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Helena Vasconcelos

Hello, my name is Helena! I am a Brazilian English teacher, based in Rio de Janeiro. I am also the mother of the coolest 8-year-old kid! I love to teach and consider myself quite lucky to make a living out of my passion! Experiencing wonderful intercultural exchange among students from other parts of Brazil and from other countries has caused me to dive deeper into the cultural aspects of my country. I hope to bring more awareness of Brazil and its people into classes. 

I first started crafting nine years ago when I was 26. DIY home decoration caught my eye. I had recently moved and I utilized all my free time to make crafts for my new home. I loved to do paintings, key holders, and other functional pieces to bring a bit of sensory stimulation to the rooms. Not all of them were very successful but it was a great pastime! Looking up Brazilian designs, I realized the significant indigenous influence on patterns and material choices, and decorated my nest with these, along with Star Wars action figures and mini movie posters of Quentin Tarantino films. It was quite an interesting layout!

Four years later, I was interning in a class about indigenous tribes and made my first authentic indigenous craft with students. We'd made a spear and a necklace. Indigenous adornments are widely made — in an adapted way — for Carnival celebrations that happen in February. We don't use authentic materials for that purpose as it is aimed at crafting indigenous costumes for fun and for heritage memory. Only indigenous people and their descendants make their crafts according to their own rituals, beliefs and cycles, and each tribe has their own.

I find it important to enhance awareness of the Brazilian indigenous tribes, because not only are many of them being erased but also their knowledge and outlook on life is too amazing to be left behind or forgotten. They make their crafts in a constant negotiation with nature, aiming to use what they find around them — may it be seeds, fibers, feathers, coconut pieces, or mud — as a means to live with gratitude and to honor the environment they've grown up in. I'm very fond of working with natural feathers and seeds, as they are easy to manipulate and always form beautiful and cheerful compositions and pieces. In times of crude destruction of natural resources around the world, bringing this philosophy and wisdom to the eyes of modern societies seems to be a way of rescuing the joy of living on this planet.

Due to the intense cultural mix, Brazil is a place where we have learned to respect and live with each other without much resistance to what is different and to incorporate varied forms of knowledge, perspectives, and customs into our lives. We are happy people besides all the social and economical hurdles we face, and this strength to smile and keep working to make it through is what makes me proud and blissful to live in Brazil.


Helena Vasconcelos
Helena Vasconcelos