Place of Discourse and Folklore of the African Diaspora

On being white and talking about racism. How to learn about Afro-Brazilian stories of resistance, through lenses free from the objectifying effects of the white gaze.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

“To get rid of the curse, the community called for good spirits to take to the streets in the month before August to ward off the evil spirits and attract good ones, managing to save the community from the great tragedy of Death. Initiating thus the apparitions of the mandus and Caretas (grimaces) on the streets of Acupe on Sundays of July.” (Wiki)

Each Sunday of July, a small Brazilian town called Acupe hosts street theater folklore of the African Diaspora. People come from all over the world to witness this unique cultural manifestation, and to support the community’s effort to reclaim its history. Nego Fugido (the play’s title, which I’ll roughly translate as “runaway black guy”) represents the long overdue opportunity for Afro-Brazilians to tell their own stories of resistance, spirituality, and ancestry. This way, they combat invisibility and the twisted white gaze of recorded history and western anthropology.

This play is about enslaved Africans who ran away, then were chased and killed by their master. This master was trying to avoid bankruptcy by offering the lives of enslaved runaways to Ikú (an Orixá, a force of nature, Death itself in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé), and planting a banana tree over each grave. Eventually, there are no more lives to be offered, and Ikú curses the whole town. Every year, good spirits must be sent out to chase away the bad ones and break the curse. Caretas, the masked children that roam the streets, symbolize the “insertion of blacks and their culture into Brazilian society” (Jamilson Oliveira). Ultimately, the enslaved are granted freedom, and the town manages to arrest and auction out the King. Today, the skirt made out of dried banana tree leaves worn by the performers holds immense spiritual power, symbolizing the sacrificed lives of their ancestors.

“The banana tree leaves themselves are used in Candomblé terreiros to scare away eguns (spirits). Every terreiro has a babá of the house, a good egun that prevents other eguns from disrupting celebrations and rituals.” (Jal Souza)

The story, which comes from oral tradition of a couple hundred years ago, is remembrance of colonial power dynamics, the brutality of the struggle for freedom, and the primordial strength of Ikú. Acupe is a Quilombola community at the “Bay of All Saints” (Bahia de Todos os Santos), a region with a long colonial history, and land with deep ancestral roots. The combination of lifelike reenactments, on the Land where the story took place hundreds of years ago, and the sacred ritual to rid the town of evil spirits makes for a breathtaking experience.

Unfortunately, the swarm of white photographers overpowers not only the audience, but also the performers. There is nothing inconspicuous or ordinary about those giant lenses being shoved at all angles and in all directions. These hybrids between tourists and professionals felt no shame in interrupting the performances to direct the actors into ideal poses. The drone hovering over us witnessed hostile arguments between photographers who fought over an ideal viewpoint, or between audience members that just couldn’t take those people’s entitlement over some cubic meters of aerial space.

Perhaps the the lack of a formal theater setting caused uncertainty over of what would constitute etiquette. Or perhaps they felt that this was a once in a life time opportunity to register that moment. What is certain is that the colonial gaze, and the historical form of racism being depicted in the play, was also manifested in its modern form, making people very anxious.

The population of Acupe is predominantly black. So, when there are white people there they are seen as outsiders. In fact, a lot of white people show up only to document this event, and the objectifying effects of the white gaze are palpable.

I believe there is a level of entitlement that comes through when white people act like being there and documenting the event is a favor they are doing for the community, as if their presence there is what gives the event value. There is absolutely no way that a photographer would interrupt an actor’s performance with “psssst! pssst!” while aggressively pointing to where the actor should move for a better shot at Shakespeare at the Park in NYC.

The “epidermalization of inferiority” may or may not come at play in response to this, but it is easy to imagine that many black people feel that the “social cost” of calling out white people’s insensitive behavior is too high, aside from having to deal with a likely outburst of white fragility. What I can say is that a hand full of black people in the audience were pushed too far and lashed out at arrogant gazers who were clueless and disrespectful.

I was taking pictures with my phone… the costumes were beautiful and designed to be photogenic. The problem isn’t visiting the town for the event, watching the performance and taking pictures. The problem is treating the Other as there to serve You.

One extremely insensitive thing you can do as an audience member is to treat those performers as objects, as if their purpose for being there was for you to make a fantastic photo. The parallels between history and modernity are distressing. The community is passing down a tradition to their children, honoring their ancestors on the very land where their blood seeped into the ground. Being able to witness it should be taken as a humbling learning experience.


Place of Discourse

As someone who is not black or of the African Diaspora, I tell this story partially. I don’t, nor will I ever want to, speak for anyone. I speak about them, and about myself, because we exist in relation to each other, dialectically. My place of discourse is not, and doesn’t claim to be, impartial. That doesn’t mean I have no right to speak.

“[W]hite people cling to the notion of racial innocence, a form of weaponized denial that positions black people as the “havers” of race and the guardians of racial knowledge.” (Robin DiAngelo)

It’s my responsibility to address my white passing privilege, and to address how my own community might be reproducing classism and colorism. As white (passing) people, we must listen and learn (and read), but when we demand the unpaid emotional labor of racial education from Afro-descendants, we fall in the trap of reproducing the very thing we want to eradicate.

Support the community, don’t take from them. Learn without demanding labor. And attend when you’re invited. This is the etiquette we can establish.

Mirna Wabi-Sabi


is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.

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Bargaining Even With the Spiritual

“Rules to be followed in order to achieve something desired, exchange favors, the human mind is so materialistic that it bargains even with the spiritual.”

From Jal Souza

English Translation Here


Barganhando Até Com o Espiritual

Regras a serem seguidas com o intuito de alcançar algo desejado, troca de favores, a mente humana é tão materialista que barganha até com o espiritual.

Não se trata de um texto didático, baseado em livros de pessoas celebres ou de status reconhecido, mas sim um relato de uma simples alma, que aprendeu na pratica, sendo liberto do crime, das drogas e da ignorância política, através da fé, vendo a força dos ancestrais, filhos da grande mãe África, dos impérios de Oyo Yorubá, Kongo, Aksum, a quem somos herdeiros e guardiões legítimos de sua sabedoria, livrar o povo preto da morte, em todas as formas que ela se apresenta aos jovens de periferia, e escutando os ensinamentos de uma ialorixá, não uma com iniciados famosos ou com terreiro gigante em algum bairro nobre, citada em veículos de comunicação, mas uma de baixa escolaridade e muita sabedoria conquistada nos seus 27 anos de feita, iniciada na religião, que perdeu muitos filhos, vê os iaôs como nascidos dela, para a política assassina racista do estado brasileiro, mas salvou muitos, esse texto é uma prova.

