Sunday, October 05, 2008

Back to work in Belo

Well during this week I've managed to get some papers sorted out for the project I'm engaged on, including renting an apartment. My client wanted two bedroomed place, so for the budget that meant unfurnished. I've chosen a location which is convenient, on Rua Curitiba, only a few blocks to a supermarket, laundry, restaurants, hotels and a mall. Taxis pass by frequently so transport isn't a problem.

So that means I have to find some inexpensive furniture in Brasil, which is by no means easy, as I recall. Until I do, I'm in the hotel.

Below the hotel itself and just in front of the municipal park, on Sundays there is a street market. They tell me its like the famous Hippy market in Ipanema, but with lots of local handcrafts and commerce.

I wandered around it and noticed that much of the stuff is the same as that in Rio, Salvador and also in Fortaleza, but of something local that stands out distinct from those cities, well, nothing in particular. With the exception of some be covers, which are very pretty quilts, I didn't see anything I couldn't find better in the other places - and as to variety Belo is much more limited.

Its strange, but I always get this sensation that the street art of Brazil is stuck in the 1970s and early 80s. Other than the naive 'folklore' stuff, all art is that popularized at that time - the semi-polished semi-precious stones in white metal settings, the air brush paintings, the metallized figurines, the wooden sculptures and, above all, the colored glass vases and wind chimes.

Nice stuff, don't get me wrong, and more 'innocnet' than the world-branded plastic accessories that most people seem happy buying today.

But where is the exuberance of Mexico, brilliance of color in India, the fine detail from Indonesia, or the sparkle of Malaysia? OK I know, you are all probably fed up with my constant critique of Brazil compared to other places. I agree - maybe because I know that 'new worlds' lack something that 'old worlds' do - and it isn't because of the folk art.

Something else is missing I think - a culture that supports and appreciates a strong artisan tradition as part of its sense of identity. In Brasil that doesn't exist, except in verbal 'homage'. People came here to grab the quick opportunity, an easy slice of the pie, something better than the misery of impoverished lives elsewhere. They brought no intrinsic wealth with them, unlike the Spanish in the other regions of Latin America.

This always disappoints me. Brasil could have been so much more.

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