The art of Ana das Carrancas

petrolinaAna Leopoldina dos Santos, popularly known as Ana das Carrancas (Ana of the Figureheads), was a Pernambucan ceramic artist from Petrolina. When her family was in financial trouble and she wasn’t making enough money from creating tableware from clay, she prayed for a solution to her problems and thus found her place as popular ceramist of figureheads.

While down on the river collecting clay, she noticed the carrancas on the boats passing by, and the rest is history.

“A carranca (Portuguese, literally “scowl” or “gargoyle”) is a type of figurehead attached to river craft which is attributed with power to protect the boatmen from the river’s evil spirits. They were once commonly found on the lower Rio São Francisco in Brazil’s Northeast Region. The carranca is most commonly a figure of a human or an animal. They were used to identify trader’s operating on the São Francisco and, as with ancient figureheads, serve the superstitious as guardians on the river.” [1]

In 2006, two years before her death at 85 years old, she received the title of Living Heritage of Pernambuco. Her art has been recognized all over Brazil and internationally. In addition to the clip below, you can check out this video (PT), too. If you’re in Recife and don’t want to drive 720 km to Petrolina, you can find some carranca ceramics at the local Mercado de São José. Pictures of her art can be seen here.


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