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The House of Oshumare and the Brazilian Religious Market

Considered one of the most important Candomblé houses of Brazil, the House of Oshumare (Casa de Oxumarê) is a paradigmatic case of «instituted memories» and religious market proposes. The classification as Cultural Heritage, in 2014, was the result of a documental research in historical archives of Salvador, and a quest for a linear history that allowed to claim for a long-term existence. This long-term existence is both important for historical and architectural classification and for religious market rules, as well. However, if we take into consideration the Angola’s temple Bate-Folhas, classified in 2003, it became clear that seniority is mostly based on community position, i.e. the communal recognition. The Mansu Banduquenqué temple was founded in 1916, which means it was classified as cultural heritage with less than 100 years old. This means a temple not necessarily need to hold a century to claim the classification. A social recognition and a particular history are the main reason for the government’s act.

However, in Candomblé, the idea that ‘seniority is status’ (antiguidade é um posto) holds an operative value, not only in temples’ structure, i.e., in the constitution of hierarchy but also in the relation between houses. The competition for the Senior position is strong, and the ‘purity’ theme was a significant part of this process. Gantois, Engenho Velho and Opô Afonjá, fought for a premium status on religious field, even if Engenho Velho is the older temple, side-by-side with the Alaketu, the Régis’ family temple. Ethnographic forgotten, the House of Oshumare claimed an ancient history, forged in an instituted memory of the life of Baba Talabi, Manoel Joaquim Ricardo. Nothing supports the narrative, not even historical documents (Reis 2016). Manoel Joaquim Ricardo was not a Ewe-Fon man, but a Haussa, and arrived in Bahia with the age of 30, and not 10 as told in the official version of House of Oshumare. His religious trajectory does not support any idea of the institution of the Vodun Azunsu cult. Perhaps he held a sarki bori temple, but not a Candomblé Jeje one. With this, it is hard to assume the idea that he trained Antônio Maria Belchior to became a priest. With all this foggy scenery, the only given fact is that the House of Oshumare was founded by Antônio Manoel do Bonfim, known as ‘enchanted snake’, about 1904. This reveals the politics of memory, the invention of tradition and the forged of authenticities for religious market proposes.

With this strategy, coupled with good marketing on Facebook, the Ashe Oshumare became the most popular terreiro in Brazil, currently. In the quest for authenticity, many temples are now part of the wide range of related temples of this lineage, receiving authenticity but also perpetuating the authority of the House of Oshumare.

Cite this article as: João Ferreira Dias, "The House of Oshumare and the Brazilian Religious Market," in Adarrum , Setembro 8, 2017,