Issue 16 T.O.C. – Thiago Silva – “Brazilian Craft Heritage”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Sixteen. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is to come. 

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Thiago Silva – “Brazilian Craft Heritage”

Many places find themselves deeply tied to their local craft traditions – for example, the Windsor chair in the Chiltern Hills of Britain, or Shaker furniture from the villages of New England. These traditions can be traced neatly through history, and often have outsized permanent influence in their places of origin. But other times, the shuffling and erasing forces of industrialization and colonization can destroy this thread of history. What happens when handcraft traditions are wiped away?

In Issue Sixteen, woodworker and 2022 M&T Craft Grant Recipient Thiago Silva explores the handcraft history of his native Brazil. Through discordant centuries of influence and occupation, Brazil’s ancestral traditions were lost and replaced by a number of different cultural influences. From early Portuguese conquest to the massive tide of the African slave trade (Silva notes that “more than a third of the African enslaved people brought to the Americas ended up in Brazil”) to large-scale migrations from Japan and other places, finding a uniquely Brazilian handcraft heritage is difficult. 

Silva takes a hard look at what makes a tradition – is it so rigidly locale-specific and built into the bedrock, or are all traditions a melting pot of sorts? And how does one pick up the pieces of a violent history and see in them the beauty of human creativity that continues to flourish everywhere despite destructive influences? His research and reflections here are worth contemplating.

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