“Balata: Amazon in miniature, Amazon Madorudam”
- November 15, 2019
The balata art is made from elastic gum similar to latex rubber, which makes the artisan to produce similar articles rubber. Playful and decorative miniatures especially attract children because of their color and flexibility. The inspiration for the pieces, Master Darlindo emphasizes, are the fauna and flora of the Amazon, indigenous habit, the mountains of Marajó and the legends and myths of the Amazon.
He explains that the balateira, like the rubber tree, is a tree of the Sapotacea family, and balata is the latex of the balateira, also known as maparajuba (Manilkara bidentata). Darlindo points out that the balatais, where the balateiras are, occur only on the equator, on the left side of the Amazon River. The extraction is carried out in the municipalities of Almeirim, Prainha, Monte Alegre, Alenquer and Óbidos, in protected areas with permission for extractive activity. The balata crafts are specific to the Monte Alegre region.
making balata handicraft a unique art. “The entire process is made with natural resources, without industrial anything. The teachings pass from father to son, and it is all manual. We work with old scissors, coming from clock parts, piece of pen, a small knife and beads, ”says Oscarino without mentioning the most important tool of this work: the ability of teachers who struggle to leave the legacy of future generations this typical art of the Amazon, generally skillfully designed in a bowl of warm water.
Process of “balata modeling”
HISTORY – The balata craft has advantages that, directly or indirectly, 20 families of Monte Alegre, among collectors, artisans and family of professionals. Darlindo Oliveira learned the technique in the 1970s, with the Master John Steer, along with Master Beja, being the ones who created the miniatures in Monte Alegre. Just like Darlindo, Oscarino Braga also discovered balata handicraft that is still in its infancy.
The extraction process of balata is similar to that of rubber. The trunk of the tree is scratched and the milk (latex) that comes out is trimmed and boiled, and forms blocks. The carved craftsmen and heating blocks in a water bath clean and purify balata and create the desired shapes in a process called “modeling balata”.
In the final form the thumbnails get different shades, from light gray to pink, with the use of natural pigments such as annatto and cumate. Currently, fabric paints, which are anti-toxic, also in coloring the pieces, which include parrots, macaw, snakes, crocodiles, dolphins, turtles, canoeists, Marajó cowboys, acai pickers and so many other characters of Amazonian diversity.