Quiet Conversations: June 21, 2022

Marcelo Ferraz shares the throne of Òsùmàrè as an entry point into a wider conversation around his immersive experience of designing with the Terreiro de Òsùmàrè, in Salvador, Bahía.

Quiet Conversations: June 21, 2022


Quiet Conversations are a series of conversations with artists, architects, researchers and thinkers working in and with the south, as a conceptual site and geography. Curated by Catalina Mejía Moreno and Huda Tayob, editors of this issue of Ellipses, the conversations work towards a methodology of shared sites, sounds, objects and practices through a turn to acts of remembrance, recall and repair. In this series we invite a close and intimate listening of meandering conversations; to stay with the words, silences and utterances that through conversation share entangled and implicated relationships of site, objects, people and places. Drawing upon sound and the act of speaking and listening as affective and political, together we ask, how might located and grounded practices enable us to draw out relational histories? How might creative research and associated methodologies of critique generate ways of listening, speaking to and engaging with the built environment, architectures, land and violence beyond extraction? And how might we share and build collective methodologies for working and thinking together? 

In the series of 6 excerpts shared here, we invited each conversant to share an object as a prompt for a wider conversation around methods, materials, and practices.

Jumoke Sanwo speaks to the mirror as entangled with the trans-atlantic slave trade, and her work as curator of Dúna Dúrà - A Portal of Reimagination; 

Felipe Arturo shares an Iraca palm fan, as a form of technology that exists within and outside of colonial and neo-colonial economies, material and embodied practices; 

Marcelo Ferraz shares the throne of Òsùmàrè as an entry point into a wider conversation around his immersive experience of designing with the Terreiro de Òsùmàrè, in Salvador, Bahía;  

Zara Julius speaks to the entangled geographies and soundscapes of the machete as an object that speaks to entangled layers of labour, oppression, violence, resistance and liberation. 

Sibonelo Gumede speaks to the temporalities and cartographies of Black sonic geographies in Southern Africa and beyond.

Russel Hlongwane speaks to the ‘Black interior’ as a practice of negotiating comfort and home in post-Apartheid suburban South Africa.

Ana Luisa Ramírez Flórez, Jenry Serna Córdoba, Daniel Ruiz-Serna and Catalina Muñoz Rojas speak to sound, listening and collaboration as reparative practices in the lower Atrato region in Chocó, Colombia; a region wounded by multiple forms of violence more recently affected by paramilitary violence and other extractive practices.

As Françcoise Verges writes, ‘To dare to imagine is to reject time’s opposition of past, present, and future’ [1] in the search for an alternative temporality of repair. Across sites and methods, these conversations recall extreme violence and “quieter forms of abjection” [2] alongside numerous seemingly “small” acts of making and re-making place and space. For as Tina Campt argues in her framing of ‘quiet photography’, the possibilities of other futures are ever–present, yet “we must not only look but also listen for it in other, less likely places.” [3] In each of these four conversations, there is the consistent awareness of ongoing and ever-present violence, an engagement with structures of complicity, and an expansive generosity and commitment to sharing ways of being, voices, stories, knowledge and time.

[1] Françoise Vergès, 2022. A Feminist Theory of Violence, London: Pluto Press, p. 98
[2] Elizabeth Povinelli, Economies of Abandonment, Durham: Duke University Press
[3] Tina Campt, Listening to Images, Durham: Duke University Press, p. 17  

Launch Project


Marcelo Ferraz talks about Terreiro de Òsùmàrè, 21 June 2022

Marcelo Ferraz is a Brazilian architect and Associate Professor at Escola da Cidade in São Paulo. He began working with Lina Bo Bardi in 1977, and together with Francisco Fanucci co-founded Brasil Arquitetura in 1979, and Marceria Baraúna in 1986. Their practice works on a wide range of architectural projects across sites and scales, alongside publishing and exhibition projects.

