A gift of song from the valley

Maria Fernanda Paes de Barros

1 June 2023

Maria Fernanda Paes de Barros explains how to “purchase” a song from the women of Jequitinhonha Valley.

Playing verse, as they say in the Jequitinhonha Valley, is a tradition of the beautiful people who live in this rather isolated region of Minas Gerais, Brazil. A tradition that accompanies the daily lives of women workers, whether in the fields or in handicrafts. They sing while they embroider, spin or do any other kind of work, but also sing in moments of joy and fun when they gather at the neighbour’s house to sing at night, dance around the bonfire and play verses.

At parties, harvest celebrations, community meetings, and birthday parties, people get together to sing in circles. All, present in the circle, sing together a refrain, which is interspersed with verses. The verses are “played” individually, and can be sung improvised or part of a traditional repertoire, sometimes mixing known stanzas with others created on the spot. The verses can be confronting, when they end up becoming games where one participant challenges the other.

Through the Versinhos de Bem-Querer project, the games became a source of income. When you buy a verse, you join in the fun and contribute to spreading the joy and beauty of the culture of the Jequitinhonha Valley. The amount collected from the sale of verses is used to remunerate the players for the work carried out and also financially support Tingui projects, a non-profit organization that operates in the development of socio-cultural and socio-environmental projects aimed at improving the quality of lives of residents of rural communities in the Jequitinhonha Valley at social and economic risk

How it works

  1. You buy a well-wishing verse for just R$35.00.
  2. The Verse’s organizers will contact you by email to find out who the verse will be for.
  3. The Jequitinhonha Valley verse players will create a verse, especially for you.
  4. You will receive the verse on your WhatsApp and you can send it to whoever you want, spreading joy and goodwill.
  5. The deadline is up to 10 days for you to receive the verse after having answered the email with the requested information.

To Atefe, with love

I met Atefe with the help of Instagram. I, who was never a big fan of social media and digital platforms, confess that I changed this perception during the pandemic, after my path crossed with so many wonderful people, following in the footsteps of common values, transparency and truth. Atefe Mirsane, or Ati as her friends called her, got in touch with me. I can’t remember exactly how anymore, but I know that her heart found my profile. She started to follow me and I followed her back, enchanted by her incredible creation of jewellery that carries the essence of Iran, her country of origin and where her heart lives. The passion that led her to create, together with other young Iranians, the Craftland Magazine with the aim of promoting their handicrafts, art and culture.

Shortly afterwards I read a post from her about the beautiful article she had written for Garland Magazine, a magazine that seeks to tell the stories behind what we do, another “passion at first reading”. Ati put me in touch with the magazine’s editor saying that she was sure we would have a lot in common. We had virtually known each other for a short time, and she already knew me so well!

Since the day she wrote an email to introduce us, I have written some stories for Garland, sharing the handicrafts and traditions of Brazil, I participated as a Pathfinder collaborating in the search for the question that would contextualize the stories shared in some editions of the magazine and met in person in Israel for the opening of the Tel Aviv Biennale of Craft and Design. From there we left together with the ceramist and anthropologist Francisca Gilli for the West Bank, in a deep dive into Palestinian life, history and craftsmanship that certainly transformed the way we see the world, its relationships and the information that reaches us.

How can I thank Atefe for so much? I know that for her the gratitude is in the fruit of our relationships that are strengthened and continue to sow and share like her, but even so, I would like to give her an extra smile. I offer her a gift from Versinhos de Bem-Querer, a tradition sung by women from the Jequitinhonha Valley, in the interior of Brazi, so here it goes:

Verses of goodwill

Created and sung by Grace Pereira de Matos

Jequitinhonha Valley, Brasil
I planted my rosemary tree,
My rosemary tree didn’t thrive,
Within 15 days my rosemary tree blossomed.
Serene at dawn,
lemon tree blossomed,
For Atefe I will sing many verses with love.
It rains very finely,
Water the Jacaranda tree,
Many affectionate verses for Atefe I will sing.
To sing this verse
I rehearsed for a week,
Atefe is a designer, she is a young Iranian woman.
Promoting crafts
and the art of her parents,
Spreading culture makes Atefe happier.
This verse has affection,
friendship and well-wishing,
It was Maria Fernanda who sent it to you.

Follow @mulheresdojequitinhonha, @rodadeversos and @tingui_org.

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