The Carnival of Olinda, Brazil reaches its peak on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) when densely-packed crowds anxiously await the Parade of the Giant Puppets. These puppets convene on a square high above the city, awaiting the journey down the cobblestone streets. Some of the puppets are modeled after figures in Brazilian life from politicians to newspaper boys.
Burke Museum Puppets
Fabric artist Kiki Corona produces ornate costumes regionally for festivals and for performing artists. He has been commissioned to create and dress two of these Olinda-style parade puppets exclusively for the Burke Museum’s ¡Carnaval! exhibit. The two puppets are Mulher do Dia (“Woman of the Day”) and Homem da Meia Noite (“Midnight Man”). Made of paper mache, fabric, and wood, these nearly 15-foot-tall puppets sit atop the shoulders of young men. During the Parade of Giant Puppets, they bring the puppets to life dancing, spinning, and bowing to an applauding audience as the festivities last deep into the night.
History of “Woman of the Day” and “Midnight Man” Puppets
Giant dolls, boneco gigante in Portugese, were first created by Tharcio Botelho in 1937. The first boneco was Homem da Meia Noite, the Midnight Man. He wore a black top hat, tuxedo with white buttons, and a gold tooth. A Mulher do Dia, the Woman of the Day, was made a few years later to accompany the Midnight Man. The people of Olinda married the two at a public ceremony. A son and daughter soon joined the family, A Menina de Tarde, the Girl of the Afternoon, and O Menino de Tarde, the Boy of the Afternoon. To this day, the Midnight Man wanders the streets every year at midnight on Carnival Saturday to signal that the party has started.