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CARNAVFRICA LA BAIANA DE ACARAJ: OF THE USES AND ABUSES OF

AFRICANITY IN BAHIA

A paper presented at the

8th World Congress of Orisha culture and Tradition


held in the city of

La Havana, Cuba

From 7th to 13th July, 2003

By

Flix AyohOMIDIRE
Centro de Estudos Afro-Orientais (CEAO)
Universidade Federal da Bahia,
Praa XV de Novembro 17,
Terreiro de Jesus,
Salvador-Ba.
E-mail: aomidire@ufba.br

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CARNAVFRICA LA BAIANA DE ACARAJ: OF THE USES AND ABUSES OF
AFRICANITY IN BAHIA

Flix AyohOMIDIRE1
E-mail: aomidire@ufba.br

Nesta cidade todo mundo dOxum


(Dorival Caymmi)

A frica est presente no Brasil em quase


todas as dimenses da nossa sociedade: Na
religiosidade, na musicalidade, na gestualidade,
no gosto pelas cores, na alegria, na dana, na
forma como falamos a lngua portuguesa.
(Film - Atlntico Negro: na Rota dos
Orixs 2002)

Salve Salvador! Bahia de todos os Santos, terra do Ax!2...These are the words of one of
the many praise-greetings of the city of Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia and the
first capital of Brazil. As early as the 1930s, in the anthropological and ethnological circles
of the likes of Nina Rodrigues, Frazier and Herskovits, the city had gained worldwide fame
as the Black Rome for having not only the greatest concentration of descendants of
Africans outside Africa but also the largest concentration of what was considered African
cultural traits and traditions outside of Africa. (Sansone, 1999). With this impressive
statistics come the power and prestige for the city and its dwellers in the general Brazilian
society which started to crave things African as a way of showing their modernity and
liberality.

In Sansones tripartite division of the period of black history in Brazil, it was during the
populist dictatorship of Getlio Vargas in the thirties that the valorization of black cultures
started in Brazil as a whole and in the state of Bahia in particular. The moment the military
government officially declared the myth of the three races (the Indians, the Africans and
the Portuguese) in its bid to sell to the rest of the world a deeper-rooted myth of racial

1
Lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife,Nigria,
currently a scholar of the Brazilian government under the PEC-PG programme (CAPES) undertaking
doctoral researches in Literary and Cultural studies at the Instituto de Letras of the Universidade Federal da
Bahia and teaching Yoruba language and culture at the Centre for Afro-Asian studies of UFBa.
2
Hail the city of Salvador in the Bay of All Saints, the Land of Ax.

2
democracy, black culture ceased to be a pariah culture in the country and incentives were
handed down from the top to encourage and accelerate the so-called re-Africanisation of
Afro-Brazilian culture. The period of the 1960s witnessed a regular flow of Afro-
Brazilians to places like Nigeria and Benin Republic in some form of cultural pilgrimage.
At this period, Salvador da Bahia, the city that had once lost the seat of government of
colonial Brazil to Rio de Janeiro for its lack of modernity that was blamed on the excessive
presence of Blacks in the city now began to witness a veritable de-stigmatization of black
culture3.

An interesting fact about this process of de-stigmatization of black culture in Bahia in


particular was that it led to the ascension of the Yoruba/Nag culture as the most
sophisticated of all the African cultures that were implanted in the Brazilian Diaspora, a
claim that was further reinforced by the reports of foreign travelers who wrote of the
Yoruba pride and fine traits as signs of their higher civilization. More than anything else, in
Bahia, the Yoruba culture was elected onto this high pedestal for its singular donation of
the many Orishas that make up its rich pantheon to further enrich the legion of Saints
adored in this city of 365 churches as sang by one of the most legendary local musicians
Dorival Caymmi. Lending credence to such epithets to make Bahia truly the land of All
Saints4 was the outstanding success and international renown of the irmandades (religious
brother/sisterhoods) that united the Catholic saints to their Yoruba kindreds like the Boa
Morte of Cachoeira founded by Yoruba/Nag women who limited membership admission
only to candombl (orisha) initiates above forty-five years old.

