|Irene Souza Barreto is one of the 16 potters in the Maruanum Community, and to this day she still cooks using the pots she makes and the cooker she learned how to mould with the older potters. These women repeat a ritual learned from mothers and grandmothers. They are all neighbours, but to get to each house one has to “get a canoe, cross small river affluents and walk a bit”.
Legend has it that in Macapá (AP), after the construction of the fortress of São José de Macapá in 1782, African and native slaves who worked there were freed and started looking for a place to live. About 200 km away from the capital, they arrived near a river, in a place with many ani birds. (The name Maruanum means “sea of anis”). Close by, they could extract clay to make pottery in a magic ritual. Pregnant or menstruating women weren’t allowed to take part. The potters would cut branches and dig into the ground to get clay. They would make offerings and they couldn’t use metal blades in order not to wound the veins of the earth. The older women tell how the layer of clay taken off would restore itself, and how they would mark the place and then return to inspect it. The thing that most surprises Irene is the fact that in many other places in Brazil and around the world potters and ceramists use the same technique to mould (coil) and fire (wood) the clay. “It must be God who teaches us all”.