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(Josefa Alves dos Reis)
1925, Poço Verde, Sergipe

Once upon a time there was a girl from Sergipe, born in Poço Verde in 1925. She lived on a big farm, with plenty of vegetables and animals. But the drought doesn’t let anyone off. And so the girl Josefa Alves dos Reis – known as Zefa – left Sergipe for Minas Gerais. “Our lives have been spent moving here and there. After my father died, my brother travelled around looking for work. He ended up in Brasília, and never returned. I stayed in Minas Gerais with my sister-in-law. One day I heard about Araçuai, where people said precious stones sprouted out of the earth. I arrived, and realized things weren’t exactly like that, and I’ve been here for 47 years.”
Zefa has done almost everything in her life. She has sold precious stones, jewellery, and wherever she had spare moment she would mould a bit of clay, without any purpose. “Our land became famous when the Franciscan priests arrived. One day, after chatting to Lira Marques, I made a clay figurine of the Franciscan Brother Chico (a regional leader), who had already left us. I carried on working with clay but I got ill and was told that I was anemic and couldn’t work with clay anymore. I was very sad because I loved clay. I used to research its origins, the colors, and so I decided to do the same thing with wood. I discovered many native woods, with over 30 different colors.” The truth is Zefa didn’t stop there. She searched for the stories and roots of her area in order to do her work. Zefa speaks of the legends that started in the gold mines and plantations, the local religious faith, the many myths and rituals. “I make Saint Francis wearing a hat so he won’t catch a cold. People normally put birds on him. I thought it would be better to put a hat to protect his head.”

In the Name of the Author: craft artists from Brazil | Beth Lima e Valfrido Lima - Proposta Editorial, 2008.

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