Best Places to Buy Traditional Arts and Crafts in Brazil

Faces de Tracunhaém, ©Rildo Moura/Flickr

Faces de Tracunhaém, ©Rildo Moura/Flickr

Historically, handicrafts have received little recognition as an art form in Brazil. However, in the last few decades it has been gaining popularity for celebrating local culture and restoring traditions. Naturally creative, the Brazilian people value the importance of telling stories about their beautiful country, cultivating a family tradition and art form that has been handed down from generation to generation.

Handicrafts have become a major business opportunity that generates income, stimulates the economy and reduces social inequalities. Brazil’s cultural wealth, ethnic diversity, variety of natural resources and creative artisans make for a successful recipe and are increasing the role of artisans in the Brazilian economy. We suggest you some of the best places to visit in Brazil for tourists who love arts and crafts.

Arts inherited by African slaves

Woodworking is an art inherited from the African slaves who were brought across the Atlantic to work the sugar plantations. In the northeast of Brazil we can find the Carrancas which is an adaptation of the African mask making tradition.

Carrancas, ©Aracaju/Flickr

Carrancas, ©Aracaju/Flickr

Woodcarving is widespread in Pernambuco and Bahia in the northeast. In Rio de Janeiro many contemporary artists work in wood and Embu, near São Paulo, is a centre for wooden sculptures and furniture making.

Religious figures from ceramics

Northeastern Brazil is the best location to enjoy ceramic arts. A well known center for similar work is Goiana in Pernambuco, or Tracunhaém, near Recife. In these places religious figures  are made in clay, for instance the unglazed, life-sized saints made from red clay. The pots that are made in the Amazon region come in various styles, some of them quite strange. Bahian and other northeastern pottery shows African influence.

Faces de Tracunhaém, ©Rildo Moura/Flickr

Faces de Tracunhaém, ©Rildo Moura/Flickr

Traditional costumes of Brazil

In the northeast, traditional costumes have their roots in the rituals of the African religions that came to Brazil with the slave trade. In southern areas where European immigration was heaviest, many traditional costumes can be seen, usually at the festivals and dances that have survived. Another type of clothing from the south is that associated with the gaúchos, the Brazilian cowboys of Rio Grande do Sul.

Brazilian cowboys, ©emilio labrador/Flickr

Brazilian cowboys, ©emilio labrador/Flickr

As well as the clothes, which normally use hide in their manufacture, you may also buy saddlery, stirrups, silverware and the gourds used for drinking maté. Ceará, in the north, is famous for its lace-making, and beautiful pieces are sold all over Brazil.

Take the African music with you!

The most popular instruments that tourists like to buy are those connected with African music, especially the hand and friction drums like the zabumba, cuica and reco reco, shakers and the berimbau (the one-stringed bow that is twanged in accompaniment to capoeira).

Brazil instruments, ©suzylagasa/Flickr

Brazil instruments, ©suzylagasa/Flickr

Here again, the best place to look is in the northeast where the African heritage is strongest. You can also purchase guitars and other stringed instruments

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