Mudinho [Manoel Ribeiro da Costa]

1906, Búzios | RJ - Brazil

1987, Búzios | RJ - Brazil

Farm worker and fisherman, survived with his brother Alfredo the death of 11 siblings. Out of friendship and difficulty in hearing and speaking, Mudinho lived with his brother, sister-in-law and nieces and nephews for many years, living of subsistence farming and fishing. The life of both improved when their skill in working with wood came to the fore when  they began to build vessels from tree trunks. The brothers’ skill in carpentry became  known and one day artist José d’Avila visited them, looking for sculptures.

Mudinho  decided to make  them  and  carved his  first work in a log of a jackfruit  tree. Its positive acceptance resulted in sculpture becoming the first source of income for the family,  which did not,  however, immediately abandon fishing and planting. The  Ribeiro da Costa  brothers create animals, fruit bowls, bowls and, principally, religious figures of the devout, carved in yellowwood, jequitiba or copal, with formal synthesis similar to that of the Northeastern ex-votos. The sitting or standing figures of men and women reveal a sensitive treatment in the way arms, legs and feet are carved. Their large heads harmonize, however, with the overall concept of the figure, sometimes showing hollows between the hair and face. Mudinho and Alfredos’s work, valorized by Rio and upstate intellectual milieus, is to be found in numerous private collections and in the collection of Ingá Museum, of the Rio de Janeiro State Foundation of Museums.

Source: Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota