|“My father suffered a stroke recently. He is feeling very weak and doesn’t want anyone to see him like this. He has always been an energetic man.”
That’s how André Barbosa Cavalcanti explained why it wouldn’t be possible to take a picture of his father who is now 91 years old. But to chat about him, and see the pieces wouldn’t be a problem.
His father, known as Manoel da Marinheira is one of Brazil’s great sculptors. Great in many ways, not just in the mastery of his work but also in the size of his wooden sculptures. They can be over 2 metres, in both height and length. André has always worked with his father, and is known as André da Marinheira. Besides him, Antônio, Severino and Maria Cícera, children of Manoel’s first marriage, also sculpt, and are deaf-mutes.
André’s pieces follow his father’s style, but have more movement, Cícera surprises with saints and women. And there was Soço, brother of André’s brother-in-law, who died early and also learned from Mr. Manoel.
The stories told by André are enough for a whole book. He and his family have always lived by sculpting. “At first my father didn’t use chisels. He had his own tools, including axes and knives. He only discovered chisels later.”
André talks of two people very highly, as supporters of the whole family’s work: Celso Brandão, a journalist who discovered Manoel and encouraged his work, and Jorge Tenório Maia, a collector who is putting together a museum dedicated to Manoel da Marinheira, at the Bento Moreira Farm in Boca da Mata.
The museum is looking impressive. At the door, cats and lions 2 metre high line up like sphinxes. Manoel’s work has always been clean, with clear contours. His children began to give the pieces more movement. “I started changing the pieces a bit, making the animals open their mouths, showing off more muscles. Just by looking you can tell who made each piece.”
André says that he and his brothers mainly use jackfruit tree wood, since it’s not protected and is normally cut down by farmers preparing the land. “We always use wood that won’t bear any more fruit.”
Another difference from André and his brother’s work from their father’s is the fact they also sculpt furniture like benches and tables which are always covered with animals and birds, following the original aesthetic style created by their father.