By Stephanie Foden, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The exhibit of handmade Brazilian toys “Brinquedos que moram nos sonhos” (Toys that live in dreams), just closed in Salvador and was a great success with more than 80,000 visitors. Next the exhibition is planning to have the toy collection tour Brazil with stops in Recife, Brasília and Rio de Janeiro soon.
The exhibition opened in December last year in Salvador in the Art Museum of Bahia (Museu de Arte da Bahia), and included around 2,000 pieces divided into eight themed rooms from the collection of passionate toy collector David Glat.
Glat, a professional photographer, has long been an admirer of the toy making craft. Over 45 years of compilation and careful research resulted in the collection of toys from all over Brazil. Through acquisitions, swaps and donations, the collection is constantly expanding – and now being partly displayed in museums.
“I can safely say that the exhibition was an overwhelming success in Salvador. Children, adults, the elderly, the rich, the poor, locals, tourists, men and women, all without a single exception loved the exhibition,” Glat told The Rio Times.
“Words of a French tourist to whom I was introduced at the exit of the exhibition: ‘I have traveled through dozens of countries and visited hundreds of exhibits, but this is where I saw for the first and only time public, monitors, and even the security guards smiling all the time.’”
Glat had first turned his toy collection into an exhibition in late 2011 at the African Brazilian Museum (Museu Afro Brasil) in São Paulo, with 1,100 items exclusively from the Northeast under the name “Playing with Art,” before he moved the exhibition to Salvador with a new name.
He now plans to have the collection travel throughout Brazil and other countries over the next few years. The exhibition will move to Recife and Brasília later this year and then to Rio de Janeiro next year. However, his ultimate goal is for the exhibit to stop being a travel collection, and turn into the Museum of Popular Toys.
Most of the handmade toys in Brazil, and in Glat’s collection, come from the Northeastern countryside of Brazil, where toy makers are more common. Playthings made here bind strongly to the traditions, celebrations and living conditions of the region.
The array of toys are constructed from a wide variety of materials used by craft makers including wood, fabric, rubber, paper mache, cardboard and recyclates. Most of the toys created are the spin-off of material poverty and the desire to bring happiness to a child, combined with a creative flair that often borders on genius.
Despite the exhibits’ success, Glat explains that as globalization moves forward and leads us to an inevitable cultural homogenization – not to mention the offer of Chinese toys at prices so low it makes competition impracticable – creators of folk toys are increasingly demotivated and their universe, which is already struggling, might quickly fade away.
“In order to avoid this irreparable cultural loss, aiding measures have to be urgently implemented by federal, state, and municipal authorities,” Glat warns. “Fortunately, some culture departments, most notably in Northeastern Brazil, have been on top of this issue. A light at the end of the tunnel but, for now, a drop in the ocean.”