In reality, the process of the re-africanisation of Bahia earlier referred to, was essentially a
yorubanisation per excellence since the aspects of Africanity that come to be celebrated in
the day-to-day baian context turn out to be those elements of Yoruba culture made popular
either by the ennobling history of Yoruba cultural and political resistance in the later period
of slavery as was the case of the famous Revolta dos Mals the Male Revolt of 1835 and

3
Sansone, Livio From Africa to Afro: Use and Abuse of Africa in Brazil, SEPHIS-CODESRIA Lecture No. 3,
Amsterdam/Dakar, 1999.

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the powerful symbolism of Yoruba religiosity as preserved in the many Orisha houses of
Bahia popularly called candombl terreiros or simply styled Ile Ashe. That was how, the
city witnessed the ascension of afro-baian culinary favorites embodied by various Yoruba
delicacies prepared from beans and palm oil like the world-famous akara balls (known in
Bahia as acaraj), moin-moin (called abar in Bahia) and caruru (diced okra cooked in
palm-oil) became special delicacies that are craved by both the rich and the poor alike and
served even on official government functions5. In the same vein, various points of the
capital city have been permanently embellished by different plastic and visual art-works
depicting various aspects of African (Yoruba) cultural aesthetics. For example, the famous
Dique do Toror, a beautiful natural lake in the very heart of Salvador was endowed with
larger than life sculptured images of the different Orishas by the municipal authorities
during the 450th Anniversary of the founding of the city of Salvador. The scenery thus
created has been elected by the local state-owned television as its symbol and serves as
background for its daily news bulletins.

The most glaring of all these re-Africanisation efforts in Bahia is the restoration of the old
historic centre of the city, called pelourinho a place that used to be the Calvary of Blacks
during the slave era. Thanks to the efforts of black consciousness entities like the Olodum
cultural group, pelourinho has now been recovered and turned into a vast museum of black
culture and tradition and a showcase for Bahia and Brazil as a whole. Now endowed with
many museums and monuments to the black race, the place is already on the list of
UNESCO as a cultural patrimony of humanity alongside the entire city of Salvador itself.
In Pel as it came to be fondly known by afro-baians, the beautifully clad baianas de
acaraj can be seen at every corner frying their famous akara balls, cooking their delicious
abar and serving their tasty caruru to tourists and locals alike. At every corner, black
women (and even men now) make beautiful African braids for tourists that want to look
African while capoeira groups present an open display of their prowess, admitting tourists

4
African deities are actually called Saints too in Brazilian parlance, a reflection of the camouflage the slaves
had to go through to ensure the continuity and survival of their ancestral and Orisha worship. This explains
the interchangeability of the two terms povo do santo and povo do Ax in Bahia.
5
During the week-long centenary celebrations held in honour of the late French-born ethnographer, Pierre
Ifatumbi Verger, the Municipal authorities of Salvador turned the famous Solar do Unho to a vast African

4
and stray members on the spot to take part in the dance-like martial movements of this
African sport that was once banned by the police who used to fear its practitioners6. And,
every Tuesday evening, the central square of Pelourinho is turned into a huge stage where
state-sponsored musicians thrill the population to Afro-Baian music ranging from samba to
pagode and even Rap. Thus, in a pleasantly ironic twist, this place that used to be a
nightmare to black slaves and a centre of power to the slave masters has been totally taken
over by the descendants of the erstwhile slaves as a monument to their ancestors and the
Terreiro de Jesus (Jesus Temple) walled-in by not less than four ancient churches now
serve as the very temple of afro-baianity where Africanity is celebrated every Tera de
Beno.

