Valter Hugo Mae
The author is the honoree of Fliaraxá 2019. Photo: Fronteiras do Pensamento / Greg Salibian

The writer Valter Hugo Mãe is, in addition to being one of the most beloved names in Portuguese-speaking literature, a lover of the visual arts. He has created and disseminated illustrations on his social networks and has even illustrated an edition of his work. Heaven is others.

Born in Angola when still a colony, but raised in Paços Ferreira, Portugal, he has also reached, with his work, several countries beyond the Portuguese language, such as Croatia, Colombia, Israel, Serbia and Ireland, among others. This year, the author is honored at the Araxá Literary Festival, in Minas Gerais, affectionately nicknamed Fliaraxá, which takes place between June 19 and 23. In addition to Valter, the fair focuses on the life and work of Machado de Assis, patron of the event in 2019.

At the invitation of Afonso Borges, creator and curator of Fliaraxá, Valter created a series of illustrations for the festival's visual identity. Since he was little, says the author, they said he would be a painter when he grew up: “But that didn't happen. In words, on the other hand, I was always surprised.”

À ARTE!Brasileiros, he tells a little about his approach to the visual arts and how it fits into his life today. In addition, the author comments on the guidelines of education and culture in the current Brazilian political situation:

ARTE!Brasileiros – When did your connection to the visual arts begin?

Valter Hugo Mother – When I was a boy, I was constantly told that I would grow up to be a painter. I spent my life drawing. In fact, I secretly thought that words would be more important and I was always frustrated because my hand couldn't paint what I wanted to see. I drew a lot in the hope that there would be a purely miraculous stroke that would reveal some wonder. But that didn't happen. In words, on the other hand, I was always surprised. My head was suspended over a verse. As if the soul climbed beyond the body and watched the world in amazement.

In this generosity of words, and in the difficulty of the visual arts, I grew up. Using words and putting off the arts until today.

“Actually, I secretly thought that words would be more important and I was frustrated because my hand couldn’t paint what I wanted to see”

Are the shapes you work more drawings and paintings?

I draw with some really crazy brushes that have their own tank for water paints. It's kind of lazy or inexperienced artist thing. I live obstinately. I take it with me to coffee and keep repeating shapes until they look better. Until I know how to do something I didn't know before. It's very challenging. Over time, the hand, after all, finds small things, certain achievements that, at my age, are no longer art, they are just a curiosity.

I have the impression that some people outside of Portugal see their works with visual arts just as if they were a kind of hobby of theirs, since everything is part of a whole job. You have even held exhibitions and illustrated your own books. Do you get that impression sometimes? What would you say about it?

I'm really an amateur, someone who loves the fine arts and tries to do something for fun. I had an exhibition twelve years ago. I will do another one this year. I don't want them to think I'm part of the artists, I want them to see me as a writer who creates some crazy figures that we can see. Perhaps poetic, perhaps amusing, above all, it would be my glory, that it is understood that I am looking for something very intuitive that does not correspond to any wisdom, to any school, it will be due to a need to be free. To create an expression that offers me the freedom possible.

For Fliaraxá 2019, of which you are the honoree, you created an entire visual arts project. How was the invitation to make these illustrations and what was it like to do so?

Blame it on Afonso Borges who saw a small bird and asked me to invent something. I invented a Machado de Assis and a Valter Hugo Mãe that I put together in some poses. I smile while drawing. They are like children's drawings. Very simple. I wouldn't know how to do anything more complicated. I just wanted Afonso to assure me that it made sense. It was never, never would be, for me, an issue to appear as a visual artist at the festival (or anywhere). Afonso liked it and found it fun. The project has moved forward.

Do you want to exhibit here in Brazil?

I do not know if I should. Exhibiting here next to the house [in Portugal] I can say that it is to bring the family together. Exhibiting in Brazil will look like I want more than I can. But I love to draw. Who knows, as stubborn as I am, if in a few years I believe it will be worth it?

the cover of The most beautiful things in the world, one of the books you are now launching in Brazil by Biblioteca Azul, has an art by Nino Cais on the cover. What other Brazilian artists do you follow? And around the world?

I follow many. In Brazil, in addition to Nino, I am in awe of Eduardo Berliner. He did the images for four of my novels at the Blue Library. He's not normal, he's absolutely exceptional. Alex Cerveny too. How wonderful your lines, your animals.
Then there is an infinity with whom I have never worked but for whom I sigh, from Vik Muniz to Adriana Varejão, to Ernesto Neto, Cildo Meireles, Regina Silveira, or to the now deceased Tunga (who genius) and Artur Bispo do Rosário. Brazilian art is generous and fascinating. I keep wanting to know.
Internationally, I am an admirer of some very obscure ones, such as David Tibet, Laurie Lipton, Odd Nerdrum and Fatima Ronquillo, or the already classics Bosch, William Blake (one of my absolute passions), and Bacon. In Portugal, allow me to highlight, for example, among the living and the dead, Artur do Cruzeiro Seixas, Vihls, Álvaro Lapa, Graça Morais, Paula Rêgo, my friend Isabel Lhano, Juan Domingues and the drawings by José Rodrigues. Anyway. The list should be much, much longer.

“Teachers and more teachers are the brave soldiers of all nations”

Observing your engagement in solidarity with the issues that involve education and art in Brazilian politics today, I couldn't help but ask you to talk a little about how you have seen all this.

I deeply regret that, after becoming the promised country of the XNUMXst century during Lula's first term, Brazil has been succumbing to corruption to the point of jeopardizing all the rights conquered. I deeply regret that the most obvious things are being called into question today, such as education and culture. I think it is aberrant that one can doubt the importance of education. It can only be dementia or a bandit gesture justifying the attack on teaching. Culture, which generates identity, self-esteem, invention, is constantly subject to attacks, however, there is no way to end the drive for creation. Art will always exist and will always await freedom. On the other hand, if education is eliminated, the country itself is eliminated. Because a bunch of ignorant people will just be an animal group devouring what has been made, not knowing how to produce anything. Without knowing how to contribute, neither for the present nor for the future. Democracy is education. Without distributing access to the school to everyone you will NEVER achieve any justice. The empowerment of people happens through education. Only this can empower each person to the point of saying that, within their specific difference, each one has had an equal opportunity. Each one is the same. There are no doubts about that. Progress is school. Democracy is school. Freedom is school. Future is school. Humanity is school. Teachers and more teachers are the brave soldiers of all nations. Their offices are those of saving the future.


  1. Nice interview Jamyle, so delicate and at the same time political. Very nice to meet you in this dark moment that we are plunged into!

  2. Sublime and profound this interview with Walter Hugo Mãe. Too bad the majority of those who are interested and read are those who have critical thinking. Meanwhile, who should receive these pearls of conscience, have their eyes closed…

  3. Ever since I got to know your writings, I've been amazed by the lyricism present in them!
    Long live Walter Hugo Mother!

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