Cortejo Afro was formed and made its Carnival debut on July 2, 1998 in the streets of Pirajá, a community in Salvador. The Bloco is rooted in the spiritual guidance and principles of an established Candomblé house in Salvador, Ilê Axé Oyá, and Cortejo Afro’s artistic design and Afrocentric creative expression was founded by artist Alberto Pitta. Concerned about the predominance of Axé music, Cortejo Afro was formed in an attempt to reestablish the African identity of Carnival. The Bloco-Afro was one of many to reinstate pride of African heritage, culture, and standards of beauty in the local celebration of Carnival which reaffirmed the values and aspects of black culture in Bahia as a means to elevate the community.
Batala Mundo members enjoy joining and playing in Cortejo Afro‘s bloco during Carnival every year. Batala was founded by former Cortejo Afro member, Giba Gonçalves. How many Batala Mundo members can you peep in this video? (Hint: look at the drum heads)
The film Yemanjá: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil discusses Candomblé as a nature-based religion and examines its political nature as a religion of resistance against racism and religious discrimination. Yemanjá also voices concerns about ecological and environmental issues that Candomblé practitioners face with regard to access to and the preservation of sacred natural spaces, and problematizes Bahia’s world famous annual Yemanjá festival. Ile Oxumare (shown in the film) and others have been vocal about offerings being biodegradable and encouraging more awareness of waste. The film also illustrates the role of a terreiro in the community and how the women that operate them serve as spiritual and community leaders.
(photo by Gerald Lee Hoffman)
In Santo Amaro, a Bahian Recôncavo town, Bembê do Mercado is a festival that commemorates this event every May 13. Candomblé rites are practiced under a barracão (a big tent) with religious icons and symbols set up in front of the town’s mercado (market). Musical shows, capoeira, samba de roda and maculelê are some of the highlights of the celebration. Nego Fugido, a reenactment of a slave escape attempt that resulted in recapture and the purchase of manumission, takes place in the streets. At the end of the celebrations, a fireworks display is followed by a ritual offering to Iemanjá at nearby Itapema Beach.