Recife is full of good surprises, especially when it comes to creativity. Passing by the city recently, I was inspired by two places I had the time to visit: Cais do Sertão and Paço do Frevo, located at the old downtown, which was recently renovated and is a must-see in case you visit the city. Along the streets, little-colored houses and sounds coming from acoustic boomboxes on the sidewalks or from the old-fashioned bars, or botecos, surrounding the area only adds excitement to the neighborhood.
CAIS DO SERTÃO
Built at Armazém 10, the Museum Cais do Sertão has Luiz Gonzaga, one of the most influential figures of Brazilian popular music, as its main figure. The museum opened its doors in April ’14 and brings together all the beauty and the memories from the sertão nordestino, or the Northeastern wilderness. The journey starts in a room with images transporting you to this universe through incredible and touching pictures and reports from that time. This initial immersion is followed by a trip down the backcountry culture, with videos, sound and visual installations, displays of attire, costumes, and even kitchen utensils. There’s a huge archive presenting all of Luiz Gonzaga’s trajectory, which isn’t small, and where the visitor can sing some of his songs and even play instruments from the nordestino culture.
In the ground floor, there’s the “São Francisco River” passing through the entire space, which is wide and divided into small sections, each representing a piece of the sertão. On one side, the history of Luis Gonzaga; on the other, objects, clothing, and utensils used by families in this region. There’s also a beautiful mirror installation shaped as a tunnel, in which our image is projected in its mirrored walls as you walk through it. In the first floor, small studios allow for interaction with Brazilian country music, or sertanejo, again giving visitors the opportunity to sing and/or play instruments.
For now, only the first module is open, housing two floors of displays and installations. The curatorship and creative direction are under the name of Isa Grinspum Ferraz. The design of the building, by the seashore, is also impressive.
“People that find the sertão unattractive are usually from the woodlands or the city,” once said Brazilian writer Ariano Suassuna. “So, they are used to a type of beauty that’s more attached to grace. The beauty of the woods is gracious; the beauty of the sertão is attached to grandiosity. It is vast and frightful in certain moments, which gives its beauty a very different connotation, very strange but very strong.”
The place will definitely help change your perspective and fall in love with the sertão’s incredibly rich culture.
Cais do Sertão
Av. Alfredo Lisboa, s/nº, Armazém 10. Recife Antigo
Thursday through Sunday, from 11am to 5pm
Free admission on Thursdays
PAÇO DO FREVO
You don’t need to know Frevo, a local musical style associated with Carnaval, to visit this place because the space is worth a visit anyway. The Paço is located in a beautiful white house on a corner across from Arsenal square.
Right at the entrance, you will see a hallway with an incredible display of photos, part of the museum’s archive, from Pierre Verger and Marcel Gautherot, who captured images of the Pernambucano carnival in the ‘40s. The collection celebrates the characters, musicians, passistas, seamstresses, and the carnival associations, narrating the history and the tradition of Frevo. At the end of the hallway, you will find yourself in a beautiful room telling the story, origins, and evolution of the rhythm using objects, texts, and photos.
The upper floor is wide. Frevo lyrics are engraved on the glasses of its big red windows; pictures and ornaments are spread throughout the walls and under the acrylic floors, creating a magnificent scenery. The space offers several activities related to Frevo such as talks, workshops, and even a dance school.
It is worth noticing that Frevo is one of the most important cultural traditions in Brazil, and it has been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco, since 2012.
Paço do Frevo
Praça Arsenal, Recife Velho
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9am to 6pm; Thursdays, from 9am to 9pm.
Saturdays and Sundays, from 12pm to 7pm
*This article was originally published in Portuguese by Lalai Persson at Chicken or Pasta. Translation by Priscila Toledo.