||If there is one person who really embodies the soul of Arapiraca, that person is Zezito Guedes (José Gomes Pereira). “My journey is enough for three years worth of stories.” It certainly is. “When I left home I was 2 years old. I was taken to my grandparents’ house, and stayed there. My childhood was problematic, because my aunts always threatened to send me back to my parents. I arrived in Arapiraca at the age of 6. My uncle bought cows and I looked after them. I preferred that to studying. I loved being on my uncle smallholding. At school, I failed one year so my uncle decided to send me to be an apprentice at a workshop that made artificial limbs. I learned the trade very well. At 15 I was a professional but my uncle doubted my intelligence, which really hurt my feelings. I was good at my job and decided to study so my uncle wouldn’t have to pay anything else for me, but at 17 I was young and enjoyed having a good time. I got married and stayed at home. I taught myself how to be a sculptor. I started with plaster and wood. I took part in the first Salão de Arte (Art Exhibition) de Arapiraca, and an art critic told me to forget plaster. He said I should concentrate on wood because I had talent.”
Zezito’s work has simple lines which are full of depth. He reached this standard alone using his sensibility for the things around him. He also works with iron and stone. “Arapiraca is different now. There are no more fairs with craft artists, puppeteers, singers, witches, acrobats, clairvoyants and bands playing. The pavement is empty. The fair used to take over 32 streets, and now it’s gone, and so are the tourists.”
But Zezito won’t let things be. He loves local traditions, has compiled a book with local songs and folklore, and fiercely defends his fellow artists.