Cigarettes fly by in the hands of Joaquim and Guilherme Rodrigues. Nothing has changed since their grandparents bought the space more than a century ago. The tools are the same and the walls don’t know what new paint is for four generations in a row. The spider webs decorating the window frames signal that tradition is something of a sacred word inside these four walls. The radio is always on. Here, four generations have listened to the news and followed the changes in our country and far beyond. Elected presidents, governments’ demise, and football matches.
Only a few miles away, at Sobradelo da Goma, Américo Fernandes puts on a pair of dark gloves and places a gold bar in the pulleys. He pulls the metal from the other end until it’s stretched into a meters- long wire. The process is repeated and halted when the desired thickness is achieved. “That’s how everything starts”, says Américo with a palpable long passion for the art craft.
António Cardoso is among the most respected craftsmen in the Gondomar council. In the house’s backyard, he keeps on crafting true pieces of art, fully hand-made using the techniques learnt from his father. His work gained world fame some years ago when north-American actress Sharon Stone wore a ‘Viana heart’ in a public event in Los Angeles. It didn’t take long to track down the author. Demands followed suit as well as his prestige.
Every year by mid-August, all paths lead to Viana do Castelo’s festivities in honour of Our Lady of Agony. Along with the procession, the parades of pageants wearing traditional outfits have become major attractions. For more than 230 years, women walk down the streets wearing golden pieces displaying absolute fortunes in their chests. From one generation to the next, these pieces are often inherited and passed through inside traditional families. Bended over their wooden tables and surrounded by machines, tweezers, and blowtorches, the craftsmen keep on turning the delicate metal wires into these highly symbolic pieces of art.
In spite of the crisis felt in the sector as well as the shut-down of many workshops over the last years, tradition is still what it used to be. Smoking their cigarettes and chatting about the news with the radio sound in the background, Joaquim and Guilherme will carry on crafting the filigree with the same delicate precision. Américo Fernandes will evolve even further in the art craft for which he fell in love since he was a child. António Cardoso will always have that picture that changed his life hanged against the wall just beside him. Liliana Guerreiro will continue to re-interpret the filigree threads. Joana Vasconcelos will keep on surprising the world with her works. Tradition’s well alive and kicking.
António Pedro Santos
This work was only possible due to the kindness and pure friendship
of the many people who I had the honour and pleasure to meet over
the last year:
Ana Silva, Américo Fernandes, António Vau, Joaquim Rodrigues, José Martins, Guilherme Rodrigues, Manuel Freitas, Liliana Guerreiro, António Cardoso, Rosa Cardoso, Laurinda Figueiras, Aida Antunes, Arménio Belo, Elsa Rodrigues, Joana Vasconcelos, Isabel Morais, António Castro, José Manuel Castro, Andreia Torres, Cristiano Araújo, Manuel Alves, Leonardo Araújo, Rosa Antunes, Aurora Rocha, Catarina Viana, Miguel Matos, Manuel Vilar and Sónia Cunha.
To all of them, as well as to those who anonymously participated in the project, I offer my most sincere acknowledgments for your engagement and dedication. x