Papermaking at the Brazilian School





These are some excerpts from my time spent at the Brazilian school in the capital of Saõ Tomè, Africa. We worked with the paper making and book binding students to learn how to make their unique paper fashioned from the trunks of banana trees. The process is exceptionally complex and begins with hacking the trunks into wheel forms with a machete. Next, the ‘wheels’ are cut into smaller pieces which are then collected into a large concrete container. Similar to wine makers, the pieces are crushed with one’s feet and then left to ferment. Afterwards, ash is collected from the local bakery. The large stones and debris are shifted out with screens and the ash is then boiled in giant metal cylinders in order to create a natural acid. The acid is used to break down the larger pieces into more fibrous materials. Through repeated washing, draining, and eventual blending, a pulp is created. Lastly the pulp is suspended in a liquid which sits on the surface of a screen before it is set aside to dry. Some of the screens have raised designs embroidered into them which transform into raised reliefs in the dried paper. The paper is used to create lanterns, books, folders, and other crafts.As part of our cultural exchanged, we sought to educate the craftsmen on how to market their artwork. Internet access is fairly new and blogging, websites, etsy, and other forms of marking and public relations are essential in order to support the artisans on this remote island community.

Recently, a school has been opened in the Capital run by Brazilians. The goal of the school is to educate Sao Tomeans in a varity of crafts so that they can then utilize the skillsets to begin their own businesses in order to alleviate poverty. Crafts include woodworking, jewerlymaking, paper making, book binding, embroidery, weaving, and so on. I and Cynthu worked for three weeks with the school in order to make paper out of banana trees. This video illustrates some of the process.