Pati de Souza Leão, “O Ciclo da Vida do Mestre Vitalino (The Cycle of Life of Mestre Vitalino)”

“O Ciclo da Vida do Mestre Vitalino (The Cycle of Life of Mestre Vitalino)”, drawing, 2020.

Materials: oil pastel on paper.

Dimensions: 29.7cm x 21cm

Learn more about Pati de Souza Leão at

Artist’s comment: Whole worlds die as human necessities and intentions shift, and new scenes, traditions, and beautiful objects are born. But, no matter how fascinating each generation’s exploration series makes for itself, it’s still difficult to watch the past disappear, taking with it pieces of us.There is a tendency in most of us to try to stop time, to revisit the past by collecting souvenirs we hold onto as a child would cling to an old toy. We cherish objects that tell us of individuals that we once shared moments with and loved, and we add many kinds of artefacts to our collection that we associate with a history or way of life that we want to see perpetuated in one way or another. I have recently encountered objects by Mestre Vitalino, who made figurines reflecting on the first half of twentieth century, of Pernambuco, Brazil. His figures are inspired by popular beliefs, in scenes from the rural and urban life, in rituals and in the imagination of the population of the Brazilian northeastern hinterland. While he passed in 1963, his figures are still an influence of the work of many craftsmen of the region, who, like Vitalino, lovingly create work informed by a part of the world where the Iberian culture fused with the great indigenous civilisation that already existed there. To me, these figures convey the powerful spirit of an unusual and highly imaginative people, who live close to the earth, and construct marvellously whimsical fantasies out of the simplest materials, to make sense of a rapidly changing world, whilst carrying the extraordinary past of a region. The figures communicate directness, simplicity, and firm cultural beliefs, through humour, and love. In my eyes, their wisdom and gratitude demand that we recognise their message, which comes to so vividly from the past, appealing to the children within us. As I look at these enchanting toys and figures I feel invited to translate their meaning into my own experience, my cycles of relationships and my witnessing of life being created, and I compelled to create forms that are just as significant, poetic, and valid.