Born in Bezerros in 1935, a town in the interior of Pernambuco with only 500 inhabitants, J. Borges is one of the most renowned artists of the Northeast, Living Heritage of his state and an international reference of Brazilian popular woodcuting. His woodcuts reflect both the day-to-day reality and the folklore of the northeastern backwoods, representing in a creative way the diverse symbologies of that region.
Always involved in supporting his family, making wooden spoons to sell at fairs or handicraft toys, little José Francisco Borges was already fascinated by literature, especially that of cordel, so popular in the backwoods and which, he says, served not only as amusement, but also as a way of learning to read.
One day, already in his late twenties, Borges worked in the region selling cordel when he decided to venture into a different endeavor: to be the writer of his own stories. Enthusiastic about the success of the first publication (O Encontro de Dois Vaqueiros no Sertão de Petrolina, illustrated by Mestre Dila), soon he began producing other stories, which demanded that he find artists to create the covers. Unable to afford the illustrators, Borges did not let himself be beaten. He picked up a piece of wood and, even with little experience about woodcuting, produced the first of hundreds of woodcuts for his and others’ stories that he would illustrate throughout his life. In the 1970s, encouraged by artists and intellectuals such as Ariano Suassuna, his work with woodcuts first gained national fame, soon also to become international, with exhibitions in Europe, Central America and the USA, bringing to these regions all the imagination of the Brazilian Northeast.
Now 82 years old, J. Borges still lives in Bezerros, producing his woodcuts with the help of his children.