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Exhibition Catalogue: Izabel Mendes da Cunha | 07/12/2009

I met Dona Izabel when visiting the Jequitinhonha Valley in Minas Gerais, in 2008. The Jequitinhonha was a fault in my curriculum, as I would always say to my friends, who told me that there was nothing left to be unearthed in the region. However, I was not interested in prospection for gold. What I really wanted was to know the area, know about the people, and try to understand the creative wealth of people like Ulisses, Noemisa and Dona Izabel. The heritage left by these people is essential for the understanding and the preservation of our history, our artistic and cultural heritage. In addition, these are Brazilians who created, around themselves, whole communities who learnt how to craft out of earthenware. These are people who have not kept this knowledge to themselves but, on the contrary, made it available, understanding that in this way they could (and would) improve the income levels of many. When I got to Santana do Araçuaí, at Dona Izabel’s house, night had already fallen. She was waiting for me with that saucy kiss, with a patterned dress, ear-rings, a necklace and a bracelet, with her hair in a bun, with a welcoming smile. Immediately I identified the dolls in her. What a light, what a shine, what a sweet yet firm look of that woman, with so many stories and experiences to share! My involvement was immediate. My admiration grew and I felt seduced! An organised house with several rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a living and a dining room, and the studio in the rear. I saw some dolls, and the she explained to me how she worked. We sat in the dining room, and around the table eating fresh tapioca powder biscuits made by her daughter Maria, she told me that she had never had an individual exhibition.
She told me in passing, without any emphasis or bitterness, but then, when I asked her if she would like to have, she said yes! I didn’t think twice about it. I also said “yes”, certain that this is the real mission of the Institute of the Imagination of the Brazilian People (IIPB). More than just a mission, a privilege! I was very surprised that an artist who was, after all, a national asset recognised as such by Unesco, with so much literature about her life and who had participated in so many group exhibitions, had not had this happiness yet. So here we are, on this festive night, experiencing the privilege of having her with us at the opening of her first ever individual exhibition, at the age of 85.
Vilma Eid

Galeria Estação