The master of needles who continues his art at the age of 75

Mending nets since he was 14, master Dionísio already does this work “with one leg on his back”

Photo: Laura Martins | Sul Informação

There are traditions that remain, but which, over time, run the risk of being lost. The masters of the needles are few, but their work continues to be a lot.

Since the age of 14, Dionísio Rafael has dedicated his life to the art of tying and mending nets. Taught by his godfather, he began his life as a fisherman and has since perfected his technique. “I already do it with one leg on my back”, guarantees Dionísio Rafael, now 75 years old and already retired.

In a long conversation, in Albufeira's harbor, he told a little about his life and how it all began. “On that side, there were a lot more people, we were always surrounded by people wanting to learn”, he said, referring to Praia dos Pescadores, in Albufeira.

Dionísio Rafael, currently, is part of the group of men who work on land and practice the profession of master of needles, who are the people who mend the nets to be used again by the fishermen. “This art depends on the pride of each one. To be well done, each mesh has to have four stitches”, he explained.


Photo: Laura Martins | Sul Informação


Most of the time, he added, “the masters of the needles are former fishermen who have already retired from the sea. Young people always want to go to the sea, they have more adrenaline and are different challenges…”

Nowadays, “you have to have courses for everything, even the fishing school has courses” where they teach how to sew nets, “but in the past everything was taught by the wisest, by the elderly”.

Dionísio Rafael mends all kinds of nets, but the one he mends the most is nylon. It takes about a day to mend a net. "The ones who destroy the nets the most are the dolphins to go and eat the fish that is already in the net".

Being a humble and charismatic man, 75 years old, master Dionísio told episodes of his life, some sad, others happy. One of the events he remembers intensely is the death of his “dear wife”.

Known by all, this master of needles, after retirement, continues to have the habit of working but refuses to receive money from his fisherman friends.

Even though his children and grandchildren are not in the Algarve, master Dionísio never talks about loneliness. He takes refuge in the harbor of Albufeira so as not to feel alone.



Text and photos by Laura Martins, carried out within the framework of the Professional Photography 21|23 course at ETIC_Algarve, School of Technologies, Innovation and Creation of the Algarve.

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