Brazilian Handicrafts: The Finest Example of Ethnic Cohesion

Mother Nature has always blessed Brazil with extraordinary natural resources and local artisans have made sure to take advantage of this. Nowadays, Brazilian crafts reflect the country’s culture through designs that are modern, practical and of superior artistic quality; fundamental to the development of Brazilian culture and the wellbeing of thousands of families.

Nature plays a strong role in influencing craftspeople. The strong presence of birds, especially parrots with their multicoloured feathers, led indigenous groups to specialize in feather art, producing ornamental items for personal use such as hats, headbands and wreaths for tribal dances, but also to decorate homes.

This art has begun to disappear over time; however some indigenous groups remain who live far from the overcrowded cities and still master the art. But the most prevalent surviving indigenous Brazilian craftwork is essentially the art of making necklaces, wristbands, and bracelets from pearls, seeds and small bones. To these ancient materials, new ones were added, such as coffee beans.

The great imagination of the African descendants was also expressed through the sculpting of amulets, known as “figas”. The “figa” represents a closed fist with a protruding thumb, both as a phallic symbol, and as protection against the evil eye. The descendants of the Africans adopted this symbol as their own, and it can now be found hanging on necklaces all over the country as a good luck charm.

Brazilian craftwork is also carried out with utmost respect for the environment, with pieces made by hand from recycled materials, lending them an incalculable value. The ability to observe reality and interpret it in a creative way is a notable characteristic of Brazilian artisans, demonstrated in pieces such as those whose wood comes from forest residues from the Amazon, thereby preserving the essence of the region and generating wealth for local communities; or such as objects made from recycled newspaper, crafted by the Brazilian cooperative Missão Ramacrisna.

Brazilian handicrafts are an expression of the roots, culture and identity of the people, and one of the richest artistic traditions of the country. Although they are sometimes commercialized, the handicrafts are not merchandise, because they carry values, beliefs and culture.

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