The “Mural dos Orixás”, by Carybé, consists of 27 cedar panels, each three meters tall, with inlays of materials such as gold, silver and conch shell. Photo: Publicity
One of the highlights of the Museu Afro-Brasileiro (Mafro/UFBA), run by the Federal University of Bahia, is the “Mural dos Orixás”. Completed in 1968 by Hector Julio Páride Bernabó (1911-1997), or Carybé, an Argentine-born artist who settled in Salvador, the piece is comprised of 27 wood panels depicting candomblé orixás. The museum houses over 1,800 items, such as photographs, ornaments, masks, musical instruments and utilitarian objects, divided into Afro-Brazilian and African collections. Acquired by photographer and anthropologist Pierre Verger (1902-1996), the African collection includes objects from Senegal, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Angola. In addition, seven years ago, the space was loaned pieces from the Museu Antropológico Estácio de Lima, taken from candomblé terreiros in Bahia by police during the crackdown on Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies in the 1920s.
The idea for the museum was devised in the early 1970s by a group of intellectuals that included Pierre Verger. It was only in 1982, however, that their project came to fruition, and the museum has been operating ever since in the building that once housed Brazil’s first school of medicine, built in the 16th century.