|In the small town of Boca da Mata (AL), Manoel da Marinheira is a well-known character. The fair skin and tall build is due to his German origin, from ancestors who turned up “escaping from some war”, as his son André Barbosa Cavalcanti puts it.
Manoel was born in Boca da Mata in 1917, and was baptized Manoel Cavalcanti Almeida. As a child he used to help his father work the land and treat wood, making small animals and toys for himself. His father used to make saints and large animals and was very protective of his tools. At 14 Manoel borrowed a tool in secret and used it to sculpt a rabbit on a piece of wood. He was scared of his father’s reaction, but when he saw the animal he decided to teach his son how to sculpt. Since then, he has never stopped. Only now, victim of a stroke, he has been forced to slow down.
Using tools just like his father’s he has supported a family of 16 children. His animals, usually very large, have clean lines, mostly simplified, apart from the intricate mane of the lions. According to André, the name Marinheiro (sailor) started with his grandfather, Manoel’s father. “He arrived on a boat and never wanted to leave. His wife became known as Marinheira (female sailor), and when my father was born he became Manoel da Marinheira.”