||When he arrived in Brazil, in 1927, Antônio Batista de Souza was two years old. He lived in São Paulo (SP), Campinas (SP), Amparo (SP), Minas Gerais, among the Karajá indians, on the Bananal Island, and ended up in Goiás, to be more exact in the capital, Goiânia.
His grandparents, like his parents, were potters in Braga, Portugal. A rebel, he left home at 16 to work in several places doing several things. “I had a grudge against clay. I didn’t want to be a potter or a ceramist. Whenever I had to make anything in clay, I begrudged it. But my pots sold well. And in Nerópolis (GO) they started calling me Poteiro (pot maker). One day Regina Lacerda, a folklore expert, told me to start signing my name on my pieces, because someone was buying them and signing instead of me. And then it all started... I told her my name and the nicknames I had. When I said Poteiro (“potter”) she said it was a good one. And I became Antônio Poteiro. It’s fate, because I didn’t want to be a potter.”
Antônio’s pots are not ordinary ones. They are loaded with images and characters that together build up into an explosion of unique strength, forms and movement. The sculptures can be small or huge and seem to take from Antônio Poteiro an infinite strength that combines the sacred and the profane naturally, without any guilt.
“One day, Siron Franco (a famous painter) came over here and bought some pieces. He said with conviction that I was a painter. I thought it was strange because I had never painted in my life. Then he returned with canvases and paint. I started painting and have never stopped.”
In his paintings the profusion of colours and images emerges with the same power as in the sculptures. “I go on adding things! I don’t draw, just paint straight on. It took me 10 years to forge this career. If it sells, I paint some more. If I sell one canvas, I buy two. If I sell two, I buy ten.”
Today, respected and fulfilled, Antônio Poteiro carries on working. He has the help of his son Américo and his brother, who helps prepare the canvases.
“I’m visited by students all the time; my house looks like a museum. I enjoy it, and now that I’m 82 years old I want to work less. I’ve quit drinking, smoking, messing around, and now all I want to do is to show my work. They are pure Brazil.”