Theotônio Vilela Brandão, known as Théo Brandão, was born on 26 January 1907, in the city of Viçosa, Alagoas, to the doctor and pharmacist Manoel de Barros Loureiro Brandão and his cousin Carolina Vilela Brandão.
In Viçosa he was the pupil of teachers João Manuel Simplício and Ovídio Edgar de Albuquerque and studied at the school of D. Maria Amélia Coutrim.
At ten years of age his family moved to the city of Maceió, where he continued his primary education at Colégio São José and later at Colégio Diocesano, run by Marists brothers, where he finished his secondary schooling.
In December 1923, he travelled to Salvador to prepare for the medicine vestibular, enrolling in the Bahia Faculty of Medicine, where he studied for four years, graduating however in Rio de Janeiro in 1929. He also graduated in Pharmacy in 1928, which was his favourite course, according to his personal testimony.
In 1928 he began to contribute to small newspapers published in Viçosa, sending poems, chronicles about the city and its folklore from Rio de Janeiro.
In 1930 he moved to Recife, opening a clinic and working as a paediatrician at Hospital Manoel S. Almeida and at the Inspectorate of Child and Pre-School Hygiene in the Pernambuco Department of Public Health. During this time he met various intellectuals from Recife, including Nilo Pereira, Manuel Lubambo, Willy Levin and the poet Austro Costa.
He returned to Maceió and set up a Paediatric and Obstetric clinic. He lived with the so-called ‘Intellectual Generation’ of Alagoas, a group formed by Diégues Júnior, Graciliano Ramos, Raul Lima, José Lins do Rego, Rachel de Queiroz and her husband José Auto, Aurélio Buarque de Holanda, and others.
In 1931 he published Folclore e educação infantile (Childhood Folklore and Education), an article which covers his two roles of being a doctor and a folklorist. He then began to develop his work as a folklorist more and more.
From 1937, when he was appointed to the Historical Institute of Alagoas, he became more dedicated to folklore and, as he was a doctor, tended more to studying the subject of popular medicine. Théo Brandão did his research and collected material and data on popular beliefs, superstitions, prayers and popular medicines with the mothers that would come for consultations with him in the Childcare and Paediatric walk-in clinic where he worked. Also helping him in his research into homemade remedies were his mother and a cousin, Sinfrônio Vilela, who had begun to work as a healer.
He published various works on the folklore of Alagoas: Folclore de Alagoas (Folklore of Alagoas) (1949), Trovas populares de Alagoas (Popular Verses of Alagoas) (1951), O reisado alagoano (The Alagoas ‘Reisado’) (1953), Folguedos natalinos de Alagoas (Christmas Popular Dances of Alagoas) (1961), O guerreiro (The Warrior) (1964), O pastoral (The Pastoral) (1964), as well as many essays and articles published in specialist magazines and newspapers.
He received an award for the book Folclore de Alagoas from the Alagoas Academy of Letters and the João Ribeiro Award from the Brazilian Academy of Letters. For O Reisado alagoano, he won the Mário de Andrade Award.
In 1960 he abandoned the medical profession to dedicate himself completely to folklore. He assumed the chair of Anthropology at the Federal University of Alagoas.
Founding and full member of the National Commission for Folklore from 1948, he became a member of the National Council for Folklore in 1961 through a decree by the President of the Republic.
He participated in various conferences in the folklore field and in 1963 tried to create a museum of anthropology and folklore in Alagoas, but his dream was not realised.
Théo Brandão, for his standing as a folklorist and professor of anthropology and ethnography, was always well received by anthropologists and participated in anthropological societies in Brazil, Portugal and Spain.
On 20 August 1975, to house its collection of popular art donated to the Federal University of Alagoas – UFAL, the Museu Théo Brandão de Antropologia e Folclore (Théo Brandão Museum of Anthropology and Folklore) was opened, in Maceió.
In 1981, feeling bad, with pain and discomfort in his stomach and low blood pressure, Théo Brandão travelled to Rio de Janeiro seeking advice from medical friends. He had an operation, but the problem was not resolved. His family decided to then take him back to Maceió.
He died on 29 September 1981, lying in state at the Museu Théo Brandão de Antropologia e Folclore.
Recife, 16 December 2005.
Updated on 8 September 2009.
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.
Updated january 26, 2018.
ROCHA, José Maria Tenório. Théo Brandão, mestre do folclore brasileiro. Maceió: Edufal, 1988.
SOUTO MAIOR, Mário. Dicionário de folcloristas brasileiros. Recife: 20-20 Comunicação e Editora, 1999. p.174.
THÉO Brandão [Photo in this text]. Available at: <http://nasombradojuazeiro.com.br/2016/07/14/theo-brandao/>. Access: 10 jan. 2018.
THEOTÔNIO Vilela Brandão. Available at: <http://www.decos.ufal.br/multireferencial/museus/theotexto2.htm>. Access: 30 nov. 2005.
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Théo Brandão. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar_en/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.