All in all, the local municipal authorities have not spared any efforts at making the overall
visual of Salvador look as African as possible. And the result has been an African city in
the heart of Latin America, where even individuals name their residential buildings after
their favorite Orisha7. In spite of the very rigid Brazilian laws governing personal names
and identities, many soteropolitana families (as natives of Salvador refer to themselves)
have started to officially give African names to their children, and they no longer have any
problems getting such names registered at the government registry8.

More than anything else, the single aspect of Baian live that embodies the outstanding
success of the re-africanisation process over the last two and a half decades or so is the
annual carnival in Salvador. After decades of social repression and stigmatization of
African participation in the carnivalistic folias, the Afrocentric elements of the baian
society finally hijacked the Salvadorian carnival in the mid-seventies with the successful
launching of black carnivalistic groups like Ile-Aiy (1974), Olodum (1979), Ara Ketu and

kitchen where invited guest were treated to an array of Afro-Baian (mostly Yoruba) cuisine that included even
sr (yam porridge).
6
Today, the tougher and rougher form of capoeira, called capoeira regional has been incorporated into the
training of the army and police.
7
Along the lower residential end of the popular and populous Joana Anglica avenue alone, more that a dozen
of the buildings carry names like Edifcio Ogum Onir, Edifcio Oxossi, Edifcio Iasn etc. while the upper
end of the long avenue is endowed with a big shopping centre christened Orixs Centre.
8
One family that took part in the course on Yoruba language, culture and civilization that I give at the Centre
for Afro-Asian studies of the Federal University of Bahia even named their new-born baby Opobopobi after I
gave a lecture on the famous l - Mo ri keke kan

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a host of others that came to strengthen the hitherto marginalized Afox groups that had
been struggling to survive in the much politicized carnival environment of the baian capital.

Carnival in Salvador - Capital of gaiety9

Carnaval: inveno do diabo que Deus abenoou! (Carnival, an invention of the devil to
which God gave His blessing). Such are the opening words of one of the many state-
sponsored video documentaries on the Salvadorian carnival10, a statement credited to
Caetano Veloso, one of the brains behind the Tropiclia (counter)cultural movements that
had its roots in Bahia from where it spread to the rest of Brazil (Dunn 2001). Where the
carnival in Rio de Janeiro, famous for the competition of the various and colourful samba
schools and backed by the powerful largest private television network in the whole of
Latin America the Globo used to be the only irresistible force that attracted millions of
tourists to Brazil, neither the carnival festivities themselves nor the city of Salvador has
been the same ever since the black groups and afoxs invaded the Salvadorian avenida11 in
the mid-eighties. With the participatory nature that the Salvadorian carnival adopted
featuring a proliferation of black groups who literally take over the fun and merrymaking,
an aspect not unreminiscent of the popular festivities common in Yorubaland, coupled with
the magical door of showbiz opened by the temporary transposition of African visual and
plastic arts, kingly courts and religious rituals to the Avenida by the various black groups
who re-enact the symbolic African life of the terreiros during carnival, the stage is set for
the mega-show of the 21st century that brings tourists, (Afro)religious converts, showbiz
star-hunters and even simple voyous in their millions to the city of Salvador, bringing to the
state of Bahia, the much-needed foreign exchange that is necessary to appease the gods of
McWorld12 and earning the Salvadorian carnival the title of second place among the most
famous popular festivals in the world, losing the first place only the German Oktoberfest
(Serra 1999).

9
The municipal council of Salvador bears the official title of the Capital da Alegria.
10
Cf Carnival in Bahia, Truq vdeo, 1991.
11
Avenida has become a metonymy to refer to everything related to the carnival in Salvador, due to the fact
that the major activities of the week-long carnival take place along the Avenida Sete de setembro, a popular
business area in the city centre.
12
Cf Benjamin, Jihad vs Mcworld. 1989.

