Brazilian Armorial Art is that which has as its principal roots the connection with the magical spirit of the “pamphlets” of the Popular Ballads of the Northeast (Cordel literaturel), with the music of the viola, fiddle or fife accompany its “songs”, and with Woodcuttings that illustrate its covers, along with the spirit and form of the Arts popular spectacles with these related Ballads themselves.”. (Ariano Suassuna, Jornal da Semana, Recife, 20 May 1975).
The Armorial Movement arose under the inspiration and direction of Ariano Suassuna, with the collaboration of a group of artists and writers from the Northeast region of Brazil and the support of the Department of Cultural Extension in the Pro-Rectory for Communitarian Subjects at the Federal University of Pernambuco.
Its beginnings were in the university environment, but it gained official support from the Recife City Council and the Pernambuco State Secretary of Education.
It was officially launched in Recife on 18 October 1970, with the performance of a concert and a visual art exhibition in the São Pedro plaza in the centre of the city.
Its objective was to give value to popular culture of the Brazilian Northeast, intending to create a type of erudite Brazilian art rooted in the country’s popular culture.
According to Suassuna, as “armorial” is the conjunction of insignias, coats-of-arms, standards and flags of a people, heraldry is a much more popular art than anything else. In this way, the adopted name represented the desire to connect with these Brazilian cultural heraldic roots.
The movement is concerned with painting, music, literature, ceramics, dance, sculpture, tapestry, architecture, theatre, woodcutting and film.
Great importance is given to the pamphlets of popular Northeast ballads, or cordel literature, as these are a source of art and literature which express the aspirations and the spirit of the Brazilian people, as well as combining three forms of art: the narratives of its poetry, the xilography that illustrates its covers and the music through which its verses are sung, accompanied by viola or fiddle.
Also important to the Armorial Movement are the popular spectacles of the Northeast, staged in the open air with mythical characters, songs, princely costumes made from rags, music and mysterious animals like the bull and the sea-horse from ‘bumba-meu-boi’.
Mamulengo or Northeast doll theatre is also a source of inspiration for the Movement that is not only dramatic, but has a very Brazilian setting and performance.
Important names of Pernambuco culture congregate in this movement. Aside from Ariano Suassuna himself, Francisco Brennand, Raimundo Carrero, Gilvan Samico and others, as well as groups such as the Northeast Armorial Ballet (Balé Armorial do Nordeste), the Armorial Chamber Orchestra, (Orquestra Armorial de Câmara), the Orquestra Romançal and the Quinteto Armorial.
Recife, 21 July 2003.
(Updated on 31 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.
MOVIMENTO Armorial. Disponível em: <http://www.pe-az.com.br/subsecao_ler.php?id=MTA0>. Acesso em: 10 maio 2002.
PINTO, Egon Prates. Armorial Brazileiro. Iluminuras de L. G. Loureiro. Rio de Janeiro: Edição Suplementar da Revista da Semana, [19--?].
SUASSUNA, Ariano. O Movimento Armorial. Recife: Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, 1974.
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