Artist

Nhô Caboclo

Nhô Cabloco
Slaveship
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Biography

Nho Caboclo
[Manoel Fontoura]
1910 Waters Fine - EP / 1976 Recife - PE

Nhô Caboclo, probably born in the early 20th century, was an artist of extreme importance, whose work urgently requires a study of its own. Perhaps, he was at first part of the Fulniô community, civilized Indians from Águas Belas, Pernambuco State, but he was always very mysterious about his origins and parents: “I never knew anyone, I was born alone”. He was mestizo, almost black, and grew up on a farm in Garanhuns. Since childhood he would make objects from clay and most unusual material, such as small-leaved bent grass and manioc. Years later, he was known to be in Caruaru, “making something from clay with Vitalino”. But he mostly used wood and tinplate to create his work. He would say his clay pieces were “dead”, because “you can’t make a swordsman out of clay, or a gadget, steam gears to work in the wind. I like a piece that feels, strong, fierce. A hand piece”. Nhô Caboclo began making hand pieces, that is, with movement, when “dreaming of a gadget or going to the movies”. Nhô Caboclo was in turn a tinsmith, shoemaker, carpenter and blacksmith, an, in his own words, peopled his pieces with caboclo Urubu(“a caboclo that was never vanquished”), black Tuim (“only has this brand in Delmiro Gouveia’s Pedra do Buíque”), Jabu chiefs (“from the forests”), lieutenants, corporals, sergeants, captains, four-armed caboclos (“there in the forest, in foreign lands, and can run on foot or on four feet. They’ve got four arms. That means he has work, never tires. Any work He does is a loto f work. If He works with a spade, there are two spades. If he works with an axe, there are two axes; if he’s going to fight, there are two swords”). His works includes chiefs in prison, “who broke the law”, the sugar mill of the black captive’s slavery, “rolling to imitate the millwheel of the slavery that rolls. The king was sitting here, there, and that skeleton was here. And the crowd of people who jolt along to pull that thing for crushing sugarcane there in the mill”. There are cannibal caboclos: “you think the caboclo worries about killing an ox or a goat? He eats others, makes fry-up, a roast, a mixture on the fire the sugar on the embers.” Torés, ranchos, equilibristas, piscuins, balsas are the names he gives to his works of art, and they in fact confirm his work: “everything I do has a story.” When talking about his creation, it is evident his concern with the work organization, social structures of order and disorder, man’s submission, violence and prowess. His wooden sculpture includes colored patchwork, cotton threads, tinplate or even objects such as knives. He uses this materials with great freedom to make the assemblage, resulting in a masterful balance of volume and void, when building profiles of works with almost light style. His work are found in the collections of the National Museum of Fine Arts, Edison Carneiro Folklore Museum, Iphan, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, in the Museum of Northeast Man of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, in the Casa do Pontal Museum, Rio de Janeiro, and in major private collections. Adriano Jordão de Souza and José Alves da Cruz gave continuity to the theme and formal repertoire of Nhô Caboclo.

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




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