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Alto do Moura (Neighbourhood), Caruaru, Pernambuco

Situated about 7 km from the city centre, is considered by UNESCO as the largest centre of figurative art in the Americas.

Alto do Moura (Neighbourhood), Caruaru, Pernambuco

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Last update: 05/05/2017

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Alto do Moura is a neighbourhood of Caruaru, a municipality of rural Pernambuco, which houses a community of artists and artisans who work withclay.

Situated about 7 km from the city centre, is considered by UNESCO as the largest centre of figurative art in the Americas.

Before the sixteenth century, the region was part of a territory situated between Bahia and Maranhãoinhabited by Kariri Indians who produced rustic clay pottery without a defined style or decor. The utilitarian clay pottery produced by ‘loucerios’ (potters) of the region until the mid-twentieth century showed a strong influence fromindigenous culture, as well as the existence of some practices introduced by black people and the Portuguese.

Previously, the making of pots, jars, jugs (known in the Northeastas ‘quartinhas’) and other domestic utensils was a task restricted to women and children. The techniques used by them were very similar to the indigenous ones,and the tradition was passed from mother to daughter during household chores.

With the first half of the twentieth century’sprogress and urban development, production has increasingly become a source of income to assist the livelihood of rural families.

One of the main factors for the increased production of clay pottery in the region was the existence of the Caruaru Market, where pottery objects could be sold more easily.

Even so,until the late 1940s, the economy of Alto do Moura depended primarily on subsistence family farming, with small crops of maize and cassava.

From 1948, whenVitalinomoved to the place, there was a new perspective forthe community. The national fame of the Master helped to facilitate the commercialisation of the pieces, making it a profitable activity. The work then ceased to be exclusively female, with men joining the practice of figurative clay ceramics.

InAlto do Moura, artists work in their homes, modelling clay and creating various objects and figures of all kinds. Their houses are real studios where they create and sell the products of their labours. The artisans’ basic themes are folk motifs that depict the backcountry man’s everyday life: the ‘bumba-meu-boi’, ‘maracatu’, the fife bands, the refugees from drought, the ‘cangaço’ and the ‘cangaceiros’, especially the famous Lampião and Maria Bonita, the ‘vaqueiro’ (cowboy), the ‘vaquejada’, weddingsand funerals in the countryside.

In 1971, the house where Vitalino Pereira dos Santos (1909-1963) lived was transformed into the Master VitalinoMuseum House. At the site, his main pieces areon display, as well as personal objects and photographs showing some of the history of the famous Caruaru craftsman. Built in 1959, the house has undergone some repairs to become a museum, but has kept the original adobe structure. The original production of Vitalinois estimated to be about 130 pieces, which are still being reproduced by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The most valued pieces are the ones from the first phase of his work, whose dolls have their eyes gouged out, rather than painted. The admission is free at the House Museum. One of Vitalino’ssons is the guide and also the museum’sadministrator.
Also located in Alto do Mourais the Master Galdino Museum House, which houses several pieces of pottery, photographs and poems that show the history of the craftsman, viola singer and popular poet Galdino Manuel de Freitas (1929-1996).

A disciple of Vitalino,Manuel Eudócio– awarded the title of Living Patrimonyof Pernambucoin 2009 - is one of the famous ‘bonequeiros’ (doll makers) from Alto do Moura, as is his brother-in-law, ZéCaboclo (José Antonio da Silva, 1921 – 1973).

In 1990, the community had grown to more than five hundred artisans working directly with figurative ceramics.

Besides clay sculpting, Alto do Moura has bars and restaurants specialising in Pernambucocuisine, especially dishes made with goat meat - much appreciated in the region. The neighbourhood also helps to brighten the São JoãoFestivalin Caruaru,beingone of the liveliest hubs of this June Festival.

Recife, 28 January 2011.
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.
Updated on 5 may 2017.

sources consulted

ALTO do Moura une artesanato, gastronomia e forró. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 21 jan. 2010.

ALTO do Moura [foto neste texto]. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 28 jan. 2011.

CORREIA, Sara. Delicadeza da arte figurativa. Continente Multicultural, Recife, ano 6, n. 61, p. 94-95, jan. 2006.

LIMA, Sandra. Invenção e tradição: uma trajetória de resistência pelo espaço da memória. Resgate, Campinas, SP, n. 13, p. 135-152, 2004.

MESTRE Vitalino e outros, Caruaru/Alto do Moura - PE.  Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 21 jan. 2011.


how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Alto do Moura (Neighbourhood), Caruaru, Pernambuco. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.