Late February this year while Wonderful Machine staff members in the Northern Hemisphere were waiting out the long winter, in a quick email to staff, Recife, Brazil-based Designer and Photo Editor José Silva Jr. shared some highlights from his celebration at Carnival 2023 in Olinda, a historic town on Brazil’s northeast coast. José’s snapshots and simple cellphone video at street-view were so abundantly filled with joy and life that one staff member freely remarked, “Damn, I want to dance to that music (and already am dancing a little on my own).”
We reached out to José to get a first-hand account of his experience in Brazil and learn a little more about his multicultural lifestyle.
Q: What is Carnival? What is Carnival in particular in Brazilian culture? Was there anything different about this year’s festival from previous years? Were there things you were hoping to see and did or did not?
A: Carnival origins in antiquity with parties to the gods. In Brazil, Carnival emerged with the carnival brought by the Portuguese. This consisted of a play when people threw water, flour, eggs and paint at each other. Also, enslaved Africans enjoyed themselves on those days to the sound of drums and rhythms brought from Africa, which would mix with Portuguese musical genres. This would be the origin of the musical rhythms of Carnival—Samba, Frevo, Axé, Maracatu, among others. As it is a country of continental dimensions, each region of Brazil celebrates Carnival in a different way, the three biggest parties take place in Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Olinda (Pernambuco), and Salvador (Bahia), each with its own musical and characteristic rhythm.
This is the first Carnival since COVID, so I was really happy to see the streets full of people celebrating life once again. The vibe was fascinating.
Q: How do Brazilians approach their love of life? What does Brazil get especially right? What needs to be present in a culture to have dancing in the streets?
A: It’s funny how even with the issues we have as a country, we always find a way to celebrate life with joy. I think it’s in our blood that we need only a beer at a bar table along with a few friends to turn it into a party.
Q: I know you’ve traveled all over the world. Is there a particular culture or cuisine (aside from Brazil) that you feel most at home in? If so, do you find yourself returning there, or are you always seeking out new places? How do you choose the countries you visit? Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group?
A: Colombian cuisine made me feel at home, however Turkish food got me. I’m always seeking new places but would definitely go back to those countries (and a few others haha).
I like to “discover” places. Avoiding to go where the mass is going. Of course I went to cities like Rome, Venice, Mexico City, New York, but my kind of trip is like going to a small town in Latvia or going to a picturesque fishing village in Greece. I also like places where I can do the combo food + architecture + nature.
Traveling alone has its benefits but I’m a person that enjoys sharing, so traveling in a couple or group would be my first option.
Q: What have you learned about yourself while seeing the world? What have you learned about the world or humanity in seeing it play out across the many countries and cultures you’ve visited?
A: Every single place I have stepped in has contributed to my growth as a human. When I finish a trip, I ask myself what I can absorb from there to my life. Being exposed to new people, cultures, locations, ways of living and seeing life, new languages, and more, will definitely help you expand your horizons, grow your knowledge and understanding of the world, if you’re open to taking that without any judgment or prejudice.
Q: Where does your love of food come from? Is it related to your love of travel? Did it come before your love of travel or after? Would you say your love of food is a love of deliciousness or a love of people—or perhaps something else?
A: My love for food started as a kid. My mom always made delicious food and I think it’s fantastic to prepare a meal for someone else, I think it’s a love act. I would say my love of food is a combination of the act of cooking and the pleasure of enjoying it.
Q: Do you cook when you visit new countries or just eat? What do you need to understand about a country’s culture to access and recreate its cuisine?
A: I do both, cooking and eating. Not necessarily making dishes from that place when there. I like the idea of experimentation, like cooking Brazilian food with Hawaiian ingredients while there.
For me, it’s important to be curious to understand that location’s food culture before starting to think about doing it. Why they eat that or why they do it that way, a kind of curiosity.
Q: Is there anything you always keep on hand in your kitchen?
A: Bananas and eggs. Both are versatile and able to cover from breakfast to dinner.
Q: In terms of mindset, what can you bring with you to a country or a cuisine that you’re visiting for the first time?
A: Being open to the “new” is my state of mind.
Q: What are your job responsibilities at Wonderful Machine? How long have you worked at the company? How do you approach design? Is it informed by any other creative activity or experience in your life?
A: I’m working as a Designer and Photo Editor. I’ve been working at WM since July 2020 (almost three years).
My approach to design is inspired by the Bauhaus movement in terms of minimalism (using geometric and simple shapes whenever possible) and form follows function. Designing for photographers has been such a nice experience because I’m always thinking on how the design can collaborate and enhance the images. Understanding the importance of highlighting the photographer’s work while implementing the design.
Stay tuned to learn more about the team and their lives outside of Wonderful Machine!