The Jequitinhonha Valley is located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais and is home to the Jequitinhonha river. The valley is one of the poorest regions of Brazil and has an approximate population of one million people, distributed into about 80 municipalities.
It is a region of stark contrasts.The poverty, a result of the persistent droughts and lack of jobs, coexists with a rich culture and strong social capital. It is a region where men spend most of their time away from home, in the big cities, where they work in civil construction, and where women are left to raise their children, take care of the elderly and maintain their households while also generating income through subsistence farming, handicrafts and most recently through community-based tourism.
Known for its inventive and unique artistic spirit, the Jequitinhonha Valley is home to a variety of beautiful and creative manifestations, which include: leatherwork, embroidery, weaving, drawing, music, wood sculptures, basketry, painting and ceramic crafts. This all began back in the day when women, who used to be called “paneleiras” (pan makers), started to work the clay that is commonly found in the region for utilitarian purposes.
The tradition was maintained and passed down from generation to generation, from great-grandparents to grandmothers, mothers and daughters.
These utilitarian pieces rank as some of the most creative works of Brazilian popular art, today. The famous “dolls” from that region are in fact pitchers for holding fresh water, thus losing this function and becoming decorative objects.
Embark with us on, not only ceramic arts immersion, but also a journey of genuine and loving camaraderie with these female artisans of clay and life!