Some of the pieces in the collection of African religious art at the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes in Rio de Janeiro can also be found in “terreiros” (temples used for the rituals of candomblé, the Brazilian religion with authentic African roots). Raul Lody trained as both an anthropologist and a museologist; he was thus well-suited to become the collection’s researcher and organizer. In this role, he documented 50 pieces from ethnic groups in the Bight of Benin in Western Africa, more specifically from Yorubá sects in the area. These groups lived in city-states where certain kings (endowed with divine powers), local heroes, and creation myths formed the basis of the various hierarchies that wielded political and religious power. The collection includes seven masks made of painted wood from the Gueledé sect, which shares the Yorubá’s religious culture. Lody explains that the “edans” (bronze pieces) are from another initiation society, the Ogboni. These are anthropomorphic male and female figures with a distinct style all their own that focuses mainly on the sexual organs. No information is provided on how or when the collection was assembled.
Raul Lody (b. 1952) published a number of studies on this subject, including Vinte e um bastões cerimoniais [21 ceremonial scepters] (Rio de Janeiro: Museu Nacional, 1990); Dezoito esculturas antropomorfas de orixás [see 1110529]; and others that were more focused on the theme such as “Coleção Arthur Ramos” .
Other published articles and studies on this subject by noted specialists that have already been filed in the ICAA digital archive include: Catálogo ilustrado do Museu Folclórico, by Oneyda Alvarenga ; Cosmologias e altares, by Maria Lúcia Montes ; Cem anos de arte afro-brasileira, by Marta Heloísa Salum ; Para nunca esquecer. Negras memórias. Memórias de negros,published by the Museu Histórico Nacional ; and Catálogo do Museu Afro Brasileiro, by Jocélio Teles dos Santos . (4)