From Clay to Art - Minas Gerais, Brazil
The Jequitinhonha Valley is located in the North of the state of Minas Gerais comprising the hydrographic basin of the Jequitinhonha river. The population of the region is estimated to be approximately 1 million people, and it's considered one of the poorest regions in #Brazil. There is an opportunity to help them generate income through subsistence agriculture or self-sufficiency farming, #handicraft and recently, through Community-based Tourism.
A place of highly inventive and unique artistic expression, the Jequitinhonha Valley is a cradle of beautiful and creative manifestations: leatherwork, embroidery, weaving, drawing, music, wood sculptures, basketry, painting and ceramic crafts. Women called paneleiras started to work the clay back in the days for utilitarian purposes. The tradition was passed from generation to generation, from great-grandmothers to grandmothers to mothers and daughters.
The communities we visit in the Jequitinhonha Valley are part of the Turmalina municipality which, same as the whole region, suffers from drought and scarce rainfall. Thus, it's a region that creates few possibilities for children and residents. Due to the migration of the men to big cities, the women are known as “the dry widows”.
Today the clay handicraft has evolved into an opportunity to increase the family income and to improve their living conditions. In the course of time, the women decided to gather together in groups and dedicate more time to this activity, sharing ideas and experiences, perfecting their art at the same time.
The women from the Coqueiro Campo and Campo Alegre communities live nowadays from their handcrafts, which is passed down from generation to generation. Before that, it was used by kids as toys, games or for religious rites. Today the clay handicraft has evolved into an opportunity to increase the family income and to improve their living conditions.
When visiting Jequitinhonha Valley and their full-of-talent pottery ladies, you collaborate to conserve a secular handicraft tradition; you learn what life is like in one of the poorest and driest regions in Brazil - and help their people keep their family local. And on top of it all, you learn a new craft, bringing home not only stories but also the art you made yourself.
Top 3 Highlights
#Diamantina is one of the best conserved historical towns in #MinasGerais. The fact it is not in the surrounding region of #BeloHorizonte (as Ouro Preto as Tiradentes are) makes it less touristy and more real life - the impressive colonial architecture here still is the place for homes, schools, churches and local shops. A scenery for you to feel in the 16th/17th century.
The ceramic from Jequitinhonha Valley is well known worldwide for its quality, and unique design. Their work is exposed in the NY UN Headquarters and decorates the Presidential Office at Alvorada Palace in Brasília. With this experience, you will not only be tutored by these impressively talented ladies, but also will understand how their daily lives influenced the great pottery design.
It is not the main motivation of this experience, but we must say: the "comida mineira" (the food in this State) is just GREAT. Be ready for some indulgent unbelievable full-of-taste meals. The New York Times once mentioned that "the best food in the South Hemisphere is in Minas Gerais". We recommend some exercise in-between the activities ;-)
Visit Jequitinhonha Valley, Minas Gerais in Brazil
Let us organise your holidays to Minas Gerais, Brazil. Inverted America is your specialist in Responsible Tourism for South America - travel and leave positive social impacts at your host communities!