Simple Lives Off The Grid In Brazil’s   Backlands

Da Silva was 15 years old when she got married. Her husband told her they would build their home far away from civilization. She left a small town in the north of Minas Gerais, Brazil, to a place where the nearest house was 15 km into the backlands. They built a house there, with bricks made of anthill sand.
Forty years has passed and her house still have no electricity or sanitation but one thing has changed: Da Silva’s husband died a year ago while he was walking through the jungle. Nowadays though, some people visit her, like Brenda’s family, whose mother lives around 8 km far from Da Silva, yet it’s her closest neighbor.

 

Journalist and Documentary Photographer  Ana Caroline De Lima  @ Antropologia Visual Fotografia Documental is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  These images are from her project ‘Caminhos Das Gerais‘ .  To see Ana’s most recent work click on any image.

 

Da Silva knows the girl since she was a baby, and tells me she feels like she’s part of her family. Brenda, which is only 9 years old, agrees. “Da Silva is like a granny to me. I really love her.”
Brenda tells me she likes to go to Da Silva’s house to listen to her stories or to eat some corn porridge prepared on a wood stove.

 

Nowadays, Da Silva is the one who has to cut wood in the field, and she does it every week, after going to take some water from the small stream that runs at the backside of her house.

 

When the girl or her parents are not around, Da Silva looks at her husband’s hat hanging on a wall close to a lamp. “My husband used to put on his hat every time he went to cut some woods in the field. One day it took him a long time to come back. The hours were passing and I decided to go after him. I found him lying on the ground. He had a heart attack.” – says Da Silva, with tears in her eyes.

 

Dog “Teimoso” (Stubborn in Portuguese) poses in front of the house he lives with Geralda and Jose, whose marriage endured the Brazilian dictatorship times, even when a gun was pointed at Geralda’s head and when José was arrested for no reason and tortured several times. They’ve been married for 53 years now, and I asked Jose to kiss his wife so I could take a portrait of them as a happy couple. Although he promptly tried to kiss her, she stopped him and said: ‘Walk it off, man!”.

 

Faces of the Backlands: Geraldo uses a traditional hat, made of leather to protect people from the sun and from the thorns of plants edemic to that region.

 

Faces of the Backlands: Alice is descendant of slaves, Dutches and indigenous who inhabited the region decades ago.

 

More than 50km away from there, is Mariazinha who lives in a small house with her husband. When Photoshop wasn’t even close to being created, Brazilian “bonequeiros” were already creating and retouching portraits. These popular artists are very common in Brazilian countryside and their portraits are hanging on the walls of many poor families in the northeast of Brazil.
Many families who cannot afford fancy clothes or jewelry look for bonequeiros to have a portrait painted by them using these accessories. Even halos are added to children’s heads (!) or dead people are portrayed with their relatives.
When I entered Mariazinha’s house, she was keen to ‘pose with her husband ‘ for my portrait. When I asked where he was, she told me he was at work.
“How can I take a photo of your husband if he’s not here?” – I asked.
She said: “Simple. Take a picture of me and that painted portrait at the wall”.

 

João plays a fiddle made by himself. Music is very popular amongst people who live in the backlands.

 

Craftswoman Flor de Maio waits for her grandchildren to bring her some grass for her to knit some table cloths.

 

Children of this region have to travel long distances by bus to go to school to everyday.

 

Houses in this region are small and simple.

 

The parking lot of the backlands: horses and donkeys are the most common means of transport.

 

“Veredas” are small oasis with vegetation and small creeks in the middle of the backlands.

 

 

See also:

Andinos

By Ana Caroline de Lima

 


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