Uncovering the Hidden Treasures of the Amazon
Updated: Feb 25
Meet Brazil's Female Indiana Jones, the incredible Fernanda Trombino Figuereido de Assis, founder of Xapuri Crafts
Written by: Arianna Meschia for The Nopo
This year’s carnival celebrations might have come and gone in a bit of a damper, but here at The Nopo, we are fans of keeping traditions alive! While you won’t see us dancing around wearing flamboyant costumes and feathered headdresses, we have instead decided to pay homage to Carnival by bringing Brazil straight to your homes.
In search of Brazil's most beautiful crafts, we were foruntate to meet the inspirig Fernanda Trombino Figuereido de Assis, founder of Xapuri Crafts, and hear her incredible story, taken stright out of an Indiana Jones' movie.
Xapuri is a family-run business selling beautiful crafts from their concept store and restaurant in Belo Horizonte in south east Brazil. We took a rollercoaster tour of their shop a few weeks ago and it’s fair to say we stepped into an otherworldly place: ceramics, sculptures, vases, hammocks, bio-jewelry made of Amazonian seeds, and bags carved from coconut wood…It was a real treasure trove!
The history of Xapuri itself is as old as its collection is varied. Today the business is headed by Fernanda, but Xapuri was actually started by her father over forty years ago.
Born in a family of fazenderos, Fernanda was brought up in Xapuri, the farm the family owns in Minas Gerais, the famed Brazilian state home to Belo Horizonte and arguably the most delicious food in the country.
Fernanda’s childhood breezed away on the farm, learning all about Minas Gerais food from her mother, while both waited for her adventurer father to come back from his long travels around the country, which he explored at length, collecting crafts from a variety of indigenous communities. As a child, Fernanda was able to put her hands on anything from ceramics to jewelry, from palm-woven baskets to less child-friendly items such as… a snake’s rattle!
“My father had a huge influence on me growing up. I remember waiting for him to get back wondering what he might have found this time. He didn’t really make much money with the sale of the items he brought back from his travels, it was more a labor of love, something he did to satisfy his thirst for knowledge and adventure, which I have definitely inherited!”
Fernanda laughs, remembering her father and her own beginnings as an adventurer/collector. Back in the early 90s her father’s stories stopped being enough for her, and she decided to set off herself to continue the family business. She started roaming the country to meet indigenous communities and learn from them about their history, their culture, and, crucially, their crafts.
“What I love about my job is the constant element of novelty. We might set off to look for a specific community that was referred to us, deep in the Amazonian jungle, and stop en route several times because we have bumped into another community making something else. It’s a continuous journey of discovery.”
I imagine her as a Brazilian female Indiana Jones, cruising on the Amazon River for days on end before heading back to Belo Horizonte on journeys that can take up to forty-five days!
I imagine her as a Brazilian female Indiana Jones, cruising on the Amazon River for days on end before heading back to Belo Horizonte on journeys that can take up to forty-five days! Despite the obvious logistical challenges and the sometimes difficult communications with the communities that don’t speak Portuguese, Fernanda’s job is hugely simplified today thanks to technology, “You’re never too far away from a WhatsApp account!” she laughs, though she remembers how hard it was when she first started traveling almost thirty years ago with no Google maps, no phones, and no internet.
“It really helps that Brazilians are incredibly open and warm people. We are very privileged that all the communities we visit are happy to open their doors to us because they know that we will keep our word and always work collaboratively with them to foster their crafts and preserve their culture. I am always so humbled by their generosity, ingenuity, and craftsmanship.”
What makes Xapuri stand out from other concept stores is its highly curatorial element: with her decades of experience and the knowledge inherited from her father, Fernanda personally chooses every single item that ends up in her collection, rather than buying in bulk from artisans, making Xapuri a stunning ensemble of varied crafts that harmoniously fit together to give customers a comprehensive overview of Brazil’s rich craftsmanship.
While right now most of us are not so lucky to be sitting in her restaurant right now, thanks to our exclusive collaboration with Xapuri we can bring Fernanda’s collection of one-of-a-kind items straight to your homes. Head to our Brazil Pop Up Collection, available until March 15th.