||Jovino Almeida da Gama was born in 1952 in the town of Palma (MG) and says he learned how to work fast with wood with his father. “I used to come to the square with my father to sell his pieces, but things were different back then. There was always a lot of discussion about prices, and the whole art movement was expanding. I think today we lack a cultural policy to help true artists. There’s no communication, money is the only concern, things are tough. This town is known as Embu of the Arts because of artists like my father. They were the ones who started the art fair, but nowadays people don’t even know who they were. And they won’t know about us either.” Like many other Brazilian artists, J. Gama do Embu – as he is known – doesn’t hide his disappointment with the lack of support from the government and the difficulties he faces in order to make a living from his art. He worked for 10 years as a security guard and now complements his earnings by working on construction sites. He remembers that when his father first moved to Embu, the town was completely rural. “There was no pavement around the square, and people came on horseback. There were many tourists around and they used to buy a lot. Now things are different, there are less people and they buy smaller things.”
Valdevino Sabino da Gama – Master Gama – was born in Morro Alto (MG), and fate ended up taking him to Embu, where he went out of need, as he would have said if he were still alive. He used to work the land and the only art he knew inside out was a traditional dance called Mineiro-Pau, in which the dancers perform while holding wooden staffs, simulating a fight. Dancers must be agile and attentive. Master Game used to perform with his troupe at many parties and cultural events. And so he ended up going to São Paulo and then moved to the neighbourhood of Embu. His work defending Brazil’s folkloric and popular traditions has been very important. With people such as Solano Trindade, Assis, Sakai, Vicente, Agenor and many others, he was responsible for turning the town of Embu into a centre for the arts, recognized all over Brazil and abroad. Master Gama started sculpting by chance and ended up teaching his sons Jovino, Sabino and Gaminha. Every Sunday they take their places at Embu’s art fair, on the same square where they grew up, showing off their work.