively used as business premises.

As casas do colonial

At seeming variance with the vivid colour combinations, the frilly plaster mouldings, and the wrought iron balconies, the businesses housed in this area are mostly hardware and construction supplies, industrial spare parts, automobile parts and garages.

As casas do colonial

And while there are pockets in the area where the houses have been restored and done up to please the tourists and to live up to the bright images in the brochures, most of the buildings are succumbing to a slow decay. On some streets, entire house blocks have not been touched since the houses were built, 500 years ago. These houses are stripped to bare brickwork. The roofs are gone. The doors have been boarded up (sometimes the entire house has been filled in, with rubble and concrete, to discourage squatters). Trees grow inside the houses, vines creep up the once-ornate baroque facades.

DSC_0051

And much as I love the candy-coloured houses restored by money from benevolent societies in Switzerland and the UNESCO, I am more affected by the untouched buildings that stand as they have since they were built.

As casas do colonial

As casas do colonial

I think of what glorious, grand homes for the wealthy Portuguese traders they must have once been, and what an amazing little city João Pessoa must have been at the height of its commercial and political eminence, when it was the “CBD” of the state, and not just a patchily preserved wreck, propped up by historical societies.

As casas do colonial

About schizzograffia

The ABOUT page on schizzograffia is finally up…click on the image to view larger