Mulheres de Axé (Women of Axé) is a short documentary–with English subtitles–about the Bahian women of Candomblé and their roles in leading the community, keeping their culture alive, and being at the forefront of the struggle against religious intolerance and discrimination from evangelicals. The video features many of the same women featured in another documentary called Cidade das Mulheres (City of Women) which goes deeper into the exploration of the topic of race and gender and reveals Afro-Bahian women as leaders, cultural sustainers, and the heart and soul of Salvador.
In 1959 the film Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro), an updated tale of the Greek legend Orpheus and Eurydice, was released. The film was set in a Rio de Janeiro favela during Carnaval, and brought Afro-Brazilian life to the attention of film audiences due to its vibrant depiction of Rio’s favelas and the film’s sophisticated portrayal of Afro-Brazilian spirituality, sensuality, and poetic lyricism. For most audiences outside of Brazil, Black Orpheus was their first awareness of Black people living in South America.
The film, starring an all Black cast, went on to become an international success, winning both an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or. Over the past fifty years, many Brazilian films such as City of God and Favela Rising have increased the visibility of Afro-Brazilians in film.
On November 25, the symbolic character of the Baiana is celebrated as part of the Mês da Consciência Negra (Black Consciousness Month). Celebrations take place with a mass at the church Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos (Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks), in Pelourinho, followed by a dance of samba de roda, and typical Bahian food.
Throughout its history, Ilê Aiyê has been honoring African countries and Afro-Brazilian uprisings which has contributed strongly to the process of ethnic identity and the cultural self-esteem of black people. With its 3,000 members, Ilê Aiyê today is the heritage of Bahian culture, a milestone in the process of re-Africanization of the Bahia Carnival.
The musical rhythmic movement, invented in the 70s by Ilê Aiyê, was responsible for the revolution of the Bahian carnival which continues to develop and represent new rhythms derived from African traditions.
To promote political and educational consciousness, Ilê Aiyê does so through thematic selection of dance, gestures, language codes that transmits the African ancestry of the past with the historical and social context of blacks enslaved in Brazil, and then with the everyday Afro-Bahian of today, in addition to working in the pan-African universality of the Afro-descendant.
Ilê Aiyê also expresses the evolution of black/African renaissance and African American movements (adapted to the Bahian reality) focusing on the relationship and identification between black people from anywhere in the world, always emphasizing their common ancestral origin.
The video below brings together 40 years of carnival images of Queens of Ilê who represent the celebration of black beauty.