Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in Modern Brazil

Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in Modern Brazil

Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in Modern Brazil

Sacred Art: Catholic Saints and Candomblé Gods in Modern Brazil


Sacred art flourishes today in northeastern Brazil, where European and African religious traditions have intersected for centuries. Professional artists create images of both the Catholic saints and the African gods of Candomble to meet the needs of a vast market of believers and art collectors.

Over the past decade, Henry Glassie and Pravina Shukla conducted intense research in the states of Bahia and Pernambuco, interviewing the artists at length, photographing their processes and products, attending Catholic and Candomble services, and finally creating a comprehensive book, governed by a deep understanding of the artists themselves.

Beginning with Edival Rosas, who carves monumental baroque statues for churches, and ending with Francisco Santos, who paints images of the gods for Candomble terreiros, the book displays the diversity of Brazilian artistic techniques and religious interpretations. Glassie and Shukla enhance their findings with comparisons from art and religion in the United States, Nigeria, Portugal, Turkey, India, Bangladesh, and Japan and gesture toward an encompassing theology of power and beauty that brings unity into the spiritual art of the world.


at the end we walked up the ladeira do carmo to say goodbye to Izaura. She had just finished painting a new image of São Roque that Edival carved and a Portuguese customer wanted to buy, and she gave us a ride out to the Feira de São Joaquim, so we could say farewell to Jorge and Samuel. We found them both in their workshops, making iron images of Ogum. After warm hugs, they all asked when we would be back. When this book is published, we answered, we’ll return to give copies to all the book’s artists. Projects like this, from beginning to book, always take about a decade of work.

This one began one sweet evening in Salvador when we went to hear a friend of ours, Zéu Lobo, play in a café. His voice flowed over his guitar’s rhythmic complexity, and we were hit by an idea. His songs, the popular classics of the national repertory, were hymns of praise to Brazil. We had already been talking with artists in Brazil, mainly to gain information useful for comparison in projects we had going in other places, in the United States and in the Yorubaland of Nigeria. But suddenly a project in Brazil took shape. We would seek artists who created images of Brazil, paintings and sculpture that, like Zéu Lobo’s songs, enfold a Brazilian idea of Brazil. Brazilians love their

Ethnographic work of the kind we do is like photography. the informational photograph focuses clearly on its subject in context, inevitably pulling in random and productively disruptive facts, while intentionally excluding other things. Brazil is vast. To step back for a long shot and focus on the . . .

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