Making Umbanda Altars and Offerings Out of Clay


  • Complete the lesson, “Umbanda Altars and Offerings Found in Niteroi.”
  • Complete the lesson, “Orixás Spirits.”


As a result of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Respond artistically to the Umbanda offerings found along the beach in Niteroi during the summer of 2009 by making their own offering.
  • Use several of the elements and principles of art (form, line, shape, color, texture, space, value; emphasis, balance, harmony, variety, movement, rhythm, proportion, unity) in their own offering. 
  • Represent two-dimensional images in a three dimensional and sculptural form using oil-based clay (Sculpy of Fimo).
  • Roll out an even slab of Sculpy clay.
  • Use a razor blade to cut the Sculpy clay.

Discussion Question(s)

  • How can you use the elements and principles of art to create your own altar for an orixá?

Materials Needed


  • “Umbanda Altars and Offerings Found in Niteroi” (pictures and text) preferably one copy for each student.
  • Picture of the Orixás from the lesson “Orixá Spirits.”
  • Sculpy (or other oil based clay like Fimo) in various colors
  • Razor blades, one for each student
  • Sturdy cardboard mats so tables aren’t scratched by razor blades, and so items can be transported easily
  • “Rolling pins,” such as any small smooth tubes (Dried up magic markers with the caps removed can be used.) 
  • Trays to store and cook Sculpy clay

Related material also on this website

Set Up and Introduction


Cut the Sculpy chunks so that each student will start with three chunks of clay: 

  • The first and largest chunk of clay used to create the place mat for the offering will be a one 1-inch square.  This one-inch square will be rolled out to make the placemat which will be a rectangle, square, or other shape, about two inches wide..
  •  The other two chunks in colors that represent the Orixás (a little bigger than ½ inch square)

  1. Distribute the copies of the Power Point presentation entitled “Umbanda Altars and Offerings Found in Niteroi” and pictures of the orixás.
  2. Again, students will sit for several minutes without speaking and drink in the picture(s) of the orixá they have chosen to represent.
  3. As a class, brainstorm ideas for altars.  Items can be those that are traditionally represented or items that students would like to offer.
  4. Demonstrate how to roll out the placemat that the offering will go on.  This mat should be fairly thick so it does not crack in the oven and can hold the weight of the items.  Roll it out gently with the “rolling pin” and turn it often so the slab is even in thickness.  Use the razor blade to trim and cut the sides of the mat.  The picture at the beginning is a sample that altar sits on a placemat that is approximately two inches wide.
  5. After rolling the slab, students may go back up to the teacher’s table to get the extra colors for their altar.  They may use a variety of colors; however, one glance at the altar should be enough to determine two dominant colors for the chosen orixá.  The only exception is the orixá that is the spirit of rainbows.  Also, white is often used to represent all of the spirits.  Students may also use colors that they would like.  They do not have to follow the orixá colors; students may make up their own color combinations, if they prefer.
  6. Demonstrate how the razor blades are used to make very fine details and textures.
  7. After altars are made, students use the four steps of art criticism to prepare a class presentation about their altars.
  • Describe - What are the elements of the altar?
  • Analyze - How are the elements of line, shape, form, texture, color, space, and value used?  How are the principles of unity pattern, rhythm, variety, balance, emphasis, and proportion used?
  • Interpret - What is the artist/religious practitioner trying to say to the Candomblé spirits? What is going on in the “composition” or the artwork/offering?
  • Decide - What do I think about this altar/artwork? Does it resonate artistically with you? Why or why not? Does an altar have to be artistically pleasing to be an altar?  Why or why not? 

Extending the lesson: 

  • Each student shows his altar to the class and explains its elements using the prepared presentation.

Assessment and Wrap Up


Did the student meet the objectives listed at the beginning of the lesson?

The teacher could collect and assess the written presentation based on the four steps to art criticism.

Lesson Variations


  • Each student makes only one element of an altar.  Then all students combine the elements to make a group altar.
  • Students can make the altars of out of water-based clay that can be painted with glaze or other paints