É triste ver como as pessoas, até mesmo praticantes da fé africana, não entendem a força dos nossos antepassados, não conhecem a essência dessa crença tão rica de sentimentos, onde não é preciso ser o mais letrado ou endinheirado, vivemos do resplendor dos impérios da terra natal ao cativeiro do solo americano, e nem isso nos apagou da sociedade e do crescimento. Fé significa verdade, se encher um copo na torneira, colocar em uma prateleira e crêr que ali está uma energia sagrada, o que chamam água, chamamos Oxum, se tomar um banho na praia e acreditar que ali foram tiradas todas negatividades, o que chamam de água salgada, chamamos Iemanjá, ao dar de comer a um semelhante faminto, ali está a terra que nos da o alimento, chamamos Omolu, Obaluaiê, o que chamam natureza, chamamos Orixás, seres de luz, guias, aqueles que não mudam o planeta, mas mudam a nós, para agirmos pelo mundo. Não se trata de oferecer e receber, a experiência de colocar um simples prato de milho branco na pratileira, após usar cocaína, e nunca mais usar novamente, dá essa certeza, e até mesmo não adepto do candomblé, mas que fez o bem a si mesmo e ao próximo, está rodiado das energias positivas, pois, o vento não se vende por bens materiais, Iansã não precisa, e sopra o agô, misericórdia, também aos que erram, pois nos erros que aprendemos, mas pesa o martelo da justiça aos maldosos convictos.

O mal existe? Sim! A personalidade do ser humano faz parte da natureza, temos positivo e negativo, não chamamos os deuses dos outros de demônios, ou quem não segue a crença de perverso, cada um tem seu papel e aprendizado nesse universo, que chamamos Oxalá, Obatolá, e só o Grande Criador sabe o que cada um passou, e passa, em sua caminhada, o diabo é nossa própria escuridão. Cultuamos seres malignos? Opcional de cada um. Se alguém lança uma praga contra outro, seja acendendo uma vela, em oração, e até mesmo pura palavras, o maligno se apodera, para prejudicar a todos, mas, a natureza é justa, não mau, assim como um animal predador só caça a quantidade de presas de que precisa para sobreviver. Dificuldades todos passaremos, conheceremos o melhor e o pior de existir, faz parte do aprendizado, mas o senhor da guerra, o sangue dentro de nós, Ogum, tem as chaves das portas da prosperidade para quem merecer, lutar por si e por seus semelhantes. As entidades não farão milagres do acaso, mas, como o ar que é vital a vida, te dará a energia para vencer na luta, as ruins não vão segurar seus braços, pernas, não há melhor ferramenta que a própria preguiça, desatenção.

Não é preciso ser adepto do candomblé, umbanda, quimbanda, para ser agraciado pelos grandes reis e rainhas do oculto, do não palpável, cada tempo que vivemos é um novo conhecimento, senhor Tempo ensina, basta abrir a mente para o que é mostrado, se apropriar do que faz bem, distribuir amor, com justiça. O espiritual não é capitalista, não está a venda, só entende quem conhece a gratidão e paz interior.

Jal Souza

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 17.41.25Um brasileiro de 30 anos, nascido e criado nas periferias da capital do estado da Bahia, candomblecista e esquerdista, me descobrindo tarde, após vencer preconceitos e senso comum aprendidos desde infância.


English Translation

Bargaining Even With the Spiritual

Rules to be followed in order to achieve something desired, exchange favors, the human mind is so materialistic that it bargains even with the spiritual.

This is not a didactic text, based on books of selected people or of recognized status, but rather an account of a simple soul, which he has learned in practice, being freed from crime, drugs and political ignorance, through faith, seeing the strength of the ancestors, sons of the great mother Africa, of the empires of Oyo Yoruba, Kongo, Aksum, to whom we are heirs and legitimate guardians of his wisdom, to rid black people of death, in all the forms that it presents itself to the peripheral youth, and listening to the teachings of an ialorixá, not one with famous initiates or with a giant terreiro in some noble neighborhood, mentioned in vehicles of communication, but one of low education and much wisdom conquered in his 27 years, initiated in the religion, who lost many children, sees the iaôs as born from her, to the murderous racist politics of the Brazilian state, but saved many, this text is proof.

It is sad to see how people, even practitioners of the African faith, do not understand the strength of our ancestors, do not know the essence of this belief so rich in feelings, where one does not have to be the most literate or wealthy, we live from the brightness of the empires of the homeland to the captivity of American soil, and not even that erased us from society and from growth. Faith means truth,

if you fill a glass on the tap, put it on a shelf and believe that there is a sacred energy, what is called water, we call Oxum,

if you swim at the beach and believe that all negativities were taken, what they call salt water, we call Iemanjá,

when giving something to eat to a famished fellow, there is the land that gives us the food, we call Omolu, Obaluayê,

what they call nature, we call Orixás, beings of light, guides, those who do not change the planet, but they change us, to act for the world.

It is not a matter of offering and receiving, the experience of putting a simple plate of white corn on the shelf, after using cocaine, and never again using it, gives that certainty, and even those not adept at Candomblé, but those who did good to themselves and the neighbor, is surrunded by positive energies, because the wind is not sold for material goods, Iansã does not need it, and blows the agô, mercy, also to those who err, for in mistakes we have learned, but the hammer of justice weighs on the vicious convicts.

Or does evil exist? Yes! The personality of the human being is part of nature, we have positive and negative, we do not call the Gods of others demons, or who does not follow the belief of perverse, each has his or her role and learning in this universe, which we call Oxalá, Obatolá, and only the Great Creator knows what each has passed through, and passes, in his walk, the devil is our own darkness. Do we worship evil beings? It depends on each one. If one hurls a plague against another, whether by lighting a candle, in prayer, or even in pure words, the evil one seizes itself, to harm everyone, but nature is just, not evil, just as a predatory animal only hunts the amount of prey it needs to survive.

Difficulties we will all endure, we will know the best and the worst to exist, it is part of learning, but the warlord, the blood inside us, Ogun, has the keys of the doors of prosperity for whom deserves, to fight for him or herself and for his or her fellows. Entities will not perform miracles of chance, but, like the air that is vital to life, they will give you the energy to win in the fight, the bad ones will not hold your arms and legs, there is no better tool for that than your own laziness and inattention.

It is not necessary to be adept at Candomblé, Umbanda, Quimbanda, to be graced by the great kings and queens of the occult, the unpalpable, each time we live there is a new knowledge, Lord Time teaches, just open the mind to what is shown, to appropriate what is good, to distribute love, justly. The spiritual is not capitalist, it is not for sale, understood only by who knows gratitude and inner peace.

Jal Souza

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 17.41.25A 30-year-old Brazilian, born and raised in the outskirts of the capital of the state of Bahia, Candomblé and leftist, discovering himself late, after overcoming prejudices and common sense learned since childhood.

This is America’s Enslaver Culture

It’s no surprise that, even though chattel slavery was formally abolished throughout the Americas over 100 years ago, enslaver culture is still very much alive.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi


There are about 30 million pets abandoned in the streets of Brazil. Cats in particular are treated as a plague, killed and tortured indiscriminately.

Helping take care of street cats has been my way of dealing with the occasional helplessness many of us activists feel. I can’t always stop an armed policeman from telling a Candomblé worshiper dressed in white to lay on the floor with hands on the head for no reason. I can’t always stop a pack of drunk men desperate to prove their masculinity to each other from violating a trans woman on the street. But one thing I can do is clean the eyes of motherless kitties so they can see for the first time.

