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painting armadillo girl

You cross a stream and head upwards along a dirt road, the cicadas keeping you company. But should you try to approach them, they clam up.

Leading from the dirt road there is a track through tall grass, and a bit further up is Sr Olavo’s place. He sits outside his small,  humble dwelling. Sr Olavo has a beaming white smile that glitters with many carefully-positioned gold fragments. He and Dona Maria, his aged and almost blind wife, live here with three of their eight children.

‘Please tell me some stories’ –  and he launches straight into what sounds like a one-hundred verse saga crammed full of weird images. Sr Olavo recites this all so quickly that it’s difficult to keep track.  In the very first stanza, a monstrous beast (the-beast-with-a-crooked-hand) comes to a poor man’s door – the man slays the beast with his knife. Its fat fills the vats and its skin is used to make shoes for the beautiful young daughter to wear when her young man comes courting. The rhythm of the poem is circular and repetitive and Sr Olavo make this story come alive.

They say he never leaves out even a detail – his proud granddaughters tell me he is 84 years old and has a perfect memory.

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