||In the borough of Limpo Grande, in Várzea Grande, near Cuiabá (MT), the weaving of hammocks is a tradition that has been passed from mother to daughter for so long that no one can remember how it started. There, a community of hammock makers helps support their families. Squating down by the vertical looms, the women handle the thread with dexterity and precision.
Maria José da Costa is one of them. She learned her trade early, in the tradition of Portuguese weaving. She also knows how to weave like the native Indians using the same kind of loom, with patterns of coloured stripes. “I learned with my mother, but when I was a child I used to sneak to my neighbour’s house. My mother thought I was too young to weave, but when she noticed I already knew how to do it. Nowadays there are girls of 10 that will sit with their mothers to learn. That’s what we know how what to do. The men work the land, and the women weave. But it’s not an easy life.”
Maria explains that the hammocks demand a lot of attention, although she pulls the threads while chatting away, as if her hands already knew the pattern they should make. Just for the base of the hammock she uses around 16 kilos of natural thread. Then, coloured threads are used to make up the design on top. “You must pull it really tight, otherwise it doesn’t look good. The base needs to be firm and dense as well. This makes the fabric stronger and the hammock will last a lifetime. We work over 30 days, eight hours a day, to finish one hammock. Then comes the “veranda”, which is the fringe made like a fishing net.”
The irony is that, despite having made hammocks for over 40 years, Maria doesn’t own one. She sleeps in a bed. She has never slept in a hammock.