I’m just back from Brazil where I’m continuing work on a project that seeks to find the roots of a vast culture at a time of massive change. Check out some of the images below. These are just a few from a small segment of the project about the Jangadeiros of the Northeast, traditional fisherman who risk their lives everyday in simple boats. I expect this to track over a few years and will post new material as time allows.
A Sabedoria do Brasil project traces a visitor’s journey (me) through a vast country with a singular mission: to gather the favorite proverbs, idiomatic sayings and stories of diverse people from all walks of life in every region. These sayings and proverbs, while sometimes trite, often provide real comfort and meaning while revealing the hidden roots and collective wisdom of the Brazilian psyche. It’s a simple idea that yields a fresh way to look at the culture.
Brazil is on fire with change. Beaches, Samba, Carnival and fútbol, although still fundamentally part of the culture, are moving into a supporting role as business is booming. Just as the country declared energy independence they found one of the world’s largest reserves of oil. The Olympics and World Cup are coming and real estate is off the hook expensive. The economy grew at something like 7.5% last year and although down closer to 5% this year is still smoking the US and Europe. The world is watching as the previously tagged “country of tomorrow” is fast becoming the country of today. Although the infrastructure remains challenging, crime and poverty are still massive problems, there is a new expanding middle class and lots of manufacturing, technology, financial and business jobs. Brazil’s first female president recently took office and is continuing the trade practices of her predecessor.
Yet traditions remain, as you can see in these images of the fisherman of Flecheiras, Ceará. Orson Welles began a film about them in the early 1940’s that was never finished. The cinematography was stunning, and I took that as a good enough inspiration to make the trek up there to meet and visit. One older man told us a story about his grandfather out to sea and trying to drown a cat they discovered on board eating their bait. They pulled up the line later and were shocked to discover the cat tangled in their line, but amazingly grasping dozens of fish in its claws and teeth. Shocked but happy, they kept the cat going at this and came back with double their usual catch. As I listened at first I completely accepted this story as I’ve seen a lot of mysterious stuff in Brazil at this point. But then as I questioned the fisherman he then said that he heard this from his grandfather as the god’s truth.
And then his grandfather told him: “O pescador não mente; ele aumenta, mas não inventa.” “The fisherman doesn’t lie–he might embellish, but doesn’t invent.”