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Giant dolls of Olinda

Olinda is a city traditionally known for its street carnival, for the participation of the people in blocks, clubs and troças. However, it is the giant puppets that constitute a separate attraction in the carnival of Olinda.

Giant dolls of Olinda

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 06/06/2022

By: Maria do Carmo Gomes de Andrade - Librarian of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - Specialist in Librarianship

Olinda is a city traditionally known for its street carnival, the participation of the people in blocks, clubs, and troças. However, the giant dolls constitute a separate attraction in the carnival of Olinda.


According to Bonald Neto, the participation of giant dolls in carnival is very old. In 1919 the reveler Gumercindo Pires de Carvalho created the figure of Zé Pereira, which animated the carnival in Belém de São Francisco, a city in the Pernambuco backcountry. In 1929, Gumercindo created a giant doll as Zé Pereira’s companion, which he named Vitalina.


Over the years, other dolls have emerged. In Olinda, the popular Homem da Meia-Noite  (Midnight man) appeared in February 1931, when a group of associates, dissatisfied with not having been included in the official slate of the board of directors of the troça O Cariri, created what would be one of the best known Olinda’s giant doll: the Midnight Man, made by the carpenter and woodcarver Benedito Barbaça and the wall painter Luciano de Queiroz, who was known for his skills in manipulating colors, painter’s putty, and brushes.


The original Midnight Man weighed about 50 kilos and was 3.50m tall. Made of wood, its head, bust and hands were modeled in gum paper, finished with wall putty and then painted to resemble human skin. The arms were stuffed with straw and the wrists and hands had a certain amount of sand for weigh and keep them in position while the giant doll dance the frevo steps.


Those who give life to the doll carry it on their heads, supported by a pillow at the base of the wooden structure. The doll’s waist is at the height of the carrier’s eyes, who sees through a small opening in the doll’s pants fly, which is tied at the waist under the jacket.


Many years later, a companion for the Midnight Man appeared. In 1967, Rodolfo Medeiros and Luiz José dos Santos came up with the idea of creating the Mulher do Dia (Woman of the Day). The craftsman Julião das Máscaras modeled the laughing doll also known as Monalisa, which measures 3.40 m tall and weighs 40 kilos. To make her dress, they spent around 24m of fabric, many necklaces, earrings, and hair ornaments.


In 1974, Ernane Lopes and Odival Olbino decided to found a carnival troça and arranged with Julião das Máscaras to make the doll to represent it. Then, the Menino do Dia (Afternoon Boy) appeared, dancing the frevo, on Carnival Saturday, dragging thousands of revelers until the evening, when he retires.


Still in the 1970s, as a suggestion of Dalma Soares and production by Sílvio Botelho, another giant doll appeared: the Menina da Tarde (Afternoon Girl). From then on, in the 1980s, giant carnival dolls multiplied not only in Olinda, but also in Recife and other cities in Pernambuco. However, it was in Olinda that a real demographic explosion of giant dolls took place: artists, politicians, intellectual personalities, popular allegories and traditional fantastic figures.


Some of the giant dolls listed by Bonald Neto stand out: Zé Pereira, Lampião, Barbapapa, Seu Malaquias, Fofão, Tabaco, Boneco pé inchado, Tarado da Sé, Gilberto Freyre, The Tramp, John Travolta, Capitão Alceu Valença, Paralelo, Manuel Bombardino, Gonzagão, Guarda noturno, Carteiro, D. Olinda Olindamente Linda, Mãe Olinda, Maria Bonita, Homelhada, Galega de Olinda, Nordestina, Perequito, Urso, and Jacaré.


The giant dolls were also represented on stamps. In 1991, the Brazilian Post and Telegraph Company launched the first series of commemorative stamps called “Carnaval Brasileiro,” including reproductions of the Midnight Man and Woman of the Day, among other characters of the Bahian and Rio de Janeiro carnivals.


The charismatic giant dolls hold great fascination for revelers. The artists of Olinda, with their art, give life and soul to so many giant dolls that are the face of Pernambuco’s carnival.



Recife, July 14, 2004.


sources consulted

ATAÍDE, José. Olinda, carnaval e povo. Olinda, PE: Fundação Centro de Preservação dos Sítios Históricos de Olinda, 1982.

BONALD NETO, Olímpio. Gigantes foliões no carnaval de Pernambuco. Olinda, PE: Fundação Centro de Preservação dos Sítios Históricos de Olinda, 1992.

BONECOS gigantes foliões em Olinda (foto neste texto). Disponível em:  <> e >. Acesso em: 28 fev. 2011.

how to quote this text

ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Giant dolls of Olinda. In: PESQUISA Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2004. Available from: Access on: Month. day, year. (Ex.: Aug. 6, 2020.)