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3 - Re-encoding the Primitive: Surrealist appreciations of Candomblé in a Violence-Ridden world

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2021

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Summary

‘I love Candomblé!’ We were sitting in a fancy bar and the girl was sipping from a spicy, ginger-based cocktail called Maria Bonita. She sported glasses with a hip frame in red and white and she was from Macéio, capital of the neighboring state of Alagoas. Having learned about the topic of my research she beamed with enthusiasm.

‘I love everything about it. The music, the celebrations, the mythology. It is beautiful. And I’m devoted to my Orixá, my guide and protector.’

She bared one shoulder to show me a small tattoo, an abstract depiction of an elegant round hand mirror, one of the attributes of the Candomblé sea goddess Iemanjá.

‘That's right. I’m her daughter. I always thought I was, everyone kept telling me. And then it was confirmed by a mãe-de-santo in Cabula who played the búzios (the cowry shell oracle) for me. Had to go all the way over there, take a bus. It was kind of scary, that neighborhood. She was a black lady, you know. Very old, very kind. Uma daquelas (one of those), who truly know about these things, and who don't charge you. You just leave a donation.’

All during my research I would meet people with similar stories – and similar shining eyes – when I told them that I was studying Candomblé.

‘Ah, cool!’, they would say. ‘Candomblé!’ And then they would have some story or other of their relation with the cult: reveal which of the orixas were supposedly in charge of their head; point out their earrings made of búzios in a golden frame; make a reference to a CD by Virginia Rodrigues, who sings Candomblé songs in bel canto; a show by megastar Carlinhos Brown, who constantly makes references to the Candomble universe in which he grew up; or to a recent exhibition of the elegant black-and-white photographs by Pierre Verger.

The way Candomblé is extolled in cultural circles – an extolment that stands in flagrant contrast to the dismissive views of Dr Nina, discussed in the previous chapter – has everything to do with the fact that Candomble has become the trademark of the Bahian state.

Type
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Ecstatic Encounters
Bahian Candomblé and the