Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Brazil 2016 - Maestra Dona Izabel Mendes - The Doll Maker

ISSUE DATE: 31 August 2016
CIRCULATION:80 000 (each)
STAMP SIZE:25 x 35 mm
PHOTO: Vilmar Oliveira
STAMP DESIGN: Juliane Marie Tadaieski 

On 3rd August 1924 in Córrego Novo, a hamlet of Itinga, in the Jequitinhonha Valley, Minas Gerais state, the artist who would become known as Maestra Izabel Mendes was born. She lived in the Santana do Araçuaí district of Ponto dos Volantes, Minas Gerais state, for most of her life. While still a child at her mother’s knee, the daughter of João Mendes da Cunha and Vitalina Maria de Jesus began to clay into small objects such as dolls and toys, working the “golden clay” with a touch, soft as a kiss, of those hands destined for greatness. 
In adulthood, she embraced the art with all her strength, out of both love of it and out of necessity, especially following her widowhood in 1978, making easy-to-sell objects for domestic use, such as pans, plates, pots, jugs, teapots and, of course her famous, enchanting dolls. These won fame and became a reference for craftsmanship from the Jequitinhonha Valley, responsible for the canonization of Maestra Izabel as an artist, in Brazil and worldwide. 

She crafted her pieces with singular creativity, before packing them up and carrying them, on her head, from the district of Santana do Araçuaí to the city of Ponto dos Volantes on the bank of the Bahia River, where she sold them, becoming famed as a great artist.

The artist was a reference, an education, a lesson. For the art critic João Paulo (Jornal Estado de Minas, 8.11.2014), “Izabel taught by example” adding that “Dona Izabel brings into play a truth requiring new orientation for studies of esthetics, for the art market and for the notion of national identity itself; she is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century”. In 2007, the photographer and promoter Vilmar Oliveira, released the book “Heading downriver – ceramic paths in Jequitinhonha”, awarded a prize by the Brazilian National Heritage Institute - Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico Nacional Brasileiro. This publication, including biographies and stunning images, shows the crafts as a symbol of the region’s artistic expression and highlights the work of Maestra Dona Izabel Mendes. 

Vilmar Oliveira, from the point of view of an art connoisseur, saw this truth up close in his conversations with the Maestra; “with the same joyfulness as when she was a child, making dolls to play with, she taught whoever wanted to learn. She said she was satisfied at seeing her art flower in the hands of others, at her side”. In 2004, her sculpture, “Mother nursing child” was chosen from 90 entries from 16 countries to win the seventh UNESCO Award of Excellence for Handicrafts, Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2005, she was awarded with the Ministry of Culture Order of Merit. In 2009, the Popular Culture Prize, also from the MinC, was named for her and, on 23 March 2011, at the opening of the “Women, artists and Brazilian” in the Planalto Palace, she was honored for her artistic expression, now brought to the world through these stamps issued by the Brazilian Post Office.

In verses by Gonzaga Medeiros, below, the mission of Maestra Izabel Mendes is evident, registering life through her art, turning it into hope in the form of dreams. Behold Maestra Izabel Mendes in apostolic mission:

Birthing clay dolls, making them solemnly reign. Arranging brides, marrying magical charms. Preaching the word art, the raw material of dreams. Multiplying the bread, nourishing the seeds. What poverty? It’s the richness of dreams, hope for millions. Izabel Mendes da Cunha died on 30th October 2014, at 90 years of age. Her heirs are dedicated to continuing her work, loyal to the legacy of one who constructed, with clay and with love, a great life story.

author: Gonzaga MedeirosExecutive Director, VALEMAIS – Instituto Sociocultural do Jequitinhonha


Stamp images and description thanks to Correios

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