Brazil: What’s behind Carnival masks and disguises



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published — Friday 8 February 2013

Last update 7 February 2013 11:43 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

The wall of Olga Valles’ office is a vast tableau of famous faces past and present: Barack Obama smiles warmly, while Yasser Arafat poses in his trademark black-and-white keffiyeh. Next to him is George W. Bush, practically cheek-to-cheek with a fierce Saddam Hussein, teeth bared in a snarl under his black beret.
Beyond them are Osama Bin Laden, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, an array of soccer greats and the more colorful images of Shrek, Simba from the movie “The Lion King” and assorted monsters.
Valles runs Brazil’s oldest and most productive mask factory, Condal, a family business started by her late Spanish-born husband in 1958. As such, she’s responsible for keeping a finger on the nation’s sense of whimsy and translating the year’s most popular characters, be they real or imaginary, admirable, silly or scary, into masks that will adorn revelers during Carnival, Brazil’s annual five-day extravaganza. Roving percussion bands have already begun taking over Rio’s streets dragging behind them, Pied Piper-style, throngs of dancing, costumed revelers.
Carnival’s license to be whoever you want to be for a day is at the core of Valles’ business, with the season’s sales representing 70 percent of her income. She says it’s also a responsibility she takes seriously: Masks and costumes are about much more than looking good for the party. It’s a time when Brazilians turn to “fantasias,” as Carnival disguises of all sorts are called, to express whatever they’ve kept bottled up during their humdrum workday lives: humor, criticism, fantasies, admiration, aspirations. After all, who doesn’t want to be someone else for a day? Valles’ masks facilitate that, and she’s proud of it, she says.
“I do it for the people, to keep this spirit of street Carnival going,” she said. “It’s social commentary, it’s a way of expressing how you feel. Brazilians need to turn everything into a game, even the most serious things. It’s how they process things.”
Marcelo Servos, manager of the traditional costume purveyor Casas Turuna in downtown Rio, carries Condal masks among other costumes.
“Dressing up is about the imagination, dreaming, becoming someone else,” he said. “People love to transform themselves.”
Picking through the women’s section of Casas Turuna, friends Josiane dos Santos Silva and Vanessa Ventura Freitas had very different secret selves to unveil during Carnival. While Silva wanted to dress up as a soldier, complete with camouflage and fake bullet belts, Freitas was going for a witch. No matter what she picks, she said it’s always very sensual.
“This is the joy of Carnival: It’s a form of expression,” she said. “You can be for a few days what you wished you were all year round.”
Among the masks, the true revenue blockbusters are the old faithfuls — the monsters and witches, the animals kids love, and the all-time top seller, King Kong. But politicians are more fun and carry more meaning, Valles said.
Her husband, artist Armando Valles, started designing and making the masks when censorship eased up and the country regained its sense of humor following the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship, around 1985.
“He was passionate about politics,” she said.
He would likely be proud to see this year’s most successful new mask: that of Brazilian Supreme Court Judge Joaquim Barbosa. Born into poverty, he became the first black judge in the nation’s top court when he took office in 2003. Barbosa went on to make a name for himself when he presided over a wide-ranging political corruption trial involving a cash-for-votes scheme.
The court convicted 25 people last year in the scheme, including the former chief of staff of ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Brazil had never seen such powerful men face justice, and Barbosa rocketed in Brazilians’ esteem to near-superhero status. His swearing-in as the top court’s president in November was a who’s-who’s of Brazilian politicians, celebrities and sports personalities in a display of unheard-of fanfare for a judge who seldom cracks a smile.
Now, average Brazilians are honoring him by buying his mask in droves, said Valles, smiling; with 26,000 sold weeks before Carnival, it’s now rivaling the hugely popular former president known by his nickname, Lula.
“Brazilians wear masks as a form of praising the figure,” she says. “In other places, like Europe, it could be seen as a criticism.”
Factory worker Maria Nazare da Conceicao Nogueira was spray-painting the white teeth on masks bearing soccer player Neymar’s likeness. She said she does her work with pleasure and was particularly happy to see sales of Barbosa explode.
“He’s doing a good thing for the country, taking us on a good path,” she said. “He’s doing justice and that’s what we need.”
Roaming downtown stores looking for this year’s get-ups, several young men agreed Barbosa was a worthy symbol, but said they were after something quite different: Disney princesses.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Kingdom and New Zealand have signed an air services agreement to set a comprehensive regulatory framework for air transport, operating on a safe and organized basis.The deal was signed at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) he...
RIYADH: Education Minister Ahmed Al-Issa has called on teachers, educators and other officials of his ministry to work hard for the common goal of producing quality graduates. “I urge you to do your level best in transmitting knowledge to the student...
AL-AHSA: Uncoordinated production resources, lack of risk planning, evaluation, non-study of similar projects and poor planning are among the reasons for failure of projects, an expert has said.“Total quality management (TQM) is an integrated scienti...
JEDDAH: The Specialized Criminal Court has issued its verdict against two Saudis for terrorism-related offenses and for supporting extremist groups, a local daily has reported.The court issued a prison sentence of ten and a half years to the first de...
RIYADH: The second phase of the operation on a Polish child for a genetic heart disease was successfully performed at the King Abdulaziz Medical City (KAMC) of the National Guard Health Affairs on Wednesday. On a directive from Custodian of the Two H...
JEDDAH: A new breast cancer treatment improves survival rates by an average 20 percent, with life expectancy lengthened by 29.9 months.This is according to Ahmed Al-Wabari, breast oncology consultant at King Fahd Specialist Hospital in Dammam, who ou...
RIYADH: The projects of Saudi students at the Technical Trainers College (TTC) is being showcased at the German pavilion in the 30th Janadriyah Festival. With the slogan “Welcome to Your Future”, the TTC is participating in the festival with Germany...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Labor has urged firms to immediately start implementing the 10th phase of the Wage Protection System before it becomes mandatory on March 31.Mohammed Al-Faleh, assistant undersecretary for inspection and development of the wor...
RIYADH: As many as 104 antique items that have come from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, have gone on display at the National Museum here. The exhibition coincides the Janadriyah festival for heritage and culture.According to local media, the...
RIYADH: A visiting Kuwaiti delegation has praised Saudi Arabia for collecting and preserving various heritage items at the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center in Riyadh.The delegation, led by Kuwait’s Education Minister Bader Al-Essa, was given a tour...
RIYADH: Road security forces in Madinah apprehended two Asian expats who were caught in possession of a huge amount of money totaling SR1.6 million and talismans.“The two Asians were riding in a Japanese-made car when they were stopped at the Yanbu-...
RIYADH: Good news for the 25,000 British expatriates in the Kingdom, who will get their franchise to participate in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.In an announcement on Thursday, the British Embassy here said that the Uni...
JEDDAH: Jeddah Municipality, with cooperation of the Check Safety First British company, launched an award of excellence for services in restaurants under the name E-Cristal to support the establishment of best services in restaurants and eatery shop...
JEDDAH: Well-known Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan married Safa Baig, an Indian woman, who was born in Jeddah and raised here by her Hyderabadi parents.The marriage was solemnized at a simple ceremony at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Wednesday. Only a...
RIYADH: The Ministries of Interior and Islamic Affairs are considering appointing security guards at all the mosques in the Kingdom where Friday prayers are held.The move comes as a precautionary and regulatory measure to protect the mosques from at...

Stay Connected

Facebook