Totonho, artist statement

“I was born and raised at my grandparents farm in the state of Bahia, in northeastern Brazil. They grew beans, corn, manioc, tobacco and a variety of tropical fruits. The soil was fertile and green, with a river and lakes full of fish. Alongside our farm was an immense forest with native plants and animals, and full of mysteries …

Brazilian countryside
O Nordeste Também é Brasil – 220 x 120 cm

When I was 14 years old, my family had to move to Salvador, the capital of Bahia. At the time it was a city with over a million inhabitants. It was a shock to me, cultural and psychological. Brazil was experiencing the worst days of military dictatorship and I got to know racism, prejudice and repression.  I lost my innocence and started to see the world differently.

I suffered an even bigger shock when I returned to the countryside some years later. Everything had changed. As a result of ignorance of some and greed of others, the region had been devastated. Trees were cut for timber and charcoal, and to plant grass to raise cattle. The frightful consequences were already visible: the river and the lakes had dried up, and fertile soil had become cursed land. I felt an enormous urge to fight for the protection of nature. 

Since then, I use canvas, paint and brushes to alert people to the importance of nature. I hope my paintings will have a positive effect, so one day mother earth can breathe and smile again without fear of this beast called man.