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This winning of this enviable title is in fact mostly due to the perfection of the art of merry-
making engineered by the famous invention of the trio eltrico coupled with the powerful
cultural repertoire brought to the Avenida by the black carnivalistic groups. Proof of the
high success of this African `invation of the baian carnival can be seen in the fact that in
spite of the very late hour that most of the Blocos Afro as the black carnival groups like Il
Aiy and Olodum have come to be known to get to the main arena of the carnival, they
never fail to attract millions of fans who flock after them to dance to their native musical
renditions. But, let us pause a moment to investigate what really is this Africanity in the
so-called re-africanisation of Bahia that seems to have produced the miracle of attracting up
to 5 million tourists to the Salvadorian carnival every year.

Carnavfrica and Baianas de Acaraj

More than anything else, the definitive proof of the triumph of Africanity/Yorubanity in
Bahia, apart from the usual sundry support granted to the major blocos afro already
mentioned was the decision by the Antonio Mbassahy-led mayoralty that elected African-
related themes as the official themes of the 2002 and 2003 carnivals respectively. The 2002
carnival was dubbed Carnivfrica (African Carnival) and the 2003 edition was used to pay
rightful and long overdue homage to the Baianas de acaraj these sweet, elegantly-cladded
black women who have come to symbolize the Africanness of Bahia, seducing tourists and
locals alike with their traditional Afro-baian dress adorned with layers and layers of beads
that indicate their affiliation to one Orisha or another and exhibiting on their stall alongside
the akaras, abar, caruru other accessories like owo eyo and many other ritual elements
that make their stalls look more like real altars dressed in honour of any Yoruba deity13.

For the 2002 Carnival, the municipal authorities made an elaborate agenda that included the
participation of various Embassies of African countries as special guests of honour, lodging
and taking care of every detail of their week-long participation in a manner not

13
Like many traditional market women in yorubaland, the baianas even offer some morsels of food on their
stall to their tutelary Orisha.

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unreminiscent of the legendary largess of the Nigerian government during FESTAC 77 (of
which many baians took part in those glorious days of the Nigeria oil-boom). Various
musicians from the African continents were also invited to grace the occasion. For the
period of the Carnavfrica, images of Africa were commissioned at different strategic
points of the city. The mascot of the carnival itself was a native smiling luba mask. And, to
compliment the government efforts and initiative, the different carnival groups took various
aspects of African cultures to the Avenida, with groups like Il Aiy and Filhas de Oxum
gracing the occasion with elaborate rituals drawn from the liturgical repertoires of their
respective terreiros.

Months before the beginning of the 2003 carnival, the Municipal government of Salvador
gave the first shot towards the tribute it wanted to pay to the acaraj women by
commissioning the Memorial da Baiana an elaborate monument to the baianas in general,
represented and captured in their various occupations as acaraj sellers, tourist guides or
simple accompanhantes, ialorixs and ias priestesses and devotees of the various
Orishas etc. The Memorial is a veritable museum on the life and activities of the baian
women, equipped with elaborate and original pieces of all the elements that make up the
special outfits that make the real baianas veritable moving museums of African antiquities
with their balangid amulets and their multi-coloured beads dedicated to their tutelary
Orishas as well as their original African frilled lace that was said to be so old and authentic
that they can no longer be found on the African continent any more (Sansone 1999).

On the opening night of the carnival itself, the baianas form a living white carpet along the
Avenida, dancing to the specially-composed music rendered in their honour by a state-
contracted musician whose refrain summarizes what the baianas have come to represent in
the Baian day-to-day existence: Ela canta, ela dana, ela gira
Ela baiana, do acaraj
Baiana do Acaraj
Baiana do Acaraj,
Eis a Baiana
Muito Ax!14

14
She sings, she dances, she spins (around in her baggy skirt)/ Shes the baiana do acaraj/Baiana do
acaraj/Baiana do acaraj/There goes the baiana/with plenty of Ashe. (Comment: The baianas as true adepts

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From the terreiro to the Avenida: spicing the profane with the sacred

The baian anthropologist, Ordep Serra in his well-researched book on the baian carnival
and other related popular festivals, recounted the existence, some thirty years back, of a
carnival group called Barroquinha Zero Hora15 which used to perform a ritual at the door
of the church of Barroquinha (a popular quarter in the centre of Salvador). The ritual
consisted in the members of this group organizing themselves, all dressed up in carnival
gears, with the drums and fireworks at the ready, waiting respectuously at the entrance of
the church and looking expectantly at the huge hands of the church clock. The moment the
clock strikes midnight (zero hour is their carnival name), the group used to turn its back on
the church and let loose their carnivalistic revelries, with samba music, loud drumming and
huge fireworks: the carnival has started. Adieu to the sacred, welcome the profane.

