Photos: Rio Sao Francisco by Ronaldo Fraga.
Top Brazilian fashion designer Ronaldo Fraga grew up thinking the Sao Francisco (the longest that runs entirely in Brazilian territory and the fourth longest in South America) was more than just a river: every fish brought home by his fisherman father came loaded with stories and fantasies, culture, people and nature that stayed with him.
In 2008, he decided to accomplish an old desire to navigate the river with the excuse of getting inspiration for a new line of clothes which was launched in the summer of 2009. But the images the artist got from the river didn't leave his mind, and along with his team he went on to mount an art exhibition to bring all the 'magic' of the river to at least twelve Brazilian cities.
Currently showing in Sao Paulo until June 26 and then going to Rio de Janeiro, according to Fraga the exhibition (spotted at Planeta Sustentavel) is a dialogue between his fashion narrative and the rich culture of the river.
"The waters of the Sao Francisco don't fit in only one fashion collection, in one book or in one exhibition, which is why this is not an archive exposition but installations in which fashion and the river culture are 'sewed' together," he says at the project's website.
Making use of recycled materials such as PET bottles, the artist recreates the fish from the river (first picture). Repurposed tin cans are made into dresses which sit along imaginary bags of local produce from the river-banks' markets.
Old suitcases from all over the place make visitors think about travelers that crossed these waters and their dreams. Little houses with images of local inhabitants bring the towns that are nourished by the river to life.
Religion and superstition around the river is represented by crosses and vintage imagery, and recovered bottles are filled with water from different parts of the river.
Apart from the creative use of existing and discarded materials, the exhibition is a remarkable achievement in terms of making people visualize all the life that surrounds a river.
In fact, the Sao Francisco river is going through a controversial project to divert its course and send water to drier areas. Although the government states that the plan hopes to alleviate drought problems for people, other segments of society claim 70% of the diverted water will to to big businesses.
And so the story goes. At least if the Sao Francisco gets trashed with this plan, there will be a beautiful record of all that it once was in this exhibition.