Last week, while visiting the Zuiderzee museum in Enkhuizen, I was sent back to my childhood years through the works of artist Caroline Fuchs (NL 1964), who amongst 54 other artists, designers and photographers were asked to create works for the exhibition “Gejaagd door de Wind” which theme was “Folklore”
Fuchs created a room full of infant dummies wearing their folkloric Queen’s day customs. When entering the room, a Brazilian folkloric character, the Saci-Perere, jumped into my mind. Not that the dummies were black or one legged, neither did they smoke pipes or wore red hats and shorts, but the somewhat magical atmosphere in the room created by the unusual styling, use of vivid colors and choice of rather scary dummies just sent me to a different time and place.
The Saci-Perere is, without doubt, the most famous character in Brazilian folklore. Apparently he chooses to live close to farms and will not cause major harm, but there is no little harm that he won’t do. He will hide children’s toys, set farm animals loose, tease dogs, and curse chicken eggs preventing them from hatching. In the kitchen, the Saci would spill salt, sour the milk, burn the bean stew, and drop flies into the soup. In short, anything that goes wrong — in the house, or outside it — may be confidently blamed on the Saci.
Besides disappearing or becoming invisible (often with only his red cap and the red glow of his pipe still showing), the Saci can transform himself into a Matitaperê or Matita Pereira, an elusive bird whose melancholic song seems to come from nowhere. One can escape a pursuing Saci by crossing a water stream: the Saci will not dare to cross, for then he will lose all his powers. Another way is to drop ropes full of knots; the Saci will then be compelled to stop and undo the knots. One can also try to appease him by leaving behind some cachaca, or some tobacco for his pipe