In the eternal struggle of the black segment of the Brazilian society for a better treatment
and racial equality, various scholars (Castro 2002, Sansone 1999, Sansone and dos Santos
1998, Luz, 2001) have observed the importance of a racial identity and identification, most
especially, but not strictly in the gilronian acceptation of the terms16. Identification with the
black race and the African continent has thus come to be a sine qua non of the survival
strategies of the Blacks in Brazil as a way of legitimating their existence and acquiring a
positive status as one of the agents of the civilizing process of the Brazilian nation. The
Blacks in Brazil have to continually remind the hegemonic forces present in the Brazilian
society that they do have a place of origin Africa and that they are still in perpetual

of the Orishas, in their greetings among themselves and even while dealing with outsiders, always intersperse
their discourse with the phrase: muito ax para voc, which means, I wish you a lot of ax. In other words,
they are commending their interlocutor(s) into the hands of the Orishas. As a result, it has become generally
fashionable for tourists and visitors to Bahia to say: Vou na terra do Ax (Im visiting the land of Ax) and
the state-owned Tourism Agencies Bahiatursa and Emtursa have further popularized the symbolic
association between the Bahia and the Orishas by adopting in official pamphlets the popular motto: Ax
Bahia. It is also revealing to point out here that within the baian society itself, Orisha worshippers are
generally referred to, and they too call themselves O povo do Ax a reference that the more intellectually
inclined adepts among the Orisha worshippers now prefer to use to the exclusion of the other sincretic label
hitherto employed: O povo de santo (saintly people) which was a term invented during the days when
Orisha worshippers were targets of police and state persecution, thus camouflaging the Orisha as a santo,
that is, a catholic saint under the elaborate equivalent charts that camouflage the Orisha Ogun as Saint
Anthony, Sango as Saint George, Oshun as Our Lady and Omolu (Obaluaye) as Saint Lazarus etc.
15
Serra, Ordep, Rumores de Festa:O Sagrado e o Profanona Bahia, Salvador: UDUFBA, 1999.

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communion with their African ancestors, if not always physically, at least spiritually. To
this end, the Blacks in Brazil have successfully interiorized the African believe that no
human act is fortuitous and that, as the Yoruba proverb affirms bi a ba nsere, a maa riran
(even while at play, we reflect). Thus, while the white segment of the Brazilian society take
carnival in its literal traditional sense of simple revelry and a conscious escape from the
rigorous ethics of the normal Greco-Roman God-fearing, peace-loving existence, a period
of general locura that precedes the sober Lenten period; the Blacks in Brazil have come to
see carnival as yet another forum where they can bring to public attention their racial and
collective struggle for equality. This is a strategic decision, since the lawlessness allowed
during carnival period was the only guaranty of impunity that the first black consciousness
groups had of airing their dissidenting views without attracting any government sanctions.
Today, however, more that the fear of sanctions, the black carnivalistic groups want to
explore the moment to strengthen their positions in the society and to fight for racial
equalities and equal opportunities. Thus, while the rest of the world, especially the white
segments of the society take carnival as pure revelry, the Blacks do more than just
brincar17, they also reflect on their status and work for the improvement of their rights as
Brazilian citizens.