This coping mechanism recently lost its effectiveness when the dynamic at the cat shelter revealed a serious political issue: Enslaver culture.

It’s no surprise, even though chattel slavery was formally abolished throughout the Americas over 100 years ago, that enslaver culture is still very much alive. One example of this is the donor/volunteer relationship.

When I go to the shelter, once a week, I clean, feed and give medicine to cats. I’m a light skinned Latina, with a job and a house, so I’m considered a volunteer. People with means in the group donate a little money to buy whatever is needed, and there is also lunch for whoever is working.

For years, one young homeless black man goes there everyday, twice a day, to clean, feed, medicate, and build little houses for the cats. He even monitors who is coming to abandon and who is coming to adopt. In my eyes, he is the boss of the operation. To the donors, however, he’s a lazy employee.

When I receive lunch, it’s a donation. When he receives lunch, it’s a salary.

One of the donors had an abandoned house, and decided to allow the homeless young man to stay there. This gesture turns out not to be as generous as it sounds. He has the responsibility to renovate and maintain the home (which is in poor condition), and he takes dozens of the most vulnerable cats home with him to care for overnight. Now that donors offer him food and shelter, they feel even more entitled to demand more labor, and the laborer is dependent while earning no wages.

photo 5
Land demarcation efforts by Quilombo Quingoma

It’s hard not to see the connection between this situation and our colonial history. Salvador, as the world’s capital of the African diaspora, is the land on which to witness, not the demise but, the development of colonialism and its deeply rooted white supremacy. Here, much of what is now urban residence used to be Quilombos.

Quilombos were communities formed by enslaved Africans who ran away. They were highly organized, militant, autonomous, and posed great threat to the Portuguese and Dutch authorities of the time. Today, there are much more than a million Quilombolas still fighting for their right to territory throughout the country.

Records show that there were compliant enslaved people who had stable relationships with their owners and did not want to join Quilombos. Some claim that abolishing slavery left the “freed” in worse conditions: “jobless”, homeless, and helpless (as some may say about my friend at the cat shelter). How reliable are these accounts? Not very, since those who kept records were the ones interested in using them for their advantage.

Arguments on the subject in literature in general have little empirical basis and tend to focus on the interplay of interests that would be associated with the diffusion of that interpretation. Several authors have considered the thesis of benignity a mere expression of the ideology of the ruling classes in the nineteenth century; its dissemination, especially abroad, would be part of the imperial government’s efforts to disseminate an amicable image of slavery and thereby oppose the abolitionist movement.

Flávio Rabelo Versiani (Economist, Brasilia) comparing enslavement in the U.S. and in Brazil.

On the other hand, in economic terms, not using “coercive force” (meaning, here we didn’t have as many lynchings) was a matter of efficiency, as was eventually abolishing slavery altogether. So, using words like “amicable” and “benign” to describe displacement, dehumanization, forced labor, murder and torture of black people is only considered empirical when described in economic terms. This, to me, is one good example of the rotten core of Academia.


Today, some academics use this shaky empiricism to argue that the resistance against slavery was hypocritical. José de Souza Martins, one of Brazil’s most famous sociologists, claims there was slavery in the Quilombos. Dissociating the term “slavery” from “race” became his professional mission; white supremacy wasn’t the problem, according to him, rigidly stratified societies were.

His broad use of the term “slavery” can be compared to the broad use of the term “Nazi” when describing a feminist. José Martins says that because of the spread of “Islamism” in Africa, Africans enslaved themselves at a much higher rate than the Slave trade to the Americas, and that Islamic polygamy is also a form of slavery. The fact that he uses the term “Islamist” as synonymous with “Islamic” speaks volumes to the racial insensitivity of his rhetoric. But his use of biased (white) “empirical” evidence to delegitimize an organized resistance movement of the African Diaspora speaks even louder.

There is little denying that hierarchy existed in Quilombos, and that they used violence against enslaved people who chose to stay with their white masters. We have to understand that they were at war, and the decision to be compliant turned them into an enemy. So much so, that those compliant Africans were sent to the Quilombos as an army to defeat Quilombists. This practice hasn’t stopped, and is perpetuated by the military police force to this day.

Zumbi‘s opposition to Ganga Zumba, and the consequent shift of leadership at Quilombo dos Palmares, is symbolic of all anti-colonial resistance because it was a refusal to submit to Colonial authorities, and a declaration that no enslaved African would be free until all would be free. This fight is not over yet. There is still enslavement, displacement, incarceration, genocide, and struggle for land demarcation. We must acknowledge that, because not picking a side, being compliant, is in fact siding with white supremacist forces.

Mirna Wabi-Sabi


is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.

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It takes a village, not a European, to raise a child

“White people, through systematic oppression, actively create, profit from and maintain a market that institutionalises children throughout Africa.”

From Jacqueline Tizora


Ethiopia announced earlier this year that it has decided to ban foreign adoption on its soil. This is a brazen move, especially because the country was the second most popular country, after China, for adoptions. This decision was prompted by a high-profile case of abuse in 2011 where an adoptee died of hypothermia after being left in the cold by their adoptive parents in Seattle. Ethiopia, following this incident, proceeded to make the adoption process more stringent, which has now ultimately culminated in the total ban we see today.

The government’s motivation for this bold decision is that it believes Ethiopians taking care care of their own as a valid possibility. Furthermore, policy makers are only now wary of the permanent psychological effects any trauma faced abroad could have on the children. Ethiopia’s stance on adoption shares parallels with Rwanda’s model on orphanages. African countries’ shift towards deinstitutionalising childcare is a welcome process as it is severs the parasitic colonial as well as neocolonial relationship Europe has with Africa. The process, however, is an intricate one that this article will be illuminating a small fraction of.

In 2012, Rwanda decided to close all its orphanages. After the 1994 genocide, the number of orphanages skyrocketed from four to well over thirty as more than 95 000 children were orphaned by the genocide. Foreign aid organisations in response to the devastation of the genocide, opened institutions across the country, institutionalising Rwandan childcare. However, Rwandan president Paul Kagame noticed that those orphaned by the genocide had ‘outgrown’ orphanages, yet they still existed. This is when Kagame initiated a rehoming process. This decision was based on the Swahili saying, ‘asiye funzwa na mamae hufunzwa na ulimwengu’- a deinstitutionalised approach to childcare, which equates to the infamous proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

Rwanda’s rehoming process is now in full swing and the government aims to close all orphanages by 2020. Rwanda’s National Commission for Children’s director reported earlier this year that 3,323 children were in orphanages when the initiative took off in 2012, and now only 235 have yet to be rehomed with family, adopted or placed in foster families (unremunerated).

