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Art

"Girl from Ipanema", samba and classical Villa Lobos - Brazilian music is as varied as its people. Discover the new cinema or enjoy the exciting capoeira dances.

 Music


Brazil's origins - the Indians with their reed flutes, the Portuguese with their singers and viola players, and the Africans with their many thrilling rhythms - make it a musical country. From the classical compositions of Villa-Lobos, to the soft sounds of bossa nova to the driving beat of samba, Brazil has developed music of striking sophistication, quality, and diversity.

When the Jesuit fathers first arrived in Brazil they found that the Indians performed ritual songs and dances accompanied by rudimentary wind and percussion instruments. The Jesuits made use of the music to catechize the Indians by replacing the original words with religious ones using the Tupi language. They also introduced the Gregorian chant and taught the flute, bow instruments, and the clavichord. Music accompanied the sacramental ceremonies which were performed in village and church plazas. African music was introduced during the colony's first century and was enriched by its contact with Iberian music. One of the most important types of music used by the Negro slaves was the comic song - dance called lundu. For a long time it was one of the typical popular musical forms and it was even sung in the Portuguese Court during the 19th century. In the second half of the l8th century and during the 19th century, the sentimental love song called the modinha was popular and it was sung both in Brazil's salons and at the Portuguese Court. No one knows if the modinha was born in Brazil or in Portugal.

Schools of music existed in Bahia in the early 17th century and religious music was played in churches throughout the colony. As with other art forms, musical activity intensified with the arrival of the Royal Family in 1808. King João VI, a music lover, sent to Europe for the composer Marcos Portugal, and for Sigismund von Neukomm, an Austrian pianist, a pupil of Haydn. Local musicians also attracted the King's attention, such as José Nunes Garcia (1767-1830) who was a notable improviser on the organ and clavichord. João VI appointed him Inspector to the Royal Chapel, a body which had more than 100 instrumentalists and singers, many of whom were foreigners.

By the end of the century, Carlos Gomes (1836-1896), born in the town of Campinas in the state of São Paulo, produced a number of operas in the prevailing Italian style, especially Il Guarany, an opera eased on a famous Brazilian novel by José de Alencar about a colonial villain who incites an Indian attack in order to gain a Portuguese nobleman's treasure and his daughter as a bride. Brasílio Itiberê (1848-1913) was the first Brazilian composer to use a popular national motif in erudite music. His 1869 composition, A Sertaneja (The Country Maiden) was played by Franz Liszt and has remained active in the piano repertoire.

As in literature and painting, the Week of Modern Art in 1922 revolutionized Brazilian music and brought acceptance to a crop of new composers. Led by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), they brought avant-garde techniques from Europe and undertook the challenge of transplanting Brazilian folkloric melodies and rhythms to symphonic compositions. Their music often incorporated many popular musical instruments into classical orchestras.

After a time, two principal trends in Brazilian music became identifiable. Writer Mário de Andrade had advocated that composers should seek inspiration in national life with special emphasis on Brazil's musical folklore. Composer Camargo Guarnieri, an adherent of Andrade, heads the musical school known as Nationalist . Other composers in this group include: Luciano Gallet (1893-1931), Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez {1897-1948), Francisco Mignone (1897-1986), Radamés Gnatalli (1906-), and Guerra Peixe (1914-). In widely differing compositions, these composers searched for a national language which would not lose the universal character of musical language. After 1939, another musical school began to assert itself principally as a result of the work carried out by Hans Joachim Koellreutter, the creator of the Live Music Group. This group made up of Cláudio Santoro (l9l9-1990), Eunice Catunda (1926-), Edino Krieger (1928-), and others based their music on the universality of musical language. They defended the use of atonalism and dodecaphonism as composition resources.

