Biography of Manuel Jimenez
Manuel Jiménez Ramírez, El Divino, is a very particular craftsman. The inhabitants of his town, Arrazola, in Oaxaca, consider him a nahual; Almost all of his Oaxacan colleagues know him and with his work he has managed to achieve not only certain international recognition but also a good standard of living. He, in turn, considers his talent to be a "divine gift."
Gift or not from the gods, the truth is that Don Manuel was born in 1919 and only eight years later he began to create clay animals; then he decided to make them out of pieces of wood, and later on he became enthusiastic about carving masks out of hazelnut wood.
His peculiar personality led him to experiment in other trades. He was a cane cutter in Veracruz and Oaxaca; masons pawn; Basket maker, musician, prayer, hairdresser… He is currently considered a spiritual healer, orator – he directs Holy Week in the church in his town – and wood carver. His two sons follow in his footsteps in this last trade.
Don Manuel has made several exhibitions and has participated in various competitions where the excellent elaboration of his pieces has earned him important awards and recognitions.
With copalillo wood, Don Manuel makes his famous nativity scenes that can have up to 15 pieces, including Saint Gabriel the Archangel who, with outstretched arms, announces the birth of Christ to Mary.
Another of the carvings that he likes the most are the nahuales, fantastic animals related to the ancient beliefs of his people. To give them greater realism, he adds beards and mustaches made of horsehair or ixtle. The decoration of these animals, made from strong and contrasting colors, is very meticulous and detailed, which has earned it the recognition of experts.
Altarpieces that represent altars with religious images, births and everyday scenes are made by Don Manuel with a lot of fantasy and artistic freedom.
The sculptures he makes with cedar wood and eagle sticks are left natural.
Some of the pieces made by this Oaxacan artisan are exhibited in museums in the United States, which has served to arouse the interest of the media in that country for his work.
Copalillo wood, zompantle, eagle wood, cedar are Don Manuel's work materials. The first two are purchased in places near Arrazola, while the eagle and cedar sticks are brought from the Valle Nacional and Isthmus areas, which is why they are more expensive.
Buy the thick logs. If you are going to work with white wood, before you begin, you will give it a special treatment to protect it from moths.
Don Manuel selects the trunk taking into account its size and shape because he seeks to take advantage of it in the elaboration of his sculptures. He begins to make the lasts with a machete.
Depending on the type of wood you are going to use, you first peel it and work it when it is green and moist, so that it does not splinter or split when you are carving it. As the carving progresses, he uses gouges, chisels, and sharp knives to fine-tune the details. Once the sculpture is finished, and if you are working on green wood, let it dry in the shade for several days to prevent it from splitting. Then he polishes it, very well with sandpaper, until the surface is smooth.
The last process is the finish, which is done by applying brightly colored anilines that master Jiménez combines in a display of fantasy and taste.
Some parts such as ears, legs, horns and arms are made separately and, in the end, they are glued to the sculpture or fitted under pressure in slots made for it.