On Brazil

I woke up to the shrill sound of parakeets and other strange bird calls confusing my jetlagged brain.

Oh yes, now I remember, I am in Brazil about 350 kilometers from Sao Pauloin the city Ribeirau Pietro.

Mario Leal invited me to do a bonsai demonstration at the convention which he organizes by himself once a year.

After a breakfast of exotic fruits and small cups of very strong coffee Suthin Sukosol came to visit and I venture outside to inspect the bonsai material that is for sale. Suthin is an American bonsai master, originally from Thailand who will also be doing demonstrations at the convention.

Different sizes of healthy Shimpaku junipers, Japanese black pine, trident maples and some foreign plants draw our attention. The Brazilian rain trees impress me the most with their peeling bark imitating the leopard trees we know. Their live growth veins are reminiscent of rippling muscles like my favorite buddleia saligna trees. The leaves of these trees look exactly like our indigenous black monkey thorns but without the thorns that grab more than your attention.

Suthin and I both style trees which will be sold on an auction. He works on a shipaku juniper and I try to create an African style.

After lunch Vladimer Ondejcik from Slovakia who is the third international demonstrator arrives.

Bonsai enthusiasts from all parts of Brazil also start arriving. Every one who enters through the front gate, arrive with enthusiasm towards bonsai. I have seldom experienced such a lot of enthusiasm, it is contagious.

Brazil is a big country, most bonsai for the exhibition and their owners have traveled further than 1000 kilometers to be a part of this convention. One enthusiast spent 23 hours traveling by bus while another used three flights and a bus.

Mario’s brother acts as chauffeur to fetch people from the airport and bus station. The language barrier is shattered by the mutual love of bonsai. Most of the people attending the convention stay 500 meters from the venue at a type of guesthouse. At about 7 pm the three Sjimpako junipers which will be used as demonstration material arrives and Mario smokes fewer cigarettes per hour.

Demonstrations get under way with two local lads working on two junipers. A new talent competition gets under way with great enthusiasm and provincial support. During the afternoon Vladimir styles one of the Junipers, leaving a big branch on the tree to be removed after one growing season. The reason for this is that at least 30% of the foliage should remain for the tree to recover easily. Marcello Martins fondly known by the bonsai community as Yamadori Marcello works on a beautiful old Brazilian rain tree.

After supper we are entertained by Mario and his band with Brazilian music. Some of the bonsaists display their musical talent by joining the band with a musical instrument or two. A short distance away in a pool of light an impromptu styling of two trees are taking place to the sound of music.

With the first early morning screech of parakeets Suthin and I inspect the trees we will be using for our demonstrations. Suthin knows exactly what he wants to do and makes a sketch of what the tree may look like in the future.

I decide to make a semi cascade that reminds me of the way I saw some trees growing on the steep slopes of the Andes Mountains. I ask the Argentinean Sergio Luciani to assist me with the wiring and Renato Bocabello of Brazil to do the translations when necessary. The end result of Suthin’s tree is testament to the fact that he has worked on plenty of junipers on the past. My team and I are also very satisfied with the end result of our tree. Both trees are later sold for an undisclosed amount.

After lunch Shugo Isami demonstrates the art of making clay pots on a wheel. Then a free for all styling session follows where everybody assists everybody. We work in circles of enthusiasm on one tree after the other. I am privileged to work on an old Brazilian rain tree belonging to Ricardo Loriggio. Friendship through bonsai is a reality as we work and help each other until well after dark. What a pity that this convention had to come to an end. Thank you to Mario Leal and all those enthusiastic Brazilians for a wonderful convention.

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