On a train from Zürich to Bern earlier this year, I had a long day examining some Yoruba divination objects in the storage of the Völkerkunde Museum at the University of Zürich. Preoccupied with the artefacts I had seen, I scribbled down an idea for a workshop the transformation of ritual objects. How can I possibly execute this in Sao Paulo?
The workshop idea was to bring together researchers who work with ritual objects to scrutinise the imprints of transcultural mobility of material culture on patterns of identity politics from an individual, through to institutional and state levels. I sent the initial idea to Prof. Vagner; this concept couldn't have presented to anyone better. His contributions made the workshop happen and planning began with the phases for the workshop which opened up for a closer look at shifting connotations of ritual objects, their implications, and different narratives they elicit in mobility.
The 2-day workshop was charged with the task of investigating the relationships between ritual objects and their alternating spaces. It was a constellation of Candomblé practitioners, scholars, artists and critics.
The intersection of scholars and Povos do Santo ( Candomblé devotees) was incredibly enriching. This idea was Prof. Vagner's. He worked tirelessly to ensure that the success of the workshop ( he is meant to be on a Sabbatical)! I was delighted to take notes from him during this period.
A multi-sited, field-work styled workshop led by Pai Toninho de Oxum and Prof. Vagner Gonçalves da Silva to 3 kinds of markets where Afro-Brazilian religious objects can be found: a street where fabrics are sold for the making of ritual garments (Rua 25 de Março 1 in São Paulo), a shop for objects that make up the ritual arrangements. One for crockery, tools, etc. (Flora Xangô 2 ) and a larger market (Lapa 3 Municipal Market) where the ritual food items are sold. Images from this workshop were screened on the second day. Pai Toninho who conducted the proceedings of the workshop was tireless through it all as he spoke on shifting connotations, etymologies, histories and fixed doctrines.
With 41 participants registered, the event began immediately after breakfast ( 30-minutes before) and a welcome speech by Pai de Santo, Toninho de Oxum of the Ilê Ase Omo Igba Aladan Terreiro. The workshop was split into three parts. Objects in the Market, Objects in the Terreiro and Objects in the museum. Each section had a mix of academic and practitioner presentations.
Toninho de Oxum (Antonio Paulino) is a Babalorixá who began his Candomblé journey in Recife from the tradition of nagô from Pernambuco (Sítio do Pai Adão) He is the leader of Ilê Ase Omo Igba Aladan. He was the assistant curator of the exhibition "Divina Insiração" at the Afro-Brazilian Museum. He has decades of experience in the reception and dissemination of Candomblé religious culture, such as cooking, musical rhythms, traditional dances.
Vinícius Correia is ògá ( ritual drummer) the music director of Ilê Asé Omo Ose Igba Alatan. Creator of Oficina Ritmos do Candomblé e Dança dos Orixás.
Charles Andrade is a Candomblé faithful who works in the terreiro, Ilê Asé Omo Ose Igba Alatan, assisting the pai de santo in all sacred rituals. He is also a craftsman of Orixás vestments and afro sekere/agbe instruments. His presentation, Vestir os orixás: oficina de paramentos rituais, was on the proper ways to dress Candomblé deities.
In the video above, Povos do Santo demonstrate how the oxé Xangô, is used in a dance ceremony along with the drumming dedicated to the deity Xangô. The ritual object is the primary emblem of Xangô`s followers; a wooden shaft with a double axe-head.
Bruna Amaro, MA Aesthetics and Art history (PGEHA-USP) is a visual artist, researcher, art educator and rhythmist. Develops studies on the contributions
aesthetic and symbolic of Afro-Brazilian religions especially in museological and artistic contexts.
"Museu-terreiro: o sagrado afro-brasileiro em um ambiente museológico". A
partir da cultura material de terreiro pensar as possibilidades de interpretação e
reinterpretação do sagrado afro-brasileiro dentro do núcleo de religiosidades afro-
brasileiras do Museu Afro Brasil."
Paula Montes is a historian in Aesthetics and Art history at USP. She is a researcher and educator on themes related to Afro-Brazilian religions.
“Vestir o Santo: A indumentária do Candomblé Queto e Nagô de São Paulo” -
Reflete sobre a trajetória do tecido, do mercado ao terreiro, e os significados
acionados na elaboração das “roupas de santo”.
Pedro Neto is a researcher on Afro-Brazilian cultures, initiated in the Ilé Àse Pàlepà.
Màrìwò Sessu (SP). He is director of Ágò Lònà Cultural Association, a documentary filmmaker and artist.
“Nípa Ara Osé Sàngò: Sobre o corpo e o braço de Xangô “ - A partir da análise
anatômica do Osé Sàngò [Oxê Xangô] discorrer sobre alguns princípios civilizatórios
de matriz africana yorùbá [iorubá]."
Roderick Steel is a visual artist, photographer, performer, documentary filmmaker. Currently is a doctoral student at ECA/USP. He develops works from experiments in border areas (visual arts, anthropology and cinema).
"Film ,Os objetos rituais no mercado"
Vagner Gonçalves da Silva is a professor of anthropology at USP and an expert in religions of African origin in Brazil. ( As you might already know, he is my supervisor in USP :-) )
“O espírito das coisas e as coisas do espírito – notas sobre as
noções de (i)materialidade e (trans)formação no candomblé” – A partir das
experiências realizadas nesta oficina refletir sobre a presença e o trânsito dos objetos
no candomblé questionando dicotomias como materialidade/imaterialidade;
continente/conteúdo; metáfora/metonímia, entre outras, que dificultam uma
compreensão mais abrangente da cosmologia nos sistemas religiosos afro-brasileiros.
Zainabu Jallo ( Mich. Eu. Me)
“Do sagrado ao espetacular. Performance da consciência diaspórica através
da representação visual no candomblé do Brasil”- Uma leitura do candomblé por meio
de sua cultura material, traçando seus desenvolvimentos simultâneos e antipodais, e
questionado os encontros e desencontros entre uma possível consciência diaspórica
e a construção da identidade cultural nacional."
The discussions and questions raised from both parties ( the users of these objects and those who study them scientifically) have created newer trajectories to follow.
This workshop was made possible by support form the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and Centro de Estudos de Religiosidades Contemporâneas e das Culturas Negras (CERNe USP).
Images © Zainabu Jallo