Brazil's popular music developed parallel to its classical music and it also united traditional European instruments - guitar, piano, and flute - with a whole rhythm section of sounds produced by frying pans, small barrels with a membrane and a stick inside (cuícas) that make wheezing sounds, and tambourines. During the 1930's Brazilian popular music played on the radio became a powerful means of mass communication. Three of the best known composers of this period are Noel Rosa, Lamartine Babo, and Ary Barroso (1903-1963). Barroso's principal singer, Carmen Miranda, went on to achieve an international reputation when she appeared in a series of Hollywood films.

In the mid 1960's, the haunting, story-telling lyric of The Girl From Ipanema, carried by a rich melodic line, was the first big international hit to emerge from the bossa nova movement of Brazilian singers and composers. It put Brazilian popular music on the map and brought instant fame to composer Antonio Carlos Tom Jobim (1927-1994) and lyricist-poet Vinicius de Moraes, (1913-1979).

The bossa nova appeared in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950's. At first it was played as an intimate music in the apartments of Rio's middle and upper-middle classes. The music mingled the Brazilian samba beat with American jazz. Later on bossa nova became a trademark of a new concept of music - a little sad, sometimes sung off-key, and where the lyrics have great importance. For that reason, in Brazil, the association of modern poets with pop composers (Vinícius de Moraes, Chico Buarque, Tom Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, and Baden Powell) was an enormous success.

In 1968, in a period of dictatorship, urban guerrillas, and anxiety about how to change the political system, the Tropicalists appeared Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Gal Costa. Tropicalism can be described as a blending of international music (such as Latin beats and rock'n'roll) with national rhythms. It is very much its own creation: lyrical, intelligent, with faster tempos and fuller rhythms than bossa nova.

Popular regional music in Brazil includes the forró from the northeast where the accordion and the flute join guitars and percussion in a foot-stomping country dance; the frevo, also from the northeast, which has an energetic, simple style; the chorinho (literally little tears) from Rio which combines various types and sizes of guitars, flutes, percussions, and an occasional clarinet or saxophone in a tender form of instrumental music; and the internationally successful lambada. When danced, lambada is sensual and fast-paced; it got its name from the Portuguese verb to whip or flog referring to the smacking of thigh against thigh. But the most typical of Brazilian popular music is the seductive rhythm of the samba. No one is sure of the exact origin of the samba. Some people believe that samba was born in the streets of Rio de Janeiro with contributions from three different cultures - Portuguese courtry songs, African rhythms, and native Indian fast footwork. Others believe samba is simply African in origin and that it evolved from the batuque, a music based on percussion instruments and hand clapping.

Today in Brazil, popular music continues toexplore new rhythms and new melodies. Its interpreters and composers make use of all music's resources to compete for and please the world's many music audiences. Some of the well-known performers are: Maria Bethania, Alcione, Roberto Carlos, Cazuza, Ney Matogrosso, Rita Lee, Milton Nascimento, Hermeto Pascoal, Fafá de Belém, Chitãozinho and Chororó, Elba Ramalho, Alceu Valença, Luiz Gonzaga, Luiz Gonzaga Jr., João Bosco, Djavan, Ivan Lins, Marisa Monte, and Elis Regina.


Literature



Brazilian fiction, poetry, and drama account for about half the literary output of Latin America, calculated by the number of titles of individual books.

Literary development in Brazil roughly follows the country’s main historical periods – the Colonial period, from 1500 until independence in 1822, characterized mostly by writings in the Baroque and Arcadian styles, and the National Period since 1822. Important literary movements during the National Period can be linked to the country'’ political and social development: The Romantic Movement in literature coincided roughly with the 57 years of the Empire; the Parnassians and the Realists flourished during the early decades of the Republic, followed, around the turn of the century, by the Symbolists. In the 20th century, the ascendance of the Vanguardist or Modernist Movement, with ideas of na avant-garde aestheticism, was celebrated during the famous São Paulo Week of Modern Art in 1922. This movement profoundly influenced not only Brazil’s literature, but also its painting, sculpture, music, and architecture.