Then there are countries like Mauritania, Djibouti and South Sudan where in order to qualify to be a legal guardian of a minor, the applicant has to be a blood relative that is either Muslim and or lives in a Muslim environment. Prioritising the child’s religion here results in some preservation of the child’s culture. In addition, Mauritanian law prohibits non-family members from leaving Mauritania with adopted children. Similarly, in Djibouti, children with Djibouti citizenship are ineligible for adoption. Implying that transnational adoption from these two countries is not a possibility, even if one meets the first two criteria.

From the above examples, it is clear that many African countries are in fact deinstitutionalising childcare, a previously heavily institutionalised system and reverting to more culturally appropriate alternatives to child rearing. This, however, prompts one to question what in fact has changed along with the implementation of these new regulations and, ultimately, how this is affecting orphans in their respective countries. Coming from a family where the ‘village’ approach is adopted vastly, and also understanding that for most households, taking on an extra mouth to feed is no easy task. It also prompts one to enquire which changes need to be made that would effectively allow orphaned children to continue on to lead a normal life after losing one’s biological parents.

The first enquiry that comes to mind is the process of conception right to birth. We live in a patriarchal society that polices women’s bodies and also places value in women’s fertility. Rape culture is also ever pervasive; the fact that only in 1993 did the UN declare rape a war crime, demonstrates how deeply politicised women’s bodies are. Additionally, access to contraception in Africa, according to WHO in 2015, is only 33.4%. So almost 70% of the continent cannot implement effective family planning. The intersections of institutional restrictions that meet systematic poverty introduced by colonialism and maintained by neo-colonialism has rendered African women voiceless on issues regarding their own bodies!

In essence, policies that currently police and politicise women’s bodies and subjects them to systematic oppression and trauma has created irreparable damage and play a key role in the current vicious cycle of systematically creating orphans. Orphaned children, of course, come from somewhere. The responsibility or blame does not fall on the woman, but society has socialised us to internalise gender roles that further subjugate us. By politicising our bodies, even the unborn children our bodies can host preside over our bodies. The fact that approximately 93% of women of reproductive age in Africa live in countries with laws that in some way restrict abortion shed illuminate another way orphans are produced systematically. Additionally, even in countries where abortions may take place under special circumstances, very few women have access to a safe procedure and often seek out more clandestine methods that can be life-threatening.

The second enquiry regards the fact that the implicit and explicit bans disallowing women to have autonomy over their bodies have not been lifted. What then of the children that are born as as result? The inescapable reality of women being treated as chattel on one hand, and the rise of the white saviour industrial complex on the rise on the other, only means that there will always be orphans and therefore a market for foreign adoption and orphanages. An estimated 21.6 million unintended pregnancies occur each year in Africa, and of these, only 38% end in abortion. To white liberals all these statistics mean is that there is a market to exploit and therefore ceaseless giving back for them to do in Africa. This is a crass mentality and approach that does not even scratch the surface of the issue that they created. If only they could put two and two together, they would realise it equals white supremacist capitalist patriarchy- that they introduced to the continent and that has now politicised and othered the bodies of black women, giving birth to the issues we are faced with today.


Personally, I’m of the opinion that uprooting children from their home country, with the exception of abuse, is not in the child’s best interest as the grass is not actually greener in Europe. Uganda’s first lady, Janet Museveni, in a keynote address made her case regarding transnational adoption. Her stance is that transnational adoption, specifically the Africa to Europe pipeline, can be likened to the slave trade. To a large extent, I agree with this statement. Also interesting to note the countries from which most adoptions hail from have the biggest legacies of atrocities inflicted on African people. So, it would appear that white people employ the saviour complex and adopt African children to ease their white guilt. Not only do they rid themselves of dissonance permanently, adopted children ultimately serve as a trophy of their colourblindness and apparent non-racism. A buy-one-get-one-free coupon white people redeem when they engage in transnational adoption (read institutional abduction).

Realistically, if we are going to look after our own children, there is going to have to be reform. Expecting the burden to fall on family members or communities whose consumption increases exponentially the minute they agree to become a child’s guardian. Without assistance from government, this only translates itself into deeper poverty. Though orphanages and adoption organisations came into existence to alleviate the aftermath of centuries of dispossession, research has shown that growing up in orphanages can have lasting negative impact on children.

Through extensive research, risk patterns and vulnerabilities have been identified, now all that is lacking is their amelioration and this can be done through policy. Interventions need to happen on multiple levels, this includes and is not restricted to: the orphans, fostering households as well as their communities. Not all vulnerable children share the same history or even face the same issues despite sharing the same label: being orphan. These considerations all require differentiated policy responses. These then differ further, according to geography for example. Different regions are exposed to different forms of vulnerability. The AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa, Swaziland being the most hard-hit, requires a response that includes better access to ARVs and promotions aimed at deconstructing the stigma around the illness- another barrier that stops people from seeking treatment even when ARVs are made available. As a result of inadequate intervention, AIDS has become responsible for the swelling numbers of orphans in the region. The logical questions that then follow are the financing of such interventions as well as their rolling out: both of crucial importance.

A needs analysis needs to be conducted for all concerned parties: the orphan, the fostering household and communities, mapping out the levels on which the interventions need to take place within. Lastly, we need to consider how the intervention should play out and which funding channels are feasible. For example, whether a uniform/needs equivalent grant system needs to be introduced. Just by highlighting the first steps that need to be taken, one soon realises that differentiated policy responses required are dependent on so many factors that are, above all, culturally sensitive and appropriate.

White people, through systematic oppression, actively create, profit from and maintain a market that institutionalises children throughout Africa. They currently plunder Africa by opening NGOs, orphanages and, a personal favourite, voyeuristic volunteer agencies that we actually fund with photos they take of us for free to be used for their poverty porn PR strategies. Europe remains benefactors in this market with these photos, by reproducing the colonial narrative that any European can save this godforsaken continent. This is both short sighted and pompous. There is, however, a way Europe can acknowledge and settle their long outstanding debt to Africa and also upend their current and futile methods: reparations.

This is not even a foreign concept to Europeans, after all they paid slave owners out after the abolition of slavery. Slaves, like those in the Haitian Revolution, even had to pay for the inconvenience abolition caused.

Whilst no amount of financial compensation can ameliorate the impact of the violence inflicted on Africa. The institutionalisation abduction of children through transnational is a clear indication that Africans are still being removed from their country’s hundreds of years after the abolition of slavery, a symptom of neo-colonialism that continues to illicitly extract resources and abduct children for the enjoyment of the west. To sever this umbilical cord a fresh start is needed, which in this case would mean total economic freedom to enable Africa to restore its idiosyncratic deinstitutionalised approach to childcare.

Jacqueline Tizora


Zimbabwean born and South African bred Black radical
feminist with a keen interest in African feminist thought and affairs.

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In the Terreiro of Old Black Iaiá, Let’s Saravá

English Translation Here

Foto de Laura Cantal

No Terreiro de Preto Velho Iaiá, Vamos Saravá

Aproximadamente no segundo semestre de 2017, os escandalosos ataques sofridos pelas religiões de matriz africana na região metropolitana do Rio de Janeiro ganharam espaços em diferentes mídias. Foram cerca de três meses de noticiamento, em que representantes de diversas frentes políticas, sociais e intelectuais discutiram em torno do acontecimento. Houve, inclusive, a cobertura da 10ª Caminhada em Defesa da Liberdade Religiosa, na qual membros e líderes de diferentes religiões deram as mãos contra a opressão sofrida. Até que, com o correr do tempo, outras informações aterraram a causa e os efeitos desse fenômeno. Não é à toa que, em vista do desenvolvimento do jornalismo moderno, a notícia seja compreendida como ícone do tempo presente e desapareça como fumaça no vento. Mas, convenhamos, não há novidade tampouco efemeridade nos ataques sofridos às religiões de matriz africana. É um acontecimento histórico e que, atualmente, ganha magnitude e feições assustadoras.

O Rio de Janeiro, entre as mais de três décadas de comércio escravagista, recebeu cerca de 3 milhões de africanos escravizados, dentre os quais aproximadamente 1/3 deles desembarcaram no Cais do Valongo na região portuária da cidade – espaço que, em virtude de muita luta, recebeu o título de Patrimônio Mundial pela UNESCO em 2017. Isto precisa ser dito, para início de conversa, porque não há como se conceber o Rio de Janeiro sem se levar em consideração a presença e as manifestações culturais desses 3 milhões de negros africanos escravizados. O Rio de Janeiro é uma cidade maravilhosa também graças ao contributo desses homens e mulheres, sem os quais o samba carioca não haveria existido. Assim como o samba, as chamadas religiões afro-brasileiras são manifestações culturais de matriz africana que, ao longo do tempo e das articulações culturais, construíram uma cara própria: a cara do Rio. Pixinguinha, grande compositor carioca do nosso passado e a quem devemos a chamada deste artigo, é resultado do caldeirão rítmico apenas encontrado nos morros e terreiros cariocas como a lendária Casa da Tia Ciata, terreiro de candomblé frequentado por ele e outras personalidades do samba como Donga e João da Baiana.

Infelizmente, Pixinguinha, Donga e muitos outros homens e mulheres negros e anônimos sofreram e sofrem opressões que remontam a história da cidade. Desde início do século XX, os espaços de sociabilidade e as manifestações culturais de matriz africana são atacados, homens e mulheres negras são expropriadas de seus direitos e de suas condições mais básicas de existência. Não há um intervalo de tempo dentro da linha dos acontecimentos na história do Rio de Janeiro em que os negros e a suas manifestações culturais não tenham sofrido com o poder público. De acordo com a pesquisa realizada pelo historiador Nireu Cavalcanti, entre 1910 e 1918, 66 terreiros espalhados pela cidade foram perseguidos e posteriormente tiveram suas portas fechadas. E isto é uma constante ao longo das décadas seguintes. A interface entre intolerância religiosa e tráfico – esse poder supostamente paralelo e que de paralelo não tem nada – é atualmente a nova forma de opressão que os terreiros têm sofrido, especialmente no estado do Rio de Janeiro.

De acordo com as notícias que temos, nesta década os primeiros casos neste perfil remontam o ano de 2013, quando traficantes evangelizados proibiram que líderes religiosos praticassem os seus rituais, expulsando-os de suas comunidades na Zona Norte da cidade. Segundo as informações do Ministério dos Direitos Humanos, o número de denúncias de injúrias por preconceito religioso subiu de 15, no ano de 2011, para 759 em 2016. Apenas entre agosto e outubro de 2016, foram registradas 42 denúncias de intolerância religiosa no estado fluminense, dentre as quais 38 referem-se às religiões de matriz africana[1]. Para além das imprecisões estatísticas, ainda de acordo com as declarações fornecidas pelo secretário estadual de Direitos Humanos, Átila Nunes, há uma lacuna no código penal, não permitindo uma tipificação clara sobre o que seria considerado preconceito religioso, permitindo que qualquer tipo de agressão aos terreiros possa ser entendido, por exemplo, como um simples desentendimento entre vizinhos.

Respeitar as diferenças e permitir a livre manifestação dessa diferença não se trata apenas de um princípio constitucional, muito menos de algo que deva ser concedido por alguém. É um principio humano. É e sempre deverá ser muito maior do que as determinações de um Estado e de qualquer poder público. No entanto, no sentido contrário desta liberdade inerente ao ser humano, temos acompanhado uma associação nefasta entre o poder político e a bancada evangélica no Congresso Nacional. E este diálogo não deve ser visto como alheio à essas perseguições religiosas ocorridas não apenas no Rio de Janeiro, mas em diversos outros estados brasileiros como a Bahia e Minas Gerais. Atualmente, a Frente Parlamentar Evangélica (FPE) agrega mais de 100 parlamentares, com expectativa de que em 2018 cerca de 165 parlamentares evangélicos sejam eleitos entre Câmara dos Deputados e Senado.[2]

Suas últimas legislaturas estão envolvidas com projetos como o “Estatuto da Família” (PL. 6.583/2013) que, através de regras jurídicas conservadoras, convenciona a definição de família; também contribuíram com Propostas de Emenda Constitucional como a PEC 171/1993 que justifica a redução da maioridade penal a partir de passagens bíblicas; e têm envolvimento com Projetos de Lei como o PL 4931/2016 do deputado João Campos (PSDB-GO) – vulgarmente conhecido como “Cura Gay” -, cujo o relator é o mesmo do Estatuto da Família, o pastor Ezequiel Teixeira (PTN-RJ), assim como o PL 5.069/2013 que ataca o direito constitucional de mulheres vítimas de violência sexual a terem o devido acesso ao aborto – projeto este encabeçado por Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ), ex-presidente da Câmara dos Deputados recentemente preso por corrupção ativa e passiva, prevaricação e lavagem de dinheiro e que, de acordo com o pedido do Ministério Público Federal, pode vir a cumprir 386 anos de prisão.

Note-se que a maior parte dos parlamentares da FPE advém das igrejas pentecostais, como a Assembléia de Deus e a Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus – cujo um dos mais destacados membros é o atual prefeito da cidade do Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella (PRB-RJ). Este que, entre silenciamentos e medidas conservadoras, não apenas desconsidera a redemocratização do nosso Maraca, como também negligencia a expressão do samba e do próprio carnaval, alma da cidade, uma típica comemoração arduamente construída pelas comunidades e terreiros dos morros cariocas. Outros “grandes” nomes avultam esse relacionamento amoral entre política e religião, como o deputado federal Marco Feliciano (PSC-SP) e o deputado federal Jair Bolsonaro (PP-SP), pré-candidato às eleições presidenciais de 2018.