For this reason, the Afro-Baians have come to look on carnival as a time to showcase their
African affiliations. In a carefully thought out manner, the various black carnival groups
called blocos Afro and Afoxs usually package their message for presentation to the general
public during carnival. The African affiliation of each group is something that has to be
made evident to the general society, because on it depends the legitimacy of the group. It is
worth remembering in the first place that even the choice of the names adopted by each
bloco afro and afox is usually a spiritual exercise. Another baian researcher found out in
her interviews that the name of the bloco carnavalesco Il Aiy was given to it by the oracle
(erindinlogun) that the Iyalorisha of the group consulted at its foundation (Goli Guerreiro
1997a). In the same way, names like Ara Ketu and Filhas de Oxum readily reveal the
(spiritual) connections between the groups that bear them and the African concepts they are

16
See Paul Gilroy, The Negro Atlantic, Modernity and Doubl Consciousness. Cambridge (Mass.) Havard
University Press, 1993.
17
Brincar (to play) is the expression that is generally used to describe participation in carnival.

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trying to (re)live in the Brazilian Diaspora. In this respect, the choice of the Banda Olodum
goes even deeper since its founders have claimed that their band is a tribute to the Supreme
God (Olodumare in Yoruba) and that:

The powerful music of Olodum is, above all, the music of the Yorubas, the Igbos,
the Jejis, the Ijeshas, the Kimbundus, the Umbundus, the Macuas. It belongs to all
the Africans that came from the Golf of Benin, from the Slave Coast, from the Bay
of Luanda (Angola) in such overwhelming numbers that they turned the city of
Salvador, capital of Bahia of All Saints to the Black Rome, the land of Gladiators of
the Negritude movement. It is equally the music of that religious phenomenon
called Olodumare: it is the name of God in Yoruba, it is also the name given to
the radiant rose, it symbolizes the original explosion that brought about the creation
of the world, the essence that made all men and women, that created the earth, the
sea, the sun and the moon, separating the night from the day, the essence that
equipped us with the capacity to think, dream and make music18..

It thus becomes a matter of racial survival for the Afro-baians to make sure that the millions
of spectators that come to see their performance at carnival period have a momentary taste
of their African convictions. The cultural group Il Aiy has been one of the bloco afros that
have succeeded in taking this exercise to its highest symbolic realms. In an apparent
reversal of the earlier-described ritual of the Zero Hora group credited to Ordep Serra, the
group Il Aiy has become known to be a group that turns carnival into a real blend of the
sacred with the profane. To start with, Il Aiy does not take part in the baian carnival
(which officially starts on the night of Thursday) until it has successfully carried out the
ritual of sanctification that they hold unfailingly on the night of the Saturday of carnival
week. On such a night, the Headquarter of the bloco in Curuzu, Liberdade has come to be
an annual rendezvous for locals and tourists alike. Everybody is always looking forward to
the Pad ritual of Il Aiy. On that night, members of the bloco gather along the street,
concentrating their mass in front of the house of the Iyalorisha of the bloco that also
happens to be the mother of the founding president of this African republic in Bahia
Antnio Carlos Vov. The occasion is usually graced by no less a person than the Mayor of
the city himself19 to whom the celebrants have extended the privilege of participation in
such a deep-rooted African ritual that is meant to appease Eshu, the Yorub god of the
roads so that he might grant success to the enterprise of the group in the years carnival.

18
Joo Jorge Rodrigues. A Msica do Olodum. A Revoluo da emoo. Salvador, Olodum, 2002
19
On a few occasions, the state governor too has been presents.