Many of the notable writers of the Colonial Period were Jesuits who were mesmerized by the new land and ita native inhabitants. Among the luminaries of this period were Father José de Anchieta (1534-1597), a poet dedicated to the evagelization of the Indians, Gregório de Matos (1623-1696), who composed poetry layered on lyricism and mysticism but is best known for his satirical vein, and the famous preacher Father Antônio Vieira (1608-1697). The Arcadians, Cláudio Manoel da Costa (1729-1789), Basílio da Gama (1740-1795), and Tomás Antônio Gonzaga (1744-1810), wrote lyric and epic poems and were also known for their involvement in the liberation movement called “Minas Conspiracy” (“Conjuração Mineira”).

The transfer, in 1808, of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil brought with it the spirit of the incipient European Romantic Movement. Brazilian writers began to emphasize individual freedom, subjectivism, and a concern for social issues. Following Brazil’s independence from Portugal, Romantic literature expanded to exalt the uniqueness of Brazil’s tropics and its Indians, concern for the African slaves, and to descriptions of urban activities. Some of the best known literary figures of the Romantic Period were poets, such as Castro Alves (1847-1871) who wrote about African slaves and Gonçalves Dias (1823-1864) who wrote about Indians. Manuel Antônio de Almeida (1831-1861) is credited with initiating picaresque literature in Brazil. José de Alencar (1829-1877) wrote a number of popular novels including Iracema about Indians, O Guarani, a historical novel, and novels on regional, social, and urgan affairs. Amont the novelists of the Romantic Period two are still widely read in Brazil today: Joaquim Manuel de Macedo (1820-1882), who wrote A Moreninha, a popular story, and Alfredo d’Escragnolle Taunay (1843-1899), the author of Inocência.

The Parnassian school of poetry was, in Brazil as in France, a reaction to the excesses of the Romantics. The so-called “Parnassian Triad” of Brazilian poets – Olavo Billac (1865-1918), Raimundo Correa (1860-1911), and Alberto de Oliveira (1859-1937) – wrote refined poetry in which the poet’s personality and interest in social issues were obliterated.

Machado de Assis (1839-1908), widely acclaimed as the greatest Brazilian writer of the 19th century and beyond, was unique because of the universality of his novels and essays. Today, Machado de Assis remains one of the most important and influential writers of fiction in Brazil. His works encompassed both the Romantic style and Realism as exemplified in Europe by Emile Zola and the Portuguese novelist, Eça de Queiroz. The prose of Euclides da Cunha (1866-1908), was committed to a Brazilian literature portraying social realities. His famous works, Os Sertões (Rebellion in the Backlands), about a revolt in the northeast led by a religious fanatic, was published in 1902.

At the turn of the century the Brazilian literary imagination was drawn to Symbolism, represented by poets Cruz e Souza (1861-1893) and Alphonsus de Guimarãens (1870-1893). The Symbolists were interested in mysticism and used metaphor and allegory to express their ideas.

Beginning in the 20th century, na innovative state of mind imbued Brazilian artists, culminating in the celebration of the 1922 Week of Modern Art held in São Paulo. This new way of thinking propelled na artistic revolution that appealed to feelings of pride for national folklore, history, and ancestry. Participants in the Week of Modern Art resorted to experiments in writing and in fine arts known elsewhere as Futurism, Cubism, and Dadaism. Poet Menotti del Pichia sumarized the aims of the new artistic movement with these words: “We want light, air, ventilators, airplanes, worker’s demands, idealism, motors, factory smokestacks, blood, speed, dream in our Art.” The most important leader of the literary plahse of this movement was Mário de Andrade (1893-1945) who wrote poetry, essays on literature, art, music, and Brazilian folklore, and Macunaíma, which he called “a rapsody, not a novel”. Oswald de Andrade (1890-1953) wrote a collection of poems entitled Pau-Brasil (Brazilwood) which evaluated Brazilian culture, superstitions, and, for the first time in Brazilian poetry, with humor.

The transition to a more spontaneous literaty approach is represented by poets Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987), who used irony to dissect the customs of the time, and Manuel Bandeira (1886-1968), who built language associations around proverbs and popular expressions. Bandeira wanted his last poem “to be eternal, saying the simplest and least intentional things”.

The modern Brazilian novel took on a new shape and social content after José Américo de Almeida (1887-1969) wrote A Bagaceira, a pioneer story about the harsh conditions of life in the backward northeast. He was followed by Jorge Amado (1902 - 2001), Graciliano Ramos (1892-1953), José Lins do Rego (1901-1957), and Rachel de Queiroz (1910- ), all noted for the power of their images in evoking the problems and hardships of life in the northeast region where they were born.

Jorge Amado’s first novels, translated into 33 languages, were heavily influenced by his belief in Marxist ideas and concentrated on the sufferings of workers on the cocoa plantations of his home state of Bahia, producing a succession of books which have received worldwide acclaim. Gabriela, Cravo e Canela (Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon) is perhaps the best known of Amado’s books. Dona Flor e seus Dois Maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) has provided the scripts for films, plays, and television.

Arguably the most innovative Brazilian writer of his century was João Guimarães Rosa (1908-1967). A career diplomat, he first captured the attention of the public and critics alike with a volume of short stories, Sagarana, soon followed by his best known work Grande Sertão: Veredas, translated into English as The Devil to Pay in the Backlands. Delving deep into speech mannerisms from the hinterland region of the eastern seaboard, Guimarães Rosa started something of a semantic revolution. He dared to present his readers with coined word combinations and syntax so unrestrained as to constitute almost a new language.

There are many other noteworthy Brazilian writers. Gilberto Freyre (1900-1987), a master of style and a pioneer of the new school of Brazilian sociologists, is the author of Casa Grande Senzala (The Masters and The Slaves) a perceptive study of Brazilian society. One of the best known Brazilian poets is João Cabral de Melo Neto (1918- ). His poetry is sober and he uses words with the accuracy with which and engineer would use his building materials. Special mention must be made of Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980). His poetry became part and parcel of the bossa nova musical movement which produced a new style of samba, tha typically Brazilian rhythm. Vinicius (as he is known worldwide) also wrote a play, Orfeu da Conceição, which became internationally famous as the film Black Orpheus.

Among the living or recently deceased novelists, mention should be made of: Orígenes Lessa, Adonias Filho, Érico Veríssimo, Dinah Silveira de Queiroz, Lygia Fagundes Telles, Herberto Sales, Rubem Fonseca, Clarice Lispector, Dalton Trevisan, Nélida Piñon, Osman Lins, Paulo Coelho, and Moacir Scliar; and among the poets: Raul Bopp, Murilo Mendes, Augusto Frederico Schmidt, Mário Quintana, Cassiano Ricardo, Jorge de Lima, Ferreira Gullar, Cecília Meireles, Augusto de Campos, and Haroldo de Campos.


Cinema



Within a year of the Lumière brothers' first experiment in Paris in 1896, the cinematograph machine appeared in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years later, the capital boasted 22 cinema houses and the first Brazilian feature film, The Stranglers by Antônio Leal, had been screened. From then on Brazil's film industry made steady progress and, although it has never been large, its output over the years has attracted international attention.

In 1930, still the era of the silent movie in Brazil, Mario Peixoto's film Limit (Limite) was made. Limite is a surrealistic work dealing with the conflicts raised by the human condition and how life conspires to prevent total fulfillment. It is considered a landmark film in Brazilian cinema history. In 1933 Cinédia produced The Voice of Carnaval, the first film with Carmen Miranda. This film ushered in the chanchada which dominated Brazilian cinema for many years. Chanchadas are slapstick comedies, generally filled with musical numbers, and thoroughly appreciated by the public.

By the end of the 1940's Brazilian film making was becoming an industry. The Vera Cruz Film Company was created in São Paulo with the goal of producing films of international quality. It hired technicians from abroad and brought back from Europe Alberto Cavalcanti, a Brazilian filmmaker with an international reputation, to head the company. Vera Cruz produced some important films before it closed in 1954, among them the epic The Brigand (O Cangaceiro) which won the Best Adventure Film award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953.

