Artist

Mestre Guarany

Mestre Guarany
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Biography

Mestre Guarany
[Francisco Biquiba dy Lafuente Guarany]
1884 / 1987, Santa Maria da Vitória - Bahia

He was the sixth son of boat-builder Cornelio Biquiba dy Lafuente Guarany, who gave Francisco the nickname Guarany, since he was the great son of an Indian woman. He learned to work with wood when he was assistant carpenter and cabinetmaker in his father’s carpentry shop. After his father died he made statues, and his vast production included figures of saints, altars for churches and small home shrines. Since there were few orders of that kind he would also make water barrels, furniture, wooden frames for roofs. He moved to Bauru, São Paulo State, in 1922 to improve his life, always working as a cabinetmaker, and almost settled there with his family. On his return to Santa Maria, he became the most respected master figurehead maker, with boat owners ordering his work from all over the São Francisco region. The first figurehead he made was in 1901: “a bust of a black man or mulatto”. Paulo Pardal, his biographer and pioneer in studying his work, said that from 1910 to the early 1940s Guarany must have produced eighty figureheads. When the Sergipe canoe took over from the ferryboats, Guarany spent ten years without carving figureheads. In the first half of 1950s, he was located and his work now became of interest to the art circuit. Clarival do Prado Valladares (Jornal do Brasil, 12.2.1972) quotes advice given by the old master to Agnaldo, who also ordered figureheads from him in 1953, to demonstrate the multi-facial nature, the possibility of perceiving various faces in the same mask: “In the figure, everything on one side must be on the other and everything that is above must be different from below.” Which was reflected in the end result: “A well-made figurehead, when reflected in the water, moves as if it is alive”. The complex elaboration of popular cultural elements, the very concept of which may imply perspectives that include the action of natural elements, is registered in these words of the master. Heir to the São Francisco river figurehead tradition, in which the name of Afrânio was mentioned earlier, from 1954 on he began to carve them for a urban public, in the art market sphere. The eyes of the figureheads at this stage are smaller, since they no longer need to frighten away the water spirits. The teeth are “more numerous and more emphasized, carved one by one in the block”, says Pardal. Since then, Guarany signed and dated his works and is considered to be the sculptor of great force and personality, always maintaining top quality work, knowing how to reconcile in it the meeting of country culture with urban industrial culture. His work is displayed in large national museums, such as Castro Maia.

Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota




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