11
The Pad consists of the secret rituals that the afore-mentioned Iyalorisha Jitolu and her
assistants usually performs indoors while the mass of tourists and Il Aiy members and
associates patiently wait outside in the street. After the indoor rituals, the group of
officiating ministers will then appear on the balcony of the 3-story building all decked out
in ritual white dresses and each holding in his hands a white eiyele pigeon. After offering
prayers on the birds in the name of the entire Salvadorian and Brazilian community, in the
manner of the traditional African monarchs and Aworos, the birds are let loose into the
night air, to the applause of the waiting crowd, many of whom could usually be seen
crossing themselves as a sign of reverence in a way typical only of the Brazilian
syncretism. At this point, innumerable fireworks would rend the night air and the 250man
band would strike a thunderous rhythm to salute the gods. After this first salvo dies down,
the Iyalorisha and her acolytes would then proceed to make an offering of popcorn to Eshu,
spraying the crowd with the wet moldy mass that young girls carry in sacred baskets. The
offering is sprayed up to the ikoritameta - the point of intersection of Curuzu with the long
historic Avenida da Liberdade where black slaves once held sway to fight for their liberty
and free their race from oppression. It is only after the return of the Iyalorisha and her
acolytes that the band would begin to render the special carnival theme music for that year
that would have been elected among many specially-composed songs at a solemn occasion
held prior to the carnival month. The Queen of the years carnival would then be escorted
onto the huge moving stage on which she would dance alone all night as the torch-bearer of
her race. The formation of the long, colourful carpet made up of drummers and dancers, all
dressed in flamboyant, specially-designed abads20 bearing the theme of that years
carnival (which is usually a topic related to Africa and African ancestrality in Brazil) will
then initiate the long march to the centre of the carnival celebrations at the Avenida Sete de
Setembro. Usually, Dancing and singing in this stately fashion reminiscent of the courts of
African kings, Il Aiy does not get to the Avenida until around 4.00 a.m. Thus, every year,
the group Il Aiy and other black carnival groups, while taking part in the general
carnivalistic revelries still manage to affirm their racial allegiance and inject their

20
A corruption of the Yoruba word Agbada that is generally used in Bahia to designate all dresses designed
for carnival. While most of the trio bands limit their own design to simple t-shirt like sports-wear bearing the
colours of each carnival group, Bloco afros like Ile-Aiye try to make their own real agbada-like designs
comprising the complete three-piece dress of their Yoruba ancerstors.

12
performance with dignified religiosity, confirming the Yoruba saying the Ibi gbogbo ni il
w.

Although some critics of these contemporary (re)inventors of Africa and Africanity in


Bahia would prefer to see in the various manifestations of the black carnival groups mostly
elements of what Bhabha termed mimicry, accusing and condemning the ardor of the blocos
afros and afoxs for their essentially hybrid nature, objective observers can still see in the
deep-rooted convictions of these baian entities their faith in their African ancestry and their
determination to preserve their origins. Although one would have wished for a closer
collaboration between the baians and their African brothers on the other side of the Negro
Atlantic so as to effect a more coordinated and coherent presentation of the virtues of
African ancestrality and the valuable contributions African cultural expressions could make
to the global community (represented by millions of tourists from virtually all the 5
continents) there is the need to salute the courage of the baians in their highly successful
enterprise of preserving the roots of African ancestrality initially planted under such
adverse conditions and watered with so much blood and sacrifice. It is firmly believed that,
with the right incentives and support from both the Brazilian authorities and their African
counterparts, a true communion and revival of age-old contact physical and material,
more than just spiritual between the two coasts of the Negro Atlantic would soon bring
about the much desired renaissance of African values in the globalized community.

It is a fortunate coincidence that in Bahia today, many are those who have come to adopt
as their very raison dtre an authentic African identity that is exclusive and thorough in its
reach and outlook. Many today are the baians who share the same conviction as the
respected egbomi, the educationist Vanda Machado who, for a long time has been engaged
in imparting the much-prized African consciousness into various groups of black children
and adolescents in different schools in Bahia, thus making a live show of the deep
convictions she expressed in an interview where she confidently affirmed her creed:

A minha alma o principal, o que est dentro de mim, o que eu carrego...


Ela sempre vai ser uma alma negra21.

21
Vanda Machado, interview granted to the film Ile Ax Bahia, Salvador, TVE, 2002.

13
(My soul is the major elements, the live that is in me, what I carry about with me. And, my
soul will always be a black soul).

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BIBLIOGRAPICAL REFERENCES

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