In Brazil, there are many different crafts made and absorbed by the same segment of the regional or local population. There they all have a shared knowledge of their significance. In this case, they are the ex-votos or “miracles” of the north-eastern backlands, for centuries modeled in clay or carved in wood, an expression of faith for the grace received from a Catholic saint. The promise, the vow is then fulfilled and provides evidence of the miracle, the ex-voto, in all shapes and sizes. In general, who pays the promise fulfills his or her vow on a pilgrimage. We can mention São Francisco das Chagas from Canindé and Juazeiro do Norte, both in the Ceará state Bom Jesus da Lapa, Bahia state, Círio de Nazaré, Pará state, Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, Minas Gerais state, Aparecida do Norte, São Paulo, as some of the largest pilgrim centers in Brazil where this practice is commom. There the institutional action of the Catholic Church can be seen as an organizer of formal ceremonies that traditionally are an essencial part of these rituals (masses, novenas, confessions, comunions). Alongside them, however, are the ways in which the common people present them, which generally take the form of direct communication with the patron saint without the priest’s intermediation.
In the Northeast, this is evident in the numerous letters written to the saint and placed in the church of its invocation, and the payment of promises in different ways, such as carrying stones on their heads as they follow the Stations of the Cross and processions, fulfilling vows in the form of music sung in the Hall of Miracles, cutting hair, wearing and offering “mortalhas” (sacred habits) to the patron saint, as well as figures modeled in clay or carved in wood. And also submitting photographs, jewelry, corn husks, hair, eyeglasses, wheelchairs, crutches, graduation diplomas, school books, pieces of lace, letters, flowers, ships, plaques with inscriptions, baby bottles, candles, wedding dresses, large pilgrimage crosses, in short, and endless variety of objects corresponding to the many different kinds of situation experienced by the devout. The pilgrim of all ages, men and women, go long distances on foot, or ride on trucks, very often have their portraits taken by the photographers that follow the pilgrims’ route, to enable the faithful to offer the photo to the saint, also as an ex-voto. In Southeast Brazil this practice has already practically substituted the painted or carved miracle, together with wax objects, shaped in series, reproducing parts of human body.
Source: Little Dictionary of the Brazilian People’s Art – 20th Century, by anthropologist and poet Lélia Coelho Frota
2019 TREES, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporian, Paris, France
2018-2019 Exposición Lina Bo Bardi Tupí or not tupí ?, Fundación Juan March, Madrid, Spain
2017 Casa Vogue Experience, EBAC, São Paulo, SP, Brazil
2016-2017 A MÃO DO POVO BRASILEIRO, 1969/2016 - curated by Adriano Pedrosa, Julieta González e Tomás Toledo, Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand MASP, São Paulo, SP, Brazil
2009 Casa Brasil Fair, Parque de Eventos Bento Gonçalves, Bento Gonçalves, RS, Brazil
2019 TREES, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporian, EBS, Verona, Italy