Ainda que os parlamentares evangélicos pentecostais se afigurem como maioria, não podemos ignorar que há outros atrelados a diferentes vertentes da religião cristã, como os protestantes históricos e os batistas. No entanto, ainda que respeitemos as diferenças entre uns e outros, isto não minimiza o quão inconcebível é que um Estado constitucionalmente laico permita a simbiose entre política e religião tal como temos visto no Brasil. Como anteriormente dito, religião é uma manifestação cultural, própria de uma cultura específica e o direito ao culto, seja ele qual for, deve ser preservado em um Estado Democrático de Direito. Sob nenhuma hipótese pode uma religião ter os seus princípios fundamentais como norteadores das deliberações do poder público, muito menos subverter esses mesmos princípios e cooptar uma massa majoritariamente negra que vive há séculos no abandono, submetida aos mandos de um poder “paralelo” que é igualmente subproduto das artimanhas desse projeto Universal.

A Origem Desse “Big Bang”

A gênese de todo esse enredo, ao meu ver, parte da ideia de que os princípios de liberdade e igualdade foram há muito tempo adulterados em função da orquestração do poder entre os homens. Não encontro absurdo algum em afirmar categoricamente que o entendimento de mundo e de relação com o outro que nos foi introjetado tem direta conexão com a lógica de uma parcela de homens que, partindo de seus interesses políticos e econômicos, quis imperar. Sim, faz parte de um projeto ambicioso. E, pior, faz parte de um projeto maléfico e que, infelizmente, segue vigente até os dias de hoje, assumindo formas variadas ao longo da história.

Poderíamos aqui discorrer sobre as suas origens em um movimento de reconstrução histórica, mas é provável que nos percamos em tantas idas e vindas. De qualquer forma, importa expor a sua pedra angular, uma vez que ela ainda hoje limita a nossa existência enquanto sociedade e, acredito eu, seja essa a pedra no sapato que causa grande parte das atrocidades no mundo. O modelo de construção desse mundo particular pode ser entendido como “paradigma da simplificação”[3]. E ele traz em sua gênese o princípio da disjunção e da redução da realidade humana a partir de uma perspectiva eurocêntrica, falocêntrica e colonialista.

A igualdade entre os homens foi abstratamente construída através de um suporte jurídico-moral baseado nesse paradigma. O direito a existência da multidiversidade cultural da espécie humana é automaticamente negado, sendo a nossa natural diferença cultural enquadrada em noções hierarquizantes. Aqueles que não são considerados iguais passam a ser considerados como passíveis de opressão. O conservadorismo que esse modo de ver o mundo instaura, enquanto filosofia política e social, é portanto necessariamente racista e misógino. Ele é contrário a prática democrática de coexistência das diferenças.

Em sua evolução, de forma ainda mais cruel, esse paradigma serviu de base para um sistema econômico que, devido a sua própria natureza, compreende o mundo como um produto. Ou seja, o capitalismo – que hoje se embrenha e rege a lógica das relações humanas – é um sistema que compreende o mundo e os seres humanos como produtos a partir de uma ótica disjuntiva e inerentemente racista e misógina. Mulheres, homossexuais, crianças, idosos, negros e uma série de outras categorias são vistas como subprodutos. É essa a base do sistema vigente que é responsável pelo desmantelamento dos vínculos sociais que garantiriam a nossa existência.[4]

Ele desconsidera todas as variadas formas de existir, todas as formas de auto-reconhecimento e de valorização da essência própria de cada ser humano no mundo. No meu entendimento – que também se constrói a partir da minha vivência e experiência de vida – o candomblé e todas as religiões de matriz africana são mais uma forma de existência e de compreensão do mundo. Mas não se trata apenas de uma representação a partir de uma cosmogonia sui generis, cujas bases históricas encontramos em diversas comunidades infelizmente desmanteladas em toda a África. As religiões de matriz africana são um meio de se compreender a vida social de maneira mais elevada, assim como toda religião deveria ser e ser exercida. Elas são um modo de vida e de entendimento dessa existência. Elas permitem que, ao reconhecer a sua ancestralidade e sua história, seus fiéis valorizem a sua essência e compreendam o valor da cultura que as originou.

Tendo sido nascida e criada em um terreiro de Candomblé da família do Axe Pantanal cujas origens nos levam à Bahia, atesto 30 anos de vivência em uma comunidade que, como outra qualquer, tem seus rituais e sentidos particulares, mas que em nenhum momento deixou de exercer a função de acolhimento e de auxílio na integração social de seus membros. Há mais de 20 anos que as insígnias do terreiro da minha casa foram retiradas, assim como seus atabaques – responsáveis pelo ritmo e pelos ensinamentos ancestrais que palavras não traduzem – foram guardados por medo de possíveis perseguições. Minha mãe pediu que seus filhos não trafeguem vestidos com as roupas brancas e expondo seus fios de conta – colares feitos de missança e pedras específicas que representam os Orixás – por medo de qualquer tipo de agressão por parte dos vizinhos que são, como em quase toda comunidade do subúrbio carioca, majoritariamente evangélicos.

Mas minha casa continua sendo a casa de uma família que ultrapassa a dimensão normativa imposta pelo pensamento propalado pelo paradigma da simplificação. A minha casa não compactua com a intolerância, muito pelo contrário, ela carrega ensinamentos ancestralísticos que afastam a ignorância – moeda muito valiosa entre os pentecostais que estão no Congresso. Minha casa é organizada – e não dominada – por uma matriarca, por uma mulher que recebe, aceita e orienta qualquer ser humano que entre portão adentro, independentemente de qualquer padrão imposto pela sociedade e os dignifica, fazendo com que eles acreditem em seu potencial. É uma casa soberana. É uma família não convencional que professa uma fé e independe do poder público. Observando-se como se estrutura o poder, não é difícil entender o “perigo” que, assim como outros tantos terreiros, minha casa representa para um mundo em que a carne mais barata é a carne negra.


[1] Fonte: Secretaria de Estado de Direitos Humanos Políticas para Mulheres e Idosos (SEDHMI). Informações obtidas em reportagem do Jornal O Globo, 05/11/2017.
[2] Informações obtidas aqui.
[3] O conceito é elaborado pelo antropólogo Edgar Morin. Seu estudo epistemológico compreende a relação dos pressupostos da ciência com a sociedade, relação esta que teria o poder de influenciar a construção do mundo social a partir do paradigma da simplificação. Ver M ORIN. Edgar. Introdução ao pensamento complexo. Lisboa: Instituto Piaget, 1992.
[4] De acordo com os relatórios da Oxfam, a riqueza acumulada pelo 1% mais rico do mundo corresponde a riqueza dos outros 99% restantes. E 9 entre cada 10 indivíduos mais ricos são homens e caucasianos. Para mais, ver Oxfam.

Nota da editora: Imagens não creditadas são cortesias da escritora, e pertencem ao seu acervo pessoal. Por favor, não reproduzir ou apropriar antes de pedir permissão.

Karina Ramos

Nascida e criada em um terreiro de Candomblé na Zona Oeste do Rio de Janeiro, Karina Ramos é historiadora, especialista em história da África contemporânea.


