High-School students of the Escola Internacional de Alphaville had the valuable opportunity of participating in a lecture with the graphic artist Elifas Andreato.
With an admirable path within national arts, Elifas Andreato is one of the most important and award-winning graphic artists of Brazil: born into a humble family, in the interior of Paraná, he has been a laborer, a political activist, and Professor of Arts at USP; besides, he has recorded his name in Brazilian culture producing, since the 1970’s, more than 450 classic covers of albums for artists such as Pixinguinha, Cartola, Paulinho da Viola, Martinho da Vila, Elis Regina and Chico Buarque.
In addition, Elifas Andreato – whose work can be better understood through the site www.elifasandreato.com – also applied his creativity, talent and sensitivity in other aspects of graphic arts, as in the creation of posters for theatrical performances and covers for influential publications of the 1960’s and 1970’s, such as Movimento, Opinião and Argumento, besides having edited the covers of Veja magazine between 1979 and 1980, and participated in its graphic improvement.
Presently, Elifas continues working with full creative and professional energy: in addition to editing the “Almanaque Brasil de Cultura Popular” (www.almanaquebrasil.com.br), he is preparing the re-launch, together with Toquinho, of the album “Canção de Todas as Crianças”, which was originally launched in1987.
The following is a selection with the best moments of the lecture:
I am a hillbilly, I came from the countryside to São Paulo at the age of 12. I was extremely poor. I don't really like talking about it, but it is important, within this context. (...)I remember even today the smell of the room made of cork where we lived.
Until I was 15 years old, I could not read or write. I was really ashamed of it.
I have a single diploma, the one for adult literacy. When I learned to read, the world grew a lot, and hopes did too.
The first text I read was “White Nights”, by Dostoyevsky. The person who gave it to me was “Caipirinha”, a criminal in the region where I lived, and who was later killed by “Esquadrão da Morte”. Incidentally, the criminals who played ball with me protected me, not allowing me to get involved in anything which was wrong; they saw that I had a potential that could not be wasted on misunderstandings. I have always been very grateful to all those characters.
Poverty teaches you that you cannot miss any opportunity. It leaves after-effects, but it teaches that.
Dreaming is essential
In this sense, dreams are essential to continue persevering and believing in oneself. And if I never I abandoned my dream, it was because a lot of good people helped me.
My first job was at the “Fiat Lux” factory, in Vila Anastácio. I was a factory worker, a lathe operator. I wanted to fulfill a dream, live a life which was different from that of those men at the factory, who worked during the day and went to bars at night.
The journal of the factory
After some time, I began to draw in stencil for the factory journal. I also started to criticize the directors of the factory. Soon, Dr. Paulo, the owner, came looking for me; then the workers, who were afraid I would be fired, hid me at the back of the factory. In fact, he wanted to talk to me so that I would decorate a newly opened hall. So, there I went to paint, although I had never worked with paint before.
Beginnings in the press
I was discovered by journalist Marly Medalha, from “Diário da Noite”. And so it was as wonder boy that I started collaborating with the newspaper. However, I had a major perception: not to leave the factory. That, in fact, helped me because the work at the newspaper did not prosper.
I feel like a sad clown, because I have always seen clowns as people who carry on their work, regardless of what they feel.
All great work, as well as life, comes from hard work, the dedication, the pain one feels.
I managed to accomplish a rare kind of work for a person with my biography. Recently, I received a tribute in Rolândia, the city where I was born, with the inauguration of “Estação Cultural Elifas Andreato”. I also received, from the hands of President Lula, at the end of last year, the “Ordem do Mérito Cultural”( Order for Cultural Merit). All this has taken years of dedication, with some commitments I made with myself: I always aimed at following the path of goodness; I positioned myself against the Brazilian military regime (1964-1985); I never did anything that I was asked to do, nor traded anything for money.
I chose a profession – as illustrator of works – that is less than the work on which I create. However, I had to make a synthesis of a complex work, composed of several songs, in only one picture. Accordingly, no publisher or composer directed my work. Normally I heard what the musician, writer or playwright wanted, after a football match or snooker, and sought to summarize this idea in a picture, always respecting the great work that I would illustrate.
Rede Globo was created out of dictatorship and of the group Time-Life, to watch over our mischief, born of the desire of a national network that unified the "language". They were right, we really wanted to put an end to dictatorship.
We weren't the only ones censored at the time. However, there was a difference compared to large media companies: these were already controlled by a prior censorship of their own officers and journalists.
Looking at the covers of Veja magazine which I edited between 1979 and 1980, on hunger and poverty in Africa, I realize that the reality in this continent has changed little, or even gotten worse.
When the censor saw the cover of “Opinião” magazine in which Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns was portrayed, in a drawing wearing a red tunic, I started being assaulted right there. And I continued to be beat while I was in jail.
I really feel like a member of a victorious generation, which dedicated the best years of their lives to building a more just and generous country.
There is no other path for the construction of a nation than through education.
On my drawing and how I've developed in this area, I'm going to use a phrase of the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) to explain it: “Style is born when you try to do what you don't know how to do, and do what you can do.”
Paulinho da Viola
I came to Paulinho’s apartment and found it odd that there were only two stools, no more furniture. He apologized and sang “Nervos de Aço”. And as the lyrics are very clear, “você sabe o que é ter um amor, meu senhor / ter loucura por uma mulher / e depois encontrar esse amor, meu senhor / nos braços de um outro qualquer”, I feared there was something wrong. Then I made that cover in which he appears, crying and holding a bouquet of flowers in his hand. It was a problem... When he saw the cover,he was a little scared. The recording company refused to release it. Then Paulinho, who was quiet during the meeting, spoke. “I also found the cover strange, but it is the cover of my album...” When it was released, an avalanche of reports against it was published, asking to take it out of circulation.
Vinícius and Toquinho
In 1974, Toquinho, my soccer companion, asked me to make the cover of his new album with the poet Vinícius de Moraes. The album contained a song, whose lyrics describe a father in the cradle of his son, with irresistible poetry, the boy growing up, asking questions, the revived father, the passionate and aging father. It ended with the child in his father's deathbed thinking about the child he would like to have. I had decided that I would not have children, and the song made me change my way of thinking. In a meeting with Vinicius, he told me: “If you do not have children, life will not have the meaning that it must have and you will never understand your father.” Two years later, inspired by the poetry, my son Bento was born. Soon after, Laura was born, and my life resumed in a much happier way, in the wonder of watching them grow, asking questions, seeing me age as I myself had seen my father. A long time later, I met Vinícius again, and he recalled my father’s story. However, I had no time to reconcile with him.
When producing the cover for the album that celebrated the seventy years of Adoniran, I developed a study in which he was pictured as a clown, in what would be the album's sleeve notes. But, then, for fear of displeasing the old artist in depicting him that way, I decided to produce a more traditional cover, with Adoniran dressed up, all tidy, wearing a hat and bowtie. I delivered the design of the clown to Fernando Faro, who was the producer of the album. A few days later, Adoniran called me and said: “Elifas, I am that sad clown, not that German you drew.” Fernando Faro had given him the drawing.
Canção de Todas as Crianças
We are about to re-launch, Toquinho and I, the album, “Canção de Todas as Crianças”, which we recorded in 1987. In this project, I wrote lyrics, which later received music by Toquinho, based on the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is a kind of manual to teach the rights of children. At that time, we already talked about bullying, prejudice, family restructuring, it was all there. We intend to launch versions in Spanish and in English of this material – we are in negotiations to, perhaps, write it in Spanish with Shakira and in English with Bono Voz. Can you imagine? This is a project of which I am very proud, because early childhood care is essential.