segunda-feira, 24 de novembro de 2008

Ouro Preto

Well having got back to the warmth of Bahia, it wraps you in a cuddle that is always welcoming, even more after a being in Europe. The sun in Europe is some what different, it is far more a side effect, like as though the door to another world as opened slightly and the sun from the other side is only welcomed for a short time before the wind slams the door shut. Three weeks back and with a longing to see Graça I have caught a plane to Belo Horizonte and then the bus to Ouro Preto, arriving here in Ouro Preto last Sunday evening. I had been told by Graça that it can been cold in the South, indeed when we have sat at the computer and used the MSN video connection, me being in Scotland, Graça had seemed to be in more clothes than myself, I would comment that it could not be too cold as the temperature in Edinburgh was at 5 degrees and in Belo Horizonte it appeared to be 12 degrees, well I think it is probably 14 degrees at the moment but seems very chilly, grey clouds envelope the tiny city, the rain from last night is still apparent with the cobbles staying wet for ages, what with the steep slopes of the narrow roads, all random stone cobbles that are quite difficult to walk on when dry and certainly far more treacherous when wet.
I have spent much of the last week walking round every part of the city, not every road and alley, getting accustomed to its style and the way that it was created, this part I have yet to discover since I know a brief history and would like now to find out far more detail of its creation and growth. The city is probably an example in micro of what Brazil is, one adaption of religion to a forrested enviroment, what ever the origional reason was for discovering another place, like the idea of the Moon as some sub station of the Earth, over spill for an over crowded planet, or the need for more gems to trade from a source undiscovered and not yet robbed. a desire to enrich your country by denuding another, what ever! it seems clear that upon arriving there was always a religious wave that followed, a need to polute the pure with a malformed concept!!!

This following had within its midst a group of artisans with a far more acceptable religious desire, that of portraying their faith with icons and not trying to modify the lives of others directly, there came here some dedicated stone masons and artists, keen possibly to have expression far more liberal than than could have had in Portugal, far from the competion of other craftsmen and able to show off an individual approach, I do not know what could have been in their minds and have not had the opportunity to have read any letters from these early travellers but would imagine that they would only travel to another world if the desire was great and compelling, voyages in the past where clearly hazardous and mighty uncomfortable, the inicial construction of a city is likewise, the lack of farming and materials would be difficult in Portugal and so much more difficult in the jungle forrests interior of Brazil.

Graça´s course work involves part of the time in visiting the various churches, monuments, fountains and buildings in general, one of these day excursions was last Saturday, she had spent the morning with her fellows and tutor, Alex, walking around several of the churches and discourse over the style of Rococo ( the style of elegance and the Royal court in France, Austria and Germany around the middle of the 18th century) and Baroque ( a style from Italy that was more to do with excess and diversion of discipline, the use of asymmetrical forms to break the calm of vision and inject a sense of discord). After lunch I joined Graça and her team as they continued their walk, it was a chance too for me to see inside the churches without the constant dipping into my pocket for entrance money as well as hearing the oppinion of Alex, a Brazilian born and bred in the area and clearly appreciative of the culture that as been left him.

Ouro Preto has several local heros, Xavier Silva, nicknamed Tiradente for his part time trade as a dentist and possibly he was a bit limited in experience and therefore took teeth out and not conserved any, however he was a staunch supporter for independence of Portugal, seeing the monarchy as misusing Brazil and its natives for the glory of Europe and not assisting the natural growth of the new world, the taxes had increased on the local inhabitants and this was very apparent in Ouro Preto because of the gold that had been discovered here, leading to many miners using the church as a means of laundering the gold that they found and this allowing the church too have wealth for construction and expansion. Xavier was brought to justice of the King, beheaded and quartered, his head put on a pole in Rio de Janeiro and his followers ( he deciding to take full responsibility for the anti Portuguese up rising) where exiled.
Antonio Francisco Lisboa, nicknamed Aleijadinho because of his sickness and deformated that appeared in his later life, was the son of a Portuguese mason and black slave, Antonia Maria, he trained as a carpentor and worked with his father on the construction of the new Baroque churches in Ouro Preto, it seems that he may well have had the rare disease called porfiria, a desease that manifests itself with exposure to sun light, provoking liasons and dark red marks, ulceracions, scars, deformations and in rare cases actual mutilations of the body. One factor of interest with Aleijadinho is that this desease appeared when he was into his 40´s and it is notable that the desease can be triggered by excess of alcohol, heavy drinking can trigger the desease and it may well be the case for Aleijadinho. This desease left him with deformed hands and feet, pain that was directly related to the exposure to sun light, so he began to work at night or in shaded areas. It may well have been the death of his parents along with the onset of this desease that led him to put a huge effort into his work and tranport it to a high art that is considered one of the most important periods of Brazils history. He worked with his hands bound and strapped to them were the chisels and pencils for him to sculpture the wood or soap stone figures and motifs. Trully a task that required some high devotion and it is this that, with his native freedom, comes forward in his scultures and designs within and outside the churches. Perhaps he felt some desire to appeal to his God for relief by the force of his art, who can know when all that exsists are the results of his labour and not the diaries of his thoughts.

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