Term Index at the bottom

Photo by Laura Cantal

In the Shrine of Old Black Iaiá, Let’s Hail

Approximately in the second half of 2017, the scandalous attacks suffered by ancestral-African religions in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro gained much space in the media. It was about three months of reporting, in which representatives from various political, social and intellectual fronts discussed the event. There was even the coverage of the 10th Walk in Defense of Religious Freedom, in which members and leaders of different religions joined hands against the oppression. Until, over time, more information appalled the cause and effects of this phenomenon. It’s no wonder that, in view of the development of modern journalism, the news is understood as an icon of the present time, and disappears like smoke in the wind. But, let’s face it, there is neither novelty nor ephemerality in the attacks on ancestral-African religions. It is a historical event and it is now gaining magnitude and scary features.

Rio de Janeiro, among more than three decades of slave trade, received about 3 million enslaved Africans, of whom about 1/3 of them landed at the Valongo Pier in the port area of the city – a space that, because of much struggle, received the title of World Heritage by UNESCO in 2017. This needs to be said in the first place because there is no way to conceive Rio de Janeiro without taking into account the presence and cultural manifestations of these 3 million enslaved black Africans. Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful city also thanks to the contribution of these men and women, without whom Rio’s samba would not have existed. Like samba, so-called Afro-Brazilian religions are African cultural manifestations that, over time and from cultural articulations, have built their own face: the face of Rio. Pixinguinha, the great Rio de Janeiro composer of our past and to whom we owe the title of this article, is the result of the rhythmic cauldron only found in Rio’s morros (hills where there are favelas) and terreiros (yard-like shrines) such as the legendary Casa da Tia Ciata, a Candomblé terreiro frequented by him and other samba personalities like Donga and João da Baiana.

Unfortunately, Pixinguinha, Donga, and many other black and anonymous men and women have suffered, and still suffer oppression that dates back to the city’s history. Since the beginning of the 20th century, spaces of sociability and cultural manifestations of African matrix are attacked, black men and women are expropriated of their rights and their most basic conditions of existence. There is not an interval of time within the line of events in the history of Rio de Janeiro where blacks and their cultural manifestations have not suffered with public power. According to research conducted by the historian Nireu Cavalcanti, between 1910 and 1918, 66 terreiros scattered throughout the city were persecuted and later had their doors closed. And this is a constant throughout the following decades. The interface between religious intolerance and trafficking – this supposedly parallel power that has nothing at all – is currently the new form of oppression that the terreiros have suffered, especially in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

According to the news that we have, in this decade the first cases in this profile go back to the year 2013, when evangelized traffickers prohibited religious leaders from practicing their rituals, expelling them from their communities in the North Zone of the city. According to information from the Ministry of Human Rights, the number of complaints of religious prejudice increased from 15 in 2011 to 759 in 2016. Only between August and October 2016, 42 complaints of religious intolerance were registered in the state of Rio de Janeiro, of which 38 refer to religions of African origin. In addition to the statistical inaccuracies, still according to the statements provided by the state secretary of Human Rights, Attila Nunes, there is a gap in the penal code, not allowing a clear definition of what would be considered religious prejudice, allowing that any type of aggression to terreiros can be understood, for example, as a simple misunderstanding between neighbors.

Respecting differences and allowing the free expression of this difference is not only a constitutional principle, much less something that should be granted by someone. It is a human principle. It is and always should be much greater than the determinations of a State and of any public power. However, in the opposite sense of this freedom inherent to the human being, we have accompanied a nefarious association between political power and the evangelical bench in the National Congress. And this dialogue should not be seen as alien to these religious persecutions that occurred not only in Rio de Janeiro, but in several other Brazilian states, such as Bahia and Minas Gerais. Currently, the Evangelical Parliamentary Front (FPE) brings together more than 100 parliamentarians, with the expectation that in 2018 about 165 evangelical parliamentarians will be elected between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Their last legislatures are involved with projects such as the “Family Statute” (PL 6.583/2013), which, through conservative legal rules, convenes the definition of family; also contributed with Proposals of Constitutional Amendment like the PEC 171/1993 that justifies the reduction of the criminal adulthood based on biblical passages; and have involvement with Law Projects such as PL 4931/2016 by Rep. João Campos (PSDB-GO) – commonly known as the “Gay Cure” – whose rapporteur is the same as the Family Statute, Pastor Ezequiel Teixeira (PTN- RJ), as well as PL 5.069/2013 that attacks the constitutional right of women victims of sexual violence to have adequate access to abortion – a project headed by Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ), the former president of the Chamber of Deputies who was recently imprisoned for active and passive corruption, prevarication, and money laundering. All of which, according to the request of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, earned him a 386 year sentence.

It should be noted that most FPE parliamentarians come from Pentecostal churches, such as the Assembly of God and the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – one of the most prominent members being the current mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella (PRB-RJ). This, which, amid silence and conservative measures, not only disregards the redemocratization of our Maracanã (the football stadium where the televised carnaval happens), but also neglects the expression of samba and carnaval themselves, the soul of the city, a typical celebration arduously built by the communities and terreiros of Rio’s morros. Other “big” names add to this amoral relationship between politics and religion, such as federal deputy Marco Feliciano (PSC-SP) and federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro (PP-SP), pre-candidate for the 2018 presidential elections.

Although Pentecostal evangelical parliamentarians seem like a majority, we can not ignore the fact that there are others tied to different strands of the Christian religion, such as the historical Protestants and the Baptists. However, even though we respect the differences between them, this does not minimize how inconceivable it is that a constitutionally secular state allows the symbiosis between politics and religion as we have seen in Brazil. As previously stated, religion is a cultural manifestation, proper to a specific culture and the right to worship, whatever it may be, must be preserved in a democratic state of law. Under no circumstances can a religion have its fundamental principles guiding the deliberations of public power, much less subvert those same principles and co-opt a majority black mass that has lived for centuries in abandonment, under the control of a “parallel” power that is equally a by-product of the tricks of this Universal project.

The Origin of This “Big Bang”

The genesis of this whole plot, in my opinion, starts from the idea that the principles of freedom and equality have long been adulterated by the orchestration of power among men. I find no absurdity to assert categorically that the understanding of the world and of the relation to the other that has been introjected to us has a direct connection with the logic of a portion of men who, from their political and economic interests, wanted to rule. Yes, it’s part of an ambitious project. And, worse, it is part of an evil project and, unfortunately, it is still in force until today, taking on varied forms throughout history.

We might here dig into its origins in a movement of historical reconstruction, but we are likely to lose ourselves in so many comings and goings. In any case, it is important to expose its cornerstone, since it still limits our existence as a society and, I believe, is the stone in the shoe that causes much of the world’s atrocities. The construction model of this particular world can be understood as the “simplification paradigm”. And it brings in its genesis the principle of disjunction and the reduction of human reality from a Eurocentric, phallocentric and colonialist perspective.

Equality between men was abstractly constructed through a legal-moral support based on this paradigm. The right to existence of the cultural multidiversity of the human species is automatically denied, and our natural cultural difference is framed in hierarchical notions. Those who are not considered equal are now considered as oppressive. The conservatism that this way of seeing the world establishes, as a political and social philosophy, is therefore necessarily racist and misogynist. It is contrary to the democratic practice of coexistence of differences.

