Nests and Magic
by Regina Pinto, 2006, November / English Version: Sabrina Gledhill


On Sunday, November 26th, I had a magical experience. Well, to begin with, I should say that on the Wednesday before that Sunday, I had lunch with my friend Lia Belart at the excellent restaurant at the School of Visual Arts , Rio de Janeiro), which is situated in the stunning Lage Park, which is not far from the Botanical Garden. The school building was once the home of the Italian opera singer Gabriela Benzanzoni, who was married to the Count of Lage. He built the house in her honor.
Below, some photos taken outside the mansion:











The park is a small forest.



Above, the internal patio and   some restaurant tables.



Details of one of the rooms.



Virtual Visit: Film - 11,5 MB


Lunch was excellent, and when we were leaving the mansion, I ran into an artist friend - Cleone Augusto Rodrigues  - who I hadn’t seen in a very long time. She was preparing an enormous clay sculpture for an exhibition that would open on Saturday, November 25th. I first met her when I was doing research on Celeida Tostes for my Master’s thesis. Celeida Tostes also worked with sculptures and clay. This link is to a chapter from my thesis, the most visited page of the Museum of the Essential and Beyond That, after the home page. Celeida, Cleone and I spent a great deal of time together before Celeida passed away in 1995.


Cleone and I talked for a bit and she invited me to the opening of the exhibit for which she was preparing her sculpture. But since I couldn’t make it to Lage Park on opening night, I decided to go the next day – Sunday – very early, and pay her a visit, have a delicious breakfast at the school restaurant, take some photos and, last but not least, see Cleone’s finished sculpture.


On Sunday I decided to walk around Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon on my way to Lage Park. (See map: the building where I live is more or less in the red circle, and Lage Park is below the statue of Christ on Corcovado mountain.)



It wasn’t too hot because the weather was cloudy. I left home at 8:30 am and reached Lage Park at around 10:00. It took my time because I stopped countless time to take photos and short films. I should also mention that in early November I had started doing research for a new project on nests and urbanisms, which I’m carrying out bit by bit. This project was inspired and based on “Furnarius Rufus Village” by Celeida Tostes:

“The village emerged right after “Passage  , when a geologist friend who had heard about my experience, brought back from a job in Macuco a gift for me – an oven bird’s nest. I looked at that home and it reminded me of a cave, a uterus. I started making interferences.


I discovered that the layout for an oven bird’s nest is a “6” or a “9,” a spiral, a truly magical space. Establishing a relationship with a Xavante village on the banks of the Rio das Mortes, I built up a village made up of 45 of these nests for an exhibition titled “Architecture of the Earth” [1]. Four plus five equals nine, returning to the same number, nine or six. An oven bird’s nest is the beginning of a spiral. The six gives the idea of an egg. The place of initiation, the initiation house of a Xavante village, corresponds to the place for the egg; a center. And this space in the spiral is the space of life.” (Celeida Tostes)



[1] Celeida Tostes represented Brazil in the "Architecture of the Earth" exhibition held at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, France, in  1984.


"Furnarius rufus, architect, is the Brazilian bird called joão-de-barro (literally “John-of-clay” or oven bird). Reddish in color, it measures about twenty centimeters. Males and females work together to build the nest, which takes four or five days. They build to procreate. They sing while they work.

All told, they transport four to six kilos of clay. They soften the clay, carry it in their beaks and place the tiny balls side by side, one by one, forming a string in a spiral that rises until the nest is complete.

It can be said that, in general, the nest is built with its back to the cardinal point from which the dominant winds originate. And it is usually divided into two spaces. Oven birds know their craft and are capable builders. They are thoroughly familiar with the materials they use. They need rain to soften the clay.

They mix in their various enzymes to bind and strengthen it.

When their chicks can fly, the nest is abandoned. The pair of birds that built it never return. And the following spring, a new nest is built.

To perpetuate the species."


I should also clarify that before that day, I had never seen an oven-bird nest in the wild. And that is precisely what my magical experience was all about. While I was walking around the lagoon to get to Lage Park, I took the route I almost always take, and had done on the two previous days, when I heard a different kind of birdsong. I started to look for the source of the sound and then I saw it… an oven-bird nest and the birds themselves, and they were singing!!!


I immediately felt that that this wasn’t a coincidence. It couldn’t be. I had found the nest precisely on the day when I was going to visit an exhibition by Cleone, who had studied the art of clay with Celeida, and when I was just getting starting on a new project that was precisely about the Furnarius Rufus Village ... I’m absolutely convinced that this was the way Celeida found to communicate with me from the dimension where she now dwells. Cleone was also completely amazed.


Just click  HERE  to see the films I shot later. When I filmed the first one, I realized (because on the day of the discovery I was so awestruck and spellbound that I only had eyes for the nest and its inhabitants) that the birds had chosen a tree inside a heliport! And wisely, the door of the nest faced away from the position where the wind blasts while the helicopters are taking off. That made it even more astounding. I’ve spent my entire life in Rio de Janeiro, and I’m no spring chicken, but I had never seen a nest made by these birds, much less inside a heliport… What’s more, I had taken that same path on the two previous days and never noticed it.


(To view the FILMS you need to have the latest version of the Flash player installed, a fast connection and Internet Explorer or Firefox. The last bird you’ll see in the first film is a bem-te-vi [tyrant flycatcher]... another Brazilian bird that got its Portuguese name because of its song, which could be translated as “I saw you well.”)  


Below, you can see the strong presence of Cleone’s sculpture, which was being exhibited in precisely the same room where Celeida once displayed her “Furnarius Rufus Village”: