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Mestre Noza

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Mestre Noza

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Last update: 30/09/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Known as Mestre Noza, Inocêncio Medeiros da Costa or Inocêncio da Costa Nick, as he asked to be called, claiming it belonged to his family, was born in Taquaritinga do Norte, Pernambuco, probably in September 1897, though there are controversies around the date of his birth.

He moved to Juazeiro do Norte, Ceará, in 1912, where he arrived as a pilgrim after walking around 600km from the municipality of Quipapá, PE, the place he was raised.

He worked doing various activities, among them a policeman, railway worker for Rede Viação Cearense, and a tinker.

From 1930, he became known as a popular artist, imager (sculptor of images) and woodcutter. His first sculpture was a St Sebastian and his first woodcut, a cordel literature cover commissioned by José Bernardo da Silva to illustrate the pamphlet of José Pacheco: A propaganda de um matuto com um balaio de maxixe.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he was a member of the juvenile court of Cine Eldorado, in Juazeiro, a position which enabled him to receive a pension. He also received bonuses from the Juazeiro City Council and the State Government of Ceará.

At his workshop, located in a small house at 265 Santo Antonio St, Juazeiro do Norte, Mestre Noza worked with two women called Zefa (Josefa Francisca da Silva) and Loura (Íris Dália Medeiros) who helped him make the images and also in the crafting of wooden revolver handles.

Getting the idea from a friend, he decided to sculpt an image of Padre Cícero. According to him, he took a piece for the Priest’s appreciation, who thought it was funny and asked: “Do I look like this?” From then on he made thousands of Padim Cícero images, to order. Only to one merchant at the Juazeiro market did he say that he had made over two thousand images.

The size of the sculptures varies from 15cm to 70cm. His preference was to use ‘imburana’ wood (a common tree in the region) and his tools were knives, saws, axes, chisels, files and two drills.

He told many stories and one of them was that he almost joined the gang of Lampião on one of his visits to the city. It wasn’t for fear of what might happen in his future that he didn’t join, but rather he decided to have a beer or two with Virgolino Ferreira da Silva’s people.

In 1963, Sérvulo Esmeraldo, an artist from Crato, gave him a series of prints of the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) and commissioned him to make the wooden templates. He was very satisfied with Mestre Noza’s work and decided to take them to France on a trip he made in 1965. He was able to produce a special edition, with only 22 copies hand printed and launched in Paris. The success was so great that a new edition of one thousand copies was made, which also quickly sold out.

From then on, orders for Mestre Noza increased greatly and the artist became an object for study in various universities, including European ones.

He showed works of sculpture and woodcut at several expositions in Crato, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and Paris.

He also made some cachaça labels and was always considered the great popular artist of Cariri.

His most famous works are the Via Sacra, a collection of 15 prints, whose first edition was published in Paris (1965) by editor Robert Morel, with presentation by Sérvulo Esmeraldo; Os doze apóstolos (The Twelve Apostles) (13 boards) and A vida de Lampião (The Life of Lampião) (22 boards).

He was the maker of countless woodcuts to illustrate cordel literature pamphlet covers, as well as thousands of statues of Padre Cícero and various saints scattered throughout Brazil and the world. According to him, referring to the images, aside from Padre Cícero he really liked to make images of St Francis and St Anthony.

Suffering from illness, Mestre Noza went to live in São Paulo, where he died on 21 December 1983, from cardio-respiratory failure.

In 1997, the Padre Cícero Memorial Foundation from Juazeiro do Norte held an event in his honour: 100 anos de Noza (100 Years of Noza).

Recife, 14 June 2007.
(Updated on 31 August 2009.)
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.


sources consulted

AYALA, Walmir (Coord.). Dicionário brasileiro de artistas plásticos. Brasília, D.F.: INL, 1977. v.3, p. 268-269.

CASIMIRO, Renato. Mestre Noza. Recife: Fundaj, Instituto de Pesquisas Sociais, Coordenadoria de  Estudos Folclóricos, 2001. 12 p. (Folclore, 284).

COIMBRA, Silvia Rodrigues; MARTINS, Flavia; DUARTE, Maria Letícia. O reinado da lua: escultores populares do nordeste. Rio de Janeiro: Salamandra, 1980. p. 228-229.


how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Mestre Noza. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.