In its evolution, even more cruelly, this paradigm served as the basis for an economic system that, by its very nature, understands the world as a product. That is to say, capitalism – which today stands and governs the logic of human relations – is a system that understands the world and human beings as products from a disjunctive and inherently racist and misogynistic perspective. Women, homosexuals, children, the elderly, blacks and a host of other categories are seen as by-products. This is the basis of the current system that is responsible for dismantling the social bonds that would guarantee our existence.

He disregards all the various forms of existence, all forms of self-recognition and appreciation of the essence of each human being in the world. In my understanding – which is also built from my experience and experience of life – Candomblé and all religions of the African matrix are more of a way of existence and understanding of the world. But it’s not just a representation from a cosmogony sui generis, whose historical basis we find in various communities unfortunately dismantled throughout Africa. African-born religions are a way of understanding social life in a higher way, just as every religion should be and be exercised. They are a way of life and understanding of this existence. They allow, in recognizing their ancestry and their history, their believers to value their essence and understand the value of the culture that originated them.

Having been born and raised in a Candomblé terreiro of the family of Axe Pantanal, whose origins take us to Bahia, I attest to 30 years of living in a community that, like any other, has its own particular rituals and senses, but that at no time stopped exercising the function of reception and assistance in the social integration of its members. For more than 20 years, the insignia of the terreiro of my house have been removed, just as their atabaques – the percussion responsible for the rhythm and for the ancestral teachings that words do not translate – were kept for fear of possible persecution. My mother asked her children not to wear white clothes and expose their fios de conta – necklaces made of beads and specific stones representing the Orixás – for fear of any kind of aggression on the part of the neighbors, who are, as in most of Rio’s suburban communities, predominantly evangelical.

But my house remains the home of a family that goes beyond the normative dimension imposed by the thinking propounded by the simplification paradigm. My house does not cope with intolerance, on the contrary, it carries ancestralistic teachings that drive away ignorance – a very valuable coin among the Pentecostals in Congress. My house is organized – not dominated – by a matriarch, by a woman who receives, accepts and directs any human being who enters the gate, regardless of any standard imposed by society, and dignifies them so that they believe in their potential. It is a sovereign house. It is an unconventional family that professes a faith and is independent of the public power. Observing how power is structured, it is not difficult to understand the “danger” that, like so many terreiros, my house represents for a world in which the cheapest meat is the black meat.


[1] Source: Secretariat of State for Human Rights policies for women and the Elderly (SEDHMI). Information obtained in report of the newspaper O Globo, 05/11/2017.
[2] Information obtained here.
[3] The concept is drawn up by anthropologist Edgar Morin. His epistemological study understands the relationship of the assumptions of science with society, this relationship that would have the power to influence the construction of the social world from the paradigm of simplification. See M ORIN. Edgar. Introduction to complex thinking. Lisbon: Piaget Institute, 1992.
[4] According to Oxfam’s reports, the wealth accumulated by the world’s richest 1% corresponds to the richness of the remaining 99%. And nine out of ten richest individuals are men and Caucasians. For more, see Oxfam.

Editor’s note: Non-credited images are courtesy of the writer, and part of her personal collection. Please do not reproduce or appropriate without permission.

Translator’s note: Words in italic are left untranslated due to the inadequacy of its closest English counterparts. By leaving them as is, we hope to introduce them into the English linguistic repertoire.

Term Index

Atabaque: A holy percussion instrument used in the ceremonies, where the rhythm and dance are vessels to divine ancestors.

Bahia: A state in the Northeast region of Brazil. It was the first point of contact the Portuguese had with what became the Brazilian colony. Its capital, Salvador, was Brazil’s first capital. It’s now the city with the most African descendants outside of Africa (an estimated 80% of the population). Though difficult to cite precisely, Salvador’s port was one to receive the most enslaved Africans (Rio de Janeiro being second). Only in the second half of the 1700’s, almost one million Africans came to Brazil, half of which came to Salvador (the others to Rio and other parts of the coast). Of the almost 5 million total enslaved Africans that came to Brazil during the nearly 500 years of Colonialism, Salvador is undoubtedly the city most affected by this horrific event in history, a legacy and a reality that is still very much alive today.

Candomblé: An ancestral African Religion of the African Diaspora, worshippers of Orixás.

Carnaval: A Christian festival celebrated in February. A particularly epic event in Brazil, where people drink excessively, hook up, and watch Samba “schools” (teams/groups) perform and compete against each other in massive moving trucks with dancers, musicians, props, and costumes.

Favela: A type of slum formed in response to rural exodus (into large cities e.g. Rio and São Paulo), and to over-population, homelessness, lack of infrastructure and social services. Favelas developed into well organized autonomous regions that operate in parallel to the governmental system. They have a parallel economy, infrastructure and security systems, often maintained by trafficking/traffickers.

Fios de conta: Necklaces representative of the Orixás, made of beads and stones of the symbolic color of each divine ancestor, held together by a cotton thread (never by synthetic nylon threads).

Maracanã: Was once the largest football stadium in the world, site of legendary World Cups and football history moments. It is also where the televised Carnaval parade happens.

Morro: A hill where there is a favela. Favelas first started forming in hills because they were a sort of terrain unaccounted for by the State or land owners.

Samba: A Brazilian musical genre bred in Rio de Janeiro, with rhythm and dance deriving from African roots in Bahia.

Orixás: Divine African ancestors. They represent Nature’s forces and have human-like characteristics such as personality, image and emotions. They are also expressed through color symbolism. Due to Colonial oppression, these Orixás were in some instances merged with the figures of Catholic saints as a self-preservation and disguise strategy.

Terreiro: Where Afro-Brazilian Religious cerimonies happen, and where offerings are given to Orixás. It can be described as a sort of shrine, except there is not construction, only an enclosed open space.

Karina Ramos

Born and raised in a Candomblé terreiro in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Karina Ramos is a historian, an expert on the history of contemporary Africa.

How We Died

A poem from Innocent Chizaram Ilo


life I had seen through Mama’s rheumy eyes
celluloid eyeballs ridden with fear
smeared with dust
the dusts sailed around what used to be her hut
now reduced to cinders.

when we were sans shelter, sans clothes, sans hope
when death called our names in pith-dark voices
when charred rubbles of bone and flesh lay in fine poses
when we endured the painful penile stabs
staring life in the face, we defiled death.

the blue caps came with their warped gifts,
a little food
a little water
a little assurance of a life erstwhile.

we huddled into dingy powerboats
covered with brightly colored blankets and dreams
dreams of—well, away from this burning earth.

the howling winds capsized our boats
water, sweat, salt and blood mingled in tiny rivulets
choked us here, below our thyroid,
when we thought we’d survived
Mama read a placard: GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM
and we died.

Innocent Chizaram Ilo

Innocent is twenty years old and lives in Nigeria.
He writes to make sense of the world around him.

This poem appears in A Beautiful Resistance: The Crossing.

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