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What is the link between Brazil’s world famous Carnival and religions of African-origin such as the Candomblé?

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The influence of religions of African origin is present in various aspects of Carnival
A influência das religiões de matriz africana está presente em vários aspectos do Carnaval
The influence of religions of African origin is present in various aspects of Carnival

Note from BW of Brazil: It’s about that time…again! Yes, in less than one month, the madness, music, and muses that are just a few of the features of Brazilian Carnaval will hit the streets and samba stadiums once again. Why is it that Brazilian Carnaval seems to be so popular around the world, even among people who have never been to Brazil? Is it the non-stop party? The women? The Carnaval themes or costumes? I’m sure for everyone reading this post right now, when someone says Brazilian Carnaval, you most certainly get a image that pops into your head. What is that image? Well, I’ll bet that religions of African origin are decidedly NOT something that you or millions of people think about, but there is in fact an important link between Carnaval, religions such as the Candomblé and the Afro-Brazilian population. Didn’t know that? Read on…

What is the link between Carnival and African-origin religions?

The relationship between Carnival and African-origin religions dates back to before the 1960s

By Sara Schuabb

In a month, the samba schools and the themes of the Carnaval bloco parades will take the avenues with thousands of revelers, for five days of joy and catharsis throughout the country. Of Christian origin, Carnival, whose word comes from Latin with the meaning of “farewell to the flesh”, was also a fertile soil for religious practices of African origin. And it could not be different, considering that Brazil has the largest population of African origin outside of Africa. Thus, in the public celebrations of this popular feast, one can see the influence of this relationship in the traditional wing of the Baianas (Bahian women), which refers to the mães de santo (priestess) of the candomblé religion, in the sound of drum troupe – with the ancestral rhythms of African drums and in the homage always present in the mythologies of the deities of African origin in their themes.

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Gabriel Banaggia, Ph.D. in Anthropology from the Museu Nacional/UFRJ, says that the relationship between Carnival, especially the Carioca (Rio de Janeiro), and African-origin religions is ancient and dates long before the creation of the Baianas wing in the early 1960s.

“This wing, which is composed of a choreographed and outstanding group parading with identical costumes, honors the mães-de-santo who came from Bahia, the cradle of candomblé, a religion that has also been established in Rio de Janeiro in its most popular, contemporary form since the first half of the nineteenth century.”

According to Eliana Santos, the Colônia Pan Africana (Pan African Colony) of Nova Friburgo, the Centro Cultural Afro Brasileiro Ysun-Okê (Ysun-Okê Afro-Brazilian Cultural Center) and the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) of Nova Friburgo, the cultural exchanges that occurred over several centuries during the Brazilian colonial period contributed to the formation of a hybrid and quite rich culture of the country, and Carnival, in turn, presents this diversity in its themes.

“Afro-Brazilian religions constitute a relatively recent phenomenon in the religious history of Brazil. Candomblé, the most traditional and African of these religions, originated in the Northeast. It was born in Bahia and has been synonymous with Afro-Brazilian religious traditions in general. With African roots, Umbanda also became popular among Brazilians. And Carnival has an important role in preserving the cultural traditions of different groups,” she explains.

Brazilian Carnival is also directly related to ethnic-racial issues, assuming that it was the povo negro (black people) of African origin who brought this cultural manifestation to Brazil, also infecting white Europeans.

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“We must not forget that, for many times, the Samba Schools served as refuges for practitioners of the religions of African origin. We can perceive this connection in the sambas plots, in the participation of the black movements in the schools, besides the representations and cults to the orixás in some barracks”, affirms Eliana.

As for the influence of African batuques (drums) on the samba school batterias (drum troupes), Ilma Santos, also from the Colônia Pan Africana, do Centro Cultural Afro Brasileiro Ysun-Okê and the Movimento Negro, explains that the rhythm of the samba school’s drum troupes comes from the African batuques, the rhythms of the atabaques of the ogans of the terreiros and the improvised songs of the senzalas (slave quarters).

“The batucada is accompanied by a percussion instrument, originating from Africa and its religious rhythms of candomblé, many instruments being improvised with household utensils, such as the dish, skillet and knife, used up to this day in the batteries of samba schools,” she says.

Source: Portal Multiplix



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