||“My grandparents and uncles used to sail down the São Francisco River. The figureheads (locally known as carrancas) were put at the front of the boats, to protect against evil spirits. Capitan Esmeraldo used to ask my family to make the figureheads, and that’s how I learned.”
Paulo Roberto de Jesus Santos is known as Paulo of the Carrancas, and talks about the figureheads made by Master Guarany, which became famous and started a style. “In the past, almost all figureheads were made by him. When the boats stopped going down the river, the figureheads remained around, especially in Pirapora (Minas Gerais). His figureheads were admired by everyone, and became famous but many other people used to make them as well.”
The need to make large quantities with lower prices resulted in vampire-like figureheads becoming popular, and some of the best sculptors stopped making this kind of work. “I like figureheads, but no one appreciates them anymore. Nowadays I only make one if I have an order.”
All the relatives of Paulo das Carrancas – or Paulo Queimado (Burnt), a nickname he got because of the scars that cover his body – work with wood.
“We make creative furniture, with wood we buy from demolition sites, ranches, and using roots that would otherwise be thrown away. We never use green wood. I’ve been doing this work for 13 years, and I started with the figureheads. Today I’m 45 years old and all my life has been dedicated to working with wood. If I had to stop, I wouldn’t know what to do. People always have a goal in life. Mine is to have a better life thanks to the art I have dedicated myself to.”