São Paulo, Brighton

Marcelo Ferraz is co-founder of Brasil Arquitetura and Marcenaria Baraúna, based in São Paulo, Brasil. He worked with Lina Bo Bardi from 1977 - 1992, and in many ways is a seminal figure in Brazilian architecture. The work of Brasil Arquitectura, extends from urban projects to furniture, with an understanding of space as always related to the body. In this conversation, held in Portuguese, he talks to us about his experience of designing with the Terreiro de Òsùmàrè, an ongoing commission which began in 2017 in Salvador de Bahia, Brasil. He spoke of the complexities of working with a community site that has been occupied for almost two centuries by a Casa de Òsùmàrè, an important site for Candomblé adherents. Across Brasil, these are practices and sites that face ongoing racialised and other forms of violence alongside threats of displacement more generally. Marcelo shared experiences of working closely with the custodians of the site, a practice which involved close listening and learning of ancestral, spatial, social and material practices over several years, through an architectural design practice that has necessitated and centred collaboration. At the time of speaking, this was a design process and proposal, and the custodians have since managed to raise the first part of funding to start the renovation work.

3.11 We went to Salvador to visit the site for the first time. You arrive there with that architectural anxiety that you want to know the programme, the problem, to begin the work and design. No, in this case we had to enter the rhythms and rituals of life within - um Terreiro de Candomblé - it was very interesting. I had to stay there in a very small room which was part of the experience of staying in that place, with all the warmth and care, and wonderful food. But I had to go through, let’s say, a decompression. I had to do work to understand life with children that jump and play all day, with the elderly, the women, who are the wisest, that hold the Yoruba knowledge with deep ancestral African roots. It was good to slow down, to immerse myself in this life, and to take off the ‘architects’ hat. We were just one more. Nothing less, nothing more. We were people that were there, to do a job, like all the others that were there fulfilling other roles and jobs; like children that are there to play, to study. That was the ‘key’ to entering the project.

6.00 Babalorixá, one of the leaders of the Terreiro came to São Paulo with very strong criticisms of the first iterations of the project, constructive criticisms. For instance, with regards to the kitchen (they have many kitchens) you can not have this food, because this food is for this specific Orixá. Only these Orixás eat bembé. Others just eat food cooked with cotton oil. So you have these differences that we had to understand, respect and incorporate, locais sagrados do terreiro, into our project. The trees, also, that was very beautiful. Trees are sacred, all trees are sacred. They are in places of worship, of offering for different Orixás. Food! Everything is around food. It is very beautiful. … The project became what was necessary, we left aside all things that could be superfluous, all that could be non-fundamental for the betterment of what needed to be improved. It was beautiful that this was the role of the architect. The paths, railings, small interventions on ventilation here and there. So in the end we were doing what architecture, in the end, has to do. But that is not always the case. The capitalist world where we live is a world that throws us into a production machine. No, the world is very diverse. We had to enter the life of the Terreiro to make the project.

11.46 Knowledge exchange in this project is a very rich exchange; it is literary and it is poetic. Nothing is direct. Babalorixá, Babá Pecê who is the leader of the Terreiro is treated with lots of respect by everyone, except the children. Children relate to everyone in the same way, children are free … When Babá Pecê speaks to us about the project, he doesn't speak directly about the project, he doesn’t say I don’t want this, I want this differently etc. No, he tells us stories. This has everything to do with the project, it might not seem like it, but it does. You feel he is speaking through parables. He told us a story of a relative who went to the island of Itaparica … in that way we got immersed not only in the atmosphere of the project but in the programme of the project too. He told us another story of some festivities where some women came to the rituals at night, to make food … he is talking about the kitchen with this story. That the kitchen was small, that there was not enough space for food…then we have to work towards a kitchen that is spacious, that has enough space and facilities for all those who use and work in the kitchen. In those exchanges, one can feel and understand that it is a very democratic coexistence of all beings and entities. Each one has a role.

