About CANDOMBLÉ (by Mariangela Guimaraes)
Candomblé is a religion that presents a great variety of gods – the orixás – although it is essentially monotheistic, since it believes in Olorum as the only creator of the Earth and the sky, of the orixás and mankind.
The ritual of Candomblé can be seen, from a musical point of view, as a danced oratory: each entity – orixá, exu or erê – has its chants and specific dances. The most cultuated orixás in Brasil are Exu, Ogum, Oxóssi, Ossaim, Oxumaré, Nanã, Logum-Edê, Omolu, Xangô, Iansã, Ewá, Yemanjá, Oxaguiã, Oxalufã, Erê-Ibeji, Oluaê, Irôko, Obá e Oxum.
In spite of being based in the African tradition, Candomblé is a religion born in Brasil with the arrival of the slaves. In that time, it didn’t exist in Africa – as it doesn’t exist until today – what we call Candomblé, but several different cults coming from different groups and tribes.
Because slaves came from different African nations, Brazilian Afro-religions appeared in different regions of the country with a variety of local rites and names which derivate from different traditions: Candomblé in Bahia, Xangô in Pernambuco and Alagoas, Tambor-de-Mina in Maranhão and Pará, Batuque in Rio Grande do Sul and Macumba in Rio de Janeiro.
What made possible the survival and organization of the black religions in Brasil was the fixation of Africans that arrived in the country in the final years of slavery in the cities and urban occupations. The slaves that came in that period had more mobility and could live in closer contact with others, having an interaction that was not possible for earlier generations of slaves in Brasil, which facilitated the creation of organized groups of cult.
Until the end of the XIX century, these religions, in spite of being consolidated, were still exclusively for black groups descendent from slaves. In the beginning of the XX century, the contact with kardecist spiritualism, that had just arrived from France, made possible the appearance of a new Afro-Brazilian religion: Umbanda. Mixing Christianity, spiritualism and African traditions, Umbanda became popular among other social segments and opened the way for the expansion of religious references brought from Africa to Brazilian society.
Until the 60’s, Candomblé was mainly concentrated in Bahia and in a minor scale in Pernambuco and some other places. Since then it started to spread through all Brazilian regions, showing itself as an option of cult for other segments of the population and starting to be seen as a religion for everybody.
Brazilian Cultural Centre A Hora do Brasil is a non-profit organization that aims to be an open space for cultural dialogue, stimulating all manifestations of Brazilian art and culture in the Netherlands and offering a forum where discussions can take place and ideas can be exchanged, showing the essence of Brazilian culture and its diversity.
THE YEMANJÁ FEAST (by Neyde Lantyer)
Brazil’s first capital, Salvador da Bahia, was once the most important harbor of South Atlantic. Functioning as the cultural and commercial connection between Europe and the colonies, the city was the major receptor of the slavery traffic and it has became the blackest city in Brazil and the biggest black city in the world outside Africa. Today in Salvador, side by side with 365 catholic churches – one for each day of the year as the legend says – there are approximately the same amount of terreiros de candomblé. Among many other expressions of the black culture in the city life, the festas de bairro are vivid illustrations of the people’s faith in the orixás of candomblé – mostly in syncretism with the catholic saints. During the whole year, festivities to the orixás take place in different areas of the city. The Yemanjá Feast, in Rio Vermelho, is one of the most popular.
QUEEN OF THE SEA
For more then a hundred years, on February 2nd, the fishermen bring their presents and prayers to celebrate Yemanjá, the queen of the sea. Currently, there are still fishermen who organize the Yemanjá Feast, which became tremendously popular, concentrating a big crowd in the whole area of Rio Vermelho. Dressed in white, people of all classes and backgrounds bring their presents to the saint or orixá : flowers, perfumes, mirrors, necklaces and dolls are the preferred ones. Celebrating the sea is a must, once it is - together with femininity and motherhood - the symbol of Yemanjá.
From early in the morning and throughout the whole day long lines are formed to bring presents to the place called barracão, where the mães-de-santo – the high priestesses of Candomblé – give blesses with água-de-cheiro and arrange flowers and other gifts in big baskets. The feast evolves with the gathering of the crowd around the small bay of Rio Vermelho, while several groups turn up bringing statues, big shells and vases of flowers. People pray, dance, make reverences and sometimes incorporate the orixá. In the afternoon, the big baskets with flowers and other presents are placed in boats to be delivered to the sea.
The climax happens at 5:00 pm when the boats leave to release the baskets in the water. At that moment, all eyes are turned to the sea, hands wave white tissues and there is a collective emotion with everybody praying together for peace and happiness. Side by side with the religious demonstrations there is a profane feast : blocos, bands and afoxés from the whole city come to make their homage, people dance and drink. After 5:00 pm, also the religious ones dance and have fun. The feast becomes then a completely profane celebration.
LECTURE: “Picturing the sacred and the secret” by Dutch anthropologist Mattijs van de Port
EXHIBITION: “Festa de Yemanjá” slideshow and photo-exhibition by Brazilian photographer Chico Colombo
“Yemanjá” video by Brazilian choreographer and video-artist Sérgio Ulhõ
“Black Atlantic, on the Orixás’ route” Film documentary by Brazilian filmmaker Renato Barbieri and historian Victor Leonardi
Candomblé in the Camera was organized by journalist Mariangêla Guimarães and visual artist Neyde Lantyer for A Hora do Brasil Foundation
Layout: Chico Colombo