African Roots, Brazilian Rites: Cultural and National by C. Sterling

By C. Sterling

This article explores how Afro-Brazilians outline their Africanness via Candomblé and Quilombo versions, and build paradigms of blackness with affects from US-based views, during the vectors of public rituals, carnival, drama, poetry, and hip hop.

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13 Yet, just like in the practice of Candomblé, the libertos were its leaders. The ganho system of labor also fostered the communal consciousness between the populations because the enslaved performed contractual labor services alongside the libertos. Vending their services around the city, escravos do ganho gave a portion of their wages each week to their owners but otherwise maintained their autonomy. Other forms of collective belonging developed through cantos [male work groups] and juntas de alforria [manumission groups], to aid each other in acquiring the actual and social capital necessary for freedom.

Since it was quite prevalent for the libertos to own slaves, in the spirit of fostering an ethnocommunal consciousness, they seemed to have preferred those with the same ethnicity, and each side referred to the other as parentes [relatives], somewhat foreshadowing the more all-encompassing communal affiliation that later developed in Candomblé houses (Harding, Refugee 53). Later in this chapter I will address the liberto/escravo beginnings of the first Nagô terreiro, which further elucidates the marked transcendence of their divergent statuses.

What is most interesting are the concepts that prevailed and blended with the beliefs of other ethnic groups. Existing myths represent aspects of the discourse that were retained and, by implication, selectively forgotten. Four hundred and one orisas exist in the Yoruba pantheon, yet only a few are accessed in Brazil. Those surviving spiritual forces find equivalence with the other dominant African religious practices, such as the Bantu inkises and the Gêgê voduns. The similarities in the religious beliefs from West and Central Africa lend themselves to the organic integration found in this diasporic space.

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