Culture is future » Territorial attractiveness and social cohesion


Who is Totonho ?

Almost 40 years ago, Antonio de Araújo Pereira (artist name: Totonho) moved from the countryside of the Brazilian state of Bahia to its capital, Salvador. After an idyllic childhood at the farm of his grandparents, moving  to a city was a huge culture shock. But the real shock occurred some years later when he returned to his place of birth: the once green and fertile land had completely withered and the rivers he used to fish with his father had dried out. It was then that Totonho decided to fight to preserve nature. He chose his own weapons: brushes and canvas.

Totonho paints as long as he can remember. As a little boy he noticed how coffee colored a towel brown, how red earth changed into paint when it rained, and how fruits and seeds left marks on his clothes. Instinctively, he started to paint and, in lack of paper he painted on the walls. "First my father was angry, but soon he took his friends to show my painting.” He also surprised his mother who designed and sewed clothes: “I always thought her designs on paper were kind of weird because they were only clothes, without people. I secretly took her designs and drew characters inside those clothes."

Living in Salvador, Totonho developed as an artist. He started to work with oil paint and portrayed the   monuments, churches and famous historical places of the city. He got advice from other artists, but never attended an art-academy. "I am one hundred percent self-taught. Once I started a course at the art academy in Salvador, but it was not so successful. Inspired by the song "Oração ao Tempo" by Caetano Veloso, I made a surrealistic painting. The teacher thought I had gone completely crazy. I had to paint according to his rules, but that just didn't work for me."

Totonho began to select his own themes, immersed himself in art history and was impressed by Salvador Dali. Totonho's paintings contain surreal elements, but are colorful and meticulously detailed. They are mainly dreamscapes, intriguing mixtures of fiction and reality that often involve the landscapes of his youth, landscapes that no longer exist. "I feel a strong need to capture my memories. At the farm, my grandparents were self-sufficient. They grew beans, corn, manioc, fruits, coffee and tobacco. The soil was fertile and green, and the rivers and lakes were full of fish. Close to our land was the rainforest full of wildlife and mysteries... "

This is the rich and beautiful nature that had disappeared when Totonho returned to the countryside a few years after he moved to Salvador: "The farmers had wasted the land. They had cut down the trees to burn and sell the charcoal, or to plant grass for the cattle to eat. They were only concerned about the profit, but the horrific consequences were already visible: Rivers and lakes had dried up and the once fertile land was had been completely wasted. I knew I had to do something to show my anger and disgust about the greed of mankind."

Now, Totonho already travels the world for years to exhibit his work and to give workshops. He enjoys working with children, who he teaches to care about nature and to explore their talents. "I'm happy with my work because I get the attention from children and from people who are sensitive to the beauty of nature." Nature remains his main inspiration: "I can't imagine anything as beautiful as the rain falling down on dried out soil. To see the plants and trees get green again after a period of blistering heat. And I love fishing, casting my lines into a lake or river and wait till I get a catch. That gives me peace and inspiration. It's one of my biggest concerns that things like that will no longer be possible because there is no nature left."

To go further

Website of Totonho

 Totonho on Facebook


A contribution of Eva Bomans

Credits: Natan Fox