Maranhão’s popular culture is the theme of the exhibitions at Casa de Nhozinho, a museum housed in an imposing 19th-century mansion located on Rua Portugal, one of the city’s most beautiful streets.
The name of the museum is a tribute to the great Maranhão craftsman Antônio Bruno Nogueira, known as Nhozinho, who stood out for making wooden ox wheels.
The house offers visitors a showcase of the region’s cultural production techniques, as well as storing pieces that reveal the customs and way of life of the people of Maranhão, since the beginning.
There is a small shop on site for the commercialisation of regional products.
The Casa de Nhozinho exhibition was based on the four elements of nature.
On the ground floor, in the Water Hall, there is a collection directly related to rivers and the sea, such as canoes and fishing nets; while the Earth Hall portrays the relationship between man and the land, configured in agriculture and in the construction of his home.
In this space, the Green Patio was also set up, which highlights the relationship between man and nature.
On the first floor, visitors have access to the Fire Pavilion, where the entire collection of handicrafts such as popular toys, miniatures, recycled items, fabrics and the adjoining collections of Nhozinho, Domingos Vieira Filho, José Cupertino, Vítor Gonçalves, João do Farol and Beto Bittencourt is exhibited, as well as indigenous material culture and objects made of metals.
The second floor, which provides a second entrance option through Rua de Nazaré, was named the Air Pavilion. Here visitors have access to the Cofo Gallery, which is used for temporary exhibitions.
The Casa de Nhozinho collection includes wooden toys, dolls made of canarana, bush and cloth, hammocks made from handlooms, which are very common in the daily lives of Maranhão people, bobbin lace, embroidery, products made from natural fibres of buriti, tucum, guarimã, carnauba and babassu, cofos (an artefact very present in the state’s culture, which has many uses, such as transporting food), ceramics and materials from indigenous culture.
Antônio Bruno Pinto Nogueira, known as Nhozinho, was the son of Sebastião José Nogueira and Marcolina Pinto Nogueira. Born on 17 May 1904, in Bacuripanã, in the municipality of Cururupu (MA), he was an exceptional artist. While still a child, he began his popular art by making paper kites (kites), animals, trees, etc.
At the age of 12, the disease that would deform his legs, arms and hands began to manifest itself, sacrificing his legs and, partially, his sight.
So he used his art to make a wooden cart, on which he could get around.
Nhozinho lived in Rua Jacinto Maia, where he made 50 sewing boxes (boxes for storing sewing material) – an order from a sewing machine factory shop.
Initially he worked with wood, but later he began to work with the more malleable buriti, with which he truly built his greatest work – the famous bumba-meu-boi wheels, which are part of the collections of national and foreign collectors, having been featured in an exhibition of popular art held at the Domus Centre in Milan, Italy, in 1972.
Nhozinho’s bumba-meu-boi figures had a soul, which he expressed in his physiognomic features, gestures and spontaneous and natural attitudes. Nhozinho died in São Luís on 23 May 1974, in the neighbourhood of Alemanha.
Visitation: House of Nhozinho, Rua Portugal, 185, Praia Grande. Open Tuesday to Saturday, from 9am to 6pm and Sundays from 9am to 1pm. Closed on Mondays. Free admission.
Tourism Guide of São Luís do Maranhão and the Northeast.