||José Alves da Cruz was born in Recife (PE) on Saint John’s day, in 1953. “When I was born my mother said: his name is João Batista (John the Baptist). My grandfather said: give him my name, José Alves. And that’s how I was registered, when I was 7 years old.”
Since he was a kid he has whittled pieces of wood using a pocketknife. “My mother says that I would never leave a branch of tree alone.”
Zé Alves de Olinda, as he became known, started working at an art gallery on Boa Viagem Beach when he was 17 years old. “In the gallery, owned by Mrs. Silvia Coimbra I met Nhô Caboclo. I would watch him work, and I really enjoyed it. One day I decided to make my own dolls, and Mrs. Silvia asked me to help Nhô Caboclo.
I moved to Olinda and started signing my pieces as Zé Alves de Olinda. I’ve been making a living from my art for the last 29 years, and I’ve already taught my children and nephews. I help my sister and her five children, and I hope my kids will carry on my work, in their own way.”