Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Ibiri the Goddess of Nanã

Catalog Number: C002


Antonio Carlos Santos (Toninho-Nidinha's son and Didi Santos' grandson)


49 cm L, 6 cm W


Religion and Denomination: Candomblé (Brazil)
Country of Origin: Brazil
Ethnographic Origin: Carioca/Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Date of Manufacture: 12/1987
Usage: N/A
Detailed Description of Significance:

Nanã is the orixá of death and of the muddy earth. Blue-and-white stripes are the colors most often associated with her. Omolú, god of pestilence, is one of her children, and the ibiri she carries recalls her having carried him in her arms as a baby. Like the similar scepter of her son, the xaxará, Nanã’s ibiri has close associations with healing. Cowry shells and palha da Costa (straw from Africa) are two materials closely connected with Nanã and her iconography. Note that the palha da Costa, while important in Brazilian Candomblé for representing Nanã, is an imported material. The importation and use of African materials critical to the practice of the tradition is very characteristic of Candomblé.

Though Nanã is the orixá of death and her son the god of pestilence, the delicate interweaving of the palha da Costa suggests a different, softer reading of the goddess. The ibirí would seem to be not the tool of harsh death, but that of a gentler, motherly force.  This softness in the design recalls the matronly aspect of Nanã as mother of Omolú.  All the orixás have multiple, seemingly contradictory, aspects.  Some say that the ibiri mimics the tail of the leopard.