This painting marks a pivotal moment in van Scherpenberg’s life and career. It was made in the year in which the artist moved to live with her father on a remote island in the Amazon Delta. She would remain there for the better part of two decades, and it would become a vital source of inspiration for her art. Four years prior to the creation of this work, van Scherpenberg had returned to Brazil from Europe (where she had been studying) and seemed to be settling into a more conventional career path: she started to show her work in national salons, continued to pursue her art studies, and set up her own studio. But the marriage didn’t last long, and in 1968 she took the radical decision to pack up her bags and move to her father’s place in Amapá with her young child in tow.
Igarapé is a Tupi (a Brazilian Indigenous language) word which refers to small rivers or creeks, a word mainly used in the context of the Amazon. A composite of ‘ygara’ (canoe) and ‘apé’ (way, passage), the word refers to waterways so narrow that they can only accommodate a canoe. Van Scherpenberg’s painting conveys this sense of tightness; a mass of green and brown rainforest on either side encroaches into the space of the bright sky, which is reflected in the water.