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Introduction: Avenida OceânicaCandomblé, Mystery and the-rest-of-what-is in Processes of World-Making

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2021

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Summary

The field notes I made on 4 February 2008, were brief. ‘Insist on the thought,’ it says (underlined like that), ‘that this is what it is all about’.

This energy on the street. This sparking electricity. This ecstatic frenzy of thousands of scantily clad bodies, packed together on the Avenida Oceanica, jumping to the rhythm of Daniela Mercury, sweating from top to bottom, stretching their arms towards the goddess of Axé Music, stretching, stretching, jumping, jumping, singing their heads off in massive unison – Zum-zum-zumzumbaba. Zumbaba. Zumbaba. Really, that's all there is to say.

Bahian carnival is hardly a time to write extensive field notes. Yet I vividly recall the urge I had felt that night to write these few lines. Three o’clock in the morning or thereabouts. Slightly tipsy from a beer too many. Yet not so much as to refrain from waking my laptop from its slumber and sending this commandment to a future ‘me’: the sober ‘me’ that sits behind a desk, caught up in writing and theorizing, and that is no longer satiated with a magic just experienced. The ‘me’ who would probably no longer be willing to take that moment as wholeheartedly, as totalizing and world-engulfing as it had been then and there, on the Avenida Oceânica. The ‘me’ who would allow himself to be a traitor to the revelation of a moment that had shown ‘what it is all about’.

The nocturnal memo from 4 February leaves me with two questions. The first one asks what had been so perfectly summarized in that ecstatic moment. What was the ‘it’ in the exclamation that ‘this is what it is all about’? Candomble, the spirit possession cult that I had been studying for years? Bahia? The secret of life itself? God? An expanded ‘me’, encompassing the world? The second question concerns this instruction to my sober me: why this concern that the revelation on Avenida Oceanica would not make it through the night?

Type
Chapter
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Ecstatic Encounters
Bahian Candomblé and the Quest for the Really Real
, pp. 11 - 46
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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