31.43 Once you arrive at the Terreiro you go up the steps that welcome you and you leave the paved roads of the city. These are the ones that traverse the green area, the trees, the water fountain. You start to go up. It is very simple, not pretentious at all, painted clear blue and white, really unpretentious, almost ingenuous … steps from the 40’s, a sensation of a balneario probably, a feeling of a much calmer place, where people almost leave behind their city beings. Then you arrive at a terrace, and then you see the barracão, which is the principal building, with a low roof. They call it barracão which is an almost pejorative term, something very simple and big. And you go in and it has lots of colourful cut papers, as if you’d be in a Festa Junina, a popular festivity. A celebration of a saint, as we have in Latin America you know, and here in Brazil in June, Santo Antonio, São Joao, São Pedro. They use colourful papers, it is a festivity that you animate with little resources, little money. Then you go into this place which is the sacred place where rituals take place. So it has a festive atmosphere, you feel festive everywhere. You see the drums that are there, which are used at night to do the rituals, all aligned inside the barracão, the throne, the other thrones where the auxiliaries sit.

The kitchen is behind this main space. It is a small kitchen. You can’t believe it. The barracão is a big and simple space that has a centre where dances are performed, a place for the Babalorixás, the musicians … and around you have a room with lots of clothes they use. It is almost theatrical. The ceremonies – you have ceremonies in other churches, this one is almost theatrical. They change clothes. The food will be eaten outside, in the open air areas, in the front which is like a patio. That is why our project expands that patio. And we push a bit up the roof of the Barracão so that it is better ventilated - very delicate things that we are doing. You have 500 people inside, in the heat, so the project respected that while at the same time doing little improvements. For the kitchen, we had to do a totally different and new one. In a new building, industrial. It then liberates that space which is now used as support areas. For instance, to make space for the queues that will occupy the procession of a saint. … Each toque de atabaque is a toque of a saint for an Orixá. So there are multiple and different musical toques. So who goes there knows, this beat is for his saint. For Oxum, Obu, Oxumaré and more…Is very rich. And that is how it also enters into Brazilian music, Gilberto Gil for example. It is very strong.

38:26 There are existing parts that we will also demolish. There are some places that are very precarious, a little building with rooms where they host whomever they invite to their festivities. That is where I stayed. They are not comfortable, but they are interesting too. We are demolishing and replacing them for a building named Sacerdotal that is where the house for the Babalorixás will be, a house for the guests, and lots of bathrooms. There are lots of people coming from other places, other cities, and they need to shower etc. and it would be good to have a bit more of comfort, that is what we are also doing. Allowing for a bit more comfort when needed. So our project moves gently and intervenes very carefully and delicately among the sacred parts – the Barracão and the houses for the saints. We keep the ceramic tiles in the roof and the white paint, cal. And we make three new buildings: fist the sacerdotal, which is where support areas are and the kitchen; second one that keeps the more symbolic memory and the auditorium and library, memorial and museum; and third, further down, closer to the road, a space for manual crafts that they fabricate such as drums, atabaques. Iron based musical instruments, objects for the rituals, sacred objects. A place to learn to work with wood, with iron, with leather, and also for young people. So it is a place to have offices, and spaces for fabrication but also for commerce. A small shop, facing the road.

Excerpt from a Quiet Conversation with Marcelo Ferraz

This is an excerpt of a longer conversation in Portuguese. Marcelo describes the life of the project, from the point at which he was invited to the Terreiro de Òsùmàrè, through the process of two years of understanding the social, religious and political practices which the site holds. He speaks to personal experiences and stories from site visits, and special occasions, and shares how the design response evolved, as a careful process of responding to local site conditions, existing sacred trees, and an attention to working with earthen architectures that would improve the spatial quality of built structures, yet respect the history of the place. He also importantly calls attention to the significance of this site to Brazilian history. As he notes, the barracão was founded in the 18th century, and since its inception, has faced ongoing struggle for recognition and survival.

Isometric drawing of the site in question.
Photograph of the site in Bahia, people milling around in white eating and selling food in a market
Detail image of wall with recesses with animal and human image reliefs


This conversation series is supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, The Space for Creative Black Imagination and a University of Cape Town URC grant. It was developed in conversation with Raél Jero Salley at The Space for Creative Black Imagination, based at MICA in Baltimore, and James MacDonald. 

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