In the 1950's, Brazilian cinema radically changed the way it made films. In his 1955 film, Rio 40 Degrees (Rio 40 Graus), director Nelson Pereira dos Santos employed the filmmaking techniques of Italian neorealism by using ordinary people as his actors and by going to the streets to shoot his low budget film. Nelson Pereira dos Santos would become one of the most important Brazilian filmmakers of all time, and it is he who set the stage for the Brazilian cinema novo movement. Other directors went outdoors to shoot, and production of films increased. In 1962, The Payer of Vows (O Pagador de Promessas) by Anselmo Duarte won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. By this time cinema novo had established a new concept in Brazilian filmmaking - an idea in mind and a camera in the hands. The cinema novo films dealt with themes related to acute national problems, from conflicts in rural areas to human problems in the large cities, as well as film versions of important Brazilian novels. Barren Lives (Vidas Secas), directed by Pereira dos Santos, is based on a novel by Graciliano Ramos. It tells the story of a northeastern family chased from their home by drought. God and The Devil in the Land of the Sun (Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol) by director Glauber Rocha deals in an allegorical way with religious and political fanaticism in Brazil's northeast. Empty Night (Noite Vazia), goes back to urban, intimate themes depicting the anguish of lonely people living in industrial São Paulo.

At the end of the 1960's, the Tropicalist movement had taken hold of the music, theatre, and art scenes in Brazil. It emphasized the need to transform all foreign influences into a national product. Cinema also came under its spell; allegory was its means of expression. The most representative film of the Tropicalist movement is Macunaíma, by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, a metaphorical analysis of the Brazilian character as expressed in the tale of a native Indian who leaves the Amazon jungle and goes to the big city. The film is based on Mario de Andrade's 1922 novel of the same name.

Working at the same time as the Tropicalists, another group of directors emerged in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro who also made low cost films. This movement - cinema marginal - produced films with themes that refer to a marginal society. Their films were considered difficult. Noteworthy among these films are Rio Babylon (Rio Babilônia) by Neville d'Almeida, He Killed the Family and Went to the Movies (Matou a Família e foi ao Cimema) by Júlio Bressane, and The Red Light Bandit (O Bandido da Luz Vermelha) by Rogério Sganzerla.

In the 1980's movies were not well attended. This was due in part to the popularity of television. Many theatres closed their doors, especially in the interior of the country. Nevertheless, some important films were made. Many were concerned with political questions: They Don't Wear Black-Tie (Eles não Usam Black-Tie), 1981, directed by Leon Hirzman, tells the story of a strike in the industrial area of São Paulo; Memories of Prison (Memórias do Cárcere), 1984, by Nelson Pereira dos Santos and based on a book by Graciliano Ramos, portrays the life of political prisoners. One of the most outstanding films of the 1980's was The Hour of the Star (A Hora da Estrela), 1985, directed by Susana Amaral and based on a novel by Clarice Lispector. It relates the poignant story of an immigrant girl from the northeast in a big metropolis. The other outstanding films of the 1980's were Bye Bye Brasil about a circus caravan dealing with the inescapable fact that its audience is declining, directed by Carlos Diegues and Pixote, the realistic and disturbing tale of juvenile delinquents in São Paulo, performed by non-professionals, directed by Hector Babenco.

As a result of a 1993 law giving financial incentives to Brazilian film production, the number of films currently being produced in Brazil has increased dramatically and many Brazilian films are being shown in movie theaters all over the world. O Quatrilho, a tale of two married immigrant couples set in Rio Grande do Sul, where the husbands are partners and end up exchanging wives, directed by Fábio Barreto (1996) and Four Days in September (1998), the true story of the 1969 kidnaping of the American Ambassador to Brazil, directed by Bruno Barreto were both Oscar nominees for Best Film in a Foreign Language. Central do Brasil (Central Station), directed by Walter Salles, won the Golden Bear Grand Prix at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1998, and in January 1999 captured the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe award for foreign language film.


Folk Art



The Portuguese who first landed on Brazilian soil in the 16th century began the transplantation of European culture to Brazil. While the Portuguese were still forming small, cautious groups to explore the unknown beaches, native Indian potters were at work. Indigenous craftsmen were polishing ceremonial axes of flint. Musicians and dancers decked out in fibre masks, plaited straw, and fantastic, feather helmets were retelling the legends of the flood and the creation. Brazilian culture is more than the simple result of specific contributions by European whites, African blacks, and aboriginal Indians. Miscegenation among them has been taking place ever since their very first contacts. These three cultures have insinuated themselves into the way Brazilians feel and act. Today it is difficult to trace their dividing lines. Brazilian folk arts are among the richest and most varied in the hemisphere.

 

Folk Dance


Brazilian folk dance and folk drama are rich forms of popular artistic expression. Subject, rhythm, costume, and choreography reveal the three principal components of the nation's culture in a complex interaction.

There are dozens of Brazilian folk dances - everything from dramatizations of the early wars between the Portuguese and the Indians (Caboclinhos and Caiapós performed in the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas), to the Cavalhada of Pirenópolis in the state of Goiás, a theatrical pageant, lasting three days, which depicts the fight between the Christians and the Moors on the Iberian Peninsula. The Cavalhada survives from the tradition of medieval tournaments.

 

Folk Drama

 

In addition to the folk dances, there are many dance dramas (really theatrical productions) popular in Brazil that trace their histories directly to the Middle Ages. Portuguese in origin, these dance dramas have been modified considerably by centuries of exposure to Brazil's diverse cultures. Mario de Andrade, the great authority on national folklore, has classified these dance dramas into four principal groups: reisados, cheganças, pastoris, and ranchos.

Reisados: The Reisados consist of a series of 24 folk plays of which the most popular is the Bumba-Meu-Boi.The plot of the Boi drama centers around the misfortunes of the prize bull which a wealthy cattle rancher has arduously searched for to improve his herd.

Cheganças: Cheganças (arrival) is a folk play performed during the Christmas season. It tells of the arrival by sea of the Moors, their defeat, and their eventual baptism by the Christians.

Pastoris: Pastoris (shepherds) started as a performance of Christmas carols in front of the Nativity scene in preparation for midnight mass. Today pastoris is a secular event. Female street revelers parade in parallel lines called the red and blue lines. Each line has the same characters: the teacher; Diana, the pretty angel; the gypsy; the old man (a comedian); the Northern Star; and the Southern Cross; among others. The girl shepherds sing and rattle tambourines accompanied by guitars and a solo wind instrument.

Ranchos: Among the most primitive forms of carnival, as celebrated in Rio de Janeiro, were the ranchos, solemn and romantic love stories acted out by dancers to the beat of a marching rhythm. New ranchos were written every year and groups of dancers representing various districts of Rio performed them. They competed for recognition and prizes thus becoming the forerunners of today's samba schools.

 

Capoeira


Capoeira, a ritualised, stylized, combat-dance, having its own music, and practiced primarily in the city of Salvador, Bahia, is a characteristically Brazilian expression of both dance and martial arts. It evolved from a fighting style that originated in Angola. In the early slave days there were constant fights between the blacks, and when the owner caught them at it, he had both sides punished. The slaves considered this unfair and developed a smoke screen of music and song to cover up actual fighting. Over the years this was refined into a highly athletic sport in which two contestants try to deliver blows using only their legs, feet, heels, and heads - hands are not allowed.

The combatants move in a series of swift cartwheels and whirling handstands on the floor. The musical ensemble that accompanies capoeira includes the berimbau, a bow-shaped piece of wood with a metal wire running from one end to the other. A painted gourd which acts like a sounding box is attached at the bottom of the berimbau. The player shakes the bow. While the seeds in the gourd rattle he strikes the taut wire with a copper coin which gives off a unique, moaning sound.

 

Ceramics and Sculpture


In the northeast of Brazil, the most popular sections of the large markets are the displays of potters and vendors of artistic clay objects, many of which are true sculptures. A number of these local artisans are known not only to Brazilian folklorists, but also to artistic circles outside Brazil. Familiar names are Severino, whose characteristic work is in unglazed clay, Mestre Vitalino (Master), the most famous of the folk potters, perhaps because he signed his creations, and Zé Caboclo, from the town of Caruarú, the principal centre of folk sculpture in the State of Pernambuco. The ceramics portray complete scenes of daily activity, induding animals (the horse, the cock, and the Zebu bull), and religious characters (priests and saints).

Today's potters follow traditions laid down by Indian cultures that existed in the Amazon region well before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century. At least four of these cultures are noteworthy for their ceramics: on the vast island of Marajó in the mouth of the Amazon River potters melded vases that were later decorated with labyrinthine patterns. The last of five archaeological periods on the island, the Marajoara, is the most famous. In the Santarém region, Indian potters made urns and igaçabas (funeral urns) embellished with an amazing panoply of animals. They transtormed the fauna of the Amazon into intricate and baroque fantasies of men and animals. The cultures of Cunani and Maracá (in the present-day state of Pará) also produced remarkable pottery.

 

Carnival


Carnival's roots go back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who celebrated the rites of Spring. In the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church tried to suppress all pagan ideas, it failed when it came to this celebration. The Church incorporated the rite into its own calendar as a period of thanksgiving. The nations of Europe, especially France, Spain, and Portugal, gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks, and dancing in the streets. All three colonizing powers carried the tradition with them to the New World, but in Brazil it landed with a difference. Not only did the Portuguese have a taste for abandoned merriment, (they brought the entrudo, a prank where merry-makers throw water, flour, face powder, and many other things at each other's faces), but the Negro slaves also took to the celebration. They would smear their faces with flour, borrow an old wig or frayed shirt of the master, and give themselves over to mad revelry for the three days. Many masters even let their slaves roam freely during the celebration. Since the slaves were grateful for the chance to enjoy themselves, they rarely used the occasion as a chance to run away.

Prior to 1840, the streets of Brazilian towns ran riot during the three-day period leading up to Ash Wednesday with people in masks hurling stink bombs and squirting each other with flour and strong-smelling liquids; even arson was a form of entertainment. In 1840, the Italian wife of a Rio de Janeiro hotel owner changed the carnival celebration forever by sending out invitations, hiring musicians, importing streamers and confetti, and giving a lavish masked ball. In a few years the masked ball became the fashion and the wild pranks played on the streets disappeared.

Today Rio de Janeiro has the biggest and best known pre-Lenten carnival in the world - its most colorful event is the Samba School Parade. The samba schools taking part in the parade - each roughly having three to five thousand participants - are composed overwhelmingly of poor people from the city's sprawling suburbs. Every carnival Rio's samba schools compete with each other and are judged on every aspect of their presentation by a jury. Each samba school must base its effort around a central theme. Sometimes the theme is an historical event or personality. Other times, it is a story or legend from Brazilian literature. The costumes must reflect the theme's historical time and place. The samba song must recount or develop it, and the huge floats must detail the theme in depth.

 

Fine Art



From the 16th century, Roman Catholic churches and convents in Brazil were decorated in the European style, often by Brazilian craftsmen who had been trained in European methods. During the 17th and 18th centuries, baroque and rococo patterns imported from Portugal dominated Brazil's religious architecture and its interior decor. Many of these churches can be seen today.

The most impressive artist of the whole colonial period was the architect and sculptor Antônio Francisco Lisboa (1738-1814), better known as Aleijadinho (the Little Cripple). The self-taught son of a Portuguese settler and a slave mother, he was a master of sophisticated rococo decoration and his painted wood sculpture and stone statuary have a timeless grandeur of feeling. In mid-life Aleijadinho contracted a crippling disease, but he continued to work for another 30 years with chisel and mallet strapped to his wrists. His artistry is seen in many of the baroque churches in his home state of Minas Gerais, especially in the town of Ouro Preto and the surrounding area. In the neighbouring town of Congonhas do Campo, at the Church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Aleijadinho sculpted 12 life-sized soapstone statues of the Prophets and placed them on the terrace and staircase outside the entrance. In front of the church's terraced stairs, in six small devotional chapels, he created the Stations of the Cross with 66 poignant statues in cedar wood.

During the last four decades of the 18th century, new art appeared (especially in Rio de Janeiro) in which religious themes were no longer predominant. Works with temporal themes, such as portraits of exalted personages, became part of Rio's artistic production.

At the beginning of the 19th century there was a process of Europeanization with the coming of the Portuguese Court to Brazil as the result of the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon Bonaparte's troops. Dom João VI, the refugee Portuguese monarch, encouraged Rio de Janeiro's intellectual activity, founding cultural institutions such as the Royal Press and the National Library. In addition, he brought a group of French masters to Brazil to establish an Academy of Arts and Crafts after the style of European art academies and to implement the neoclassic style in the modernization plan for the royal capital of Rio de Janeiro. Artists such as the Taunay brothers, architect Auguste Grandjean de Montigny (1776-1850), and painter Jean-Baptiste Debret (1768-1848) were part of the group. Debret, the most important of the French artists, systematically documented landscapes, people, and rural and urban customs. The tradition established by Debret and his colleagues was so strong that neoclassicism and participation in academies ruled Brazilian visual arts well into the Republican era.

At the Week of Modern Art held in São Paulo in 1922, artists discussed their dissatisfactions with the academic world in all fields of the Brazilian arts. The modernists wished to shock the academicians. It is not clear if the 1922 movement caused or coincided with some changes in outlook. It certainly opened broad new avenues such as the critical pursuit of quality, the search for new values, and the rejection of the old European stereotypes. There was no precursor of genius in Brazilian painting: in the 1920's painting simply emerged out of the shadows of the academy and joined the wave of innovation then sweeping Europe. The techniques were imported, but the moods and themes were clearly Brazilian. Lasar Segall (1891-1957), in 1913, was the first artist to exhibit modern art. One of the most important participants in the Week of Modern Art was Emiliano Di Cavalcanti (1897-1976), a true Bohemian from a family of poets and generals who liked to carouse in the underworld of Rio and paint seductive, mulatto women.

Cândido Portinari (1903-1962) was one of the first Brazilian artists to paint his way to international fame. Coming from a small coffee plantation in the interior of São Paulo, he experimented with Brazilian themes and colors. Once he sent for 60 pounds of earth from different areas and mixed the black, purple, reddish, and yellow dirt with his paints. Portinari captured in his canvases the way of life of ordinary people, conveying their joys and sufferings in a dramatic way. The universality of his work led to invitations and commissions from many sources, among them the monumental murals at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and murals on the theme of war and peace at the United Nations in New York.

World War II brought about an interruption in the contact of Brazilian artists with the international art world, even though many foreign artists lived in Brazil. With the end of the War, financial sponsorship began to stimulate artistic production. In the late 1940's the Modern Art Museum was founded in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo got two museums - the Art Museum of São Paulo founded by Assis Chateaubriand and the Museum of Modern Art. With the numerous courses given in these museums, art exhibitions and other museum activities were stimulated throughout Brazil. The São Paulo Biennial, founded in 1951 by Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho, helped to call Brazilian artists to the attention of an international audience, and to introduce foreign artistic innovations to Brazil. During the 1950s. the Biennials were the most important artistic events in Latin America making São Paulo the centre of great exhibitions of contemporary art and of flashbacks of international movements.

Today, the art scene in Brazil is self-assured. Brazil's painters, sculptors, engravers and lithographers show their works both within Brazil and in museums and galleries throughout the world. Current artists include: Lygia Pape, Amélia Toledo, Cildo Meireles, Jac Leirner, Regina Silveira, José Rezende, Waltércio Caldas Jr., Anna Bella Geiger, Rubem Valentim, Glauco Rodrigues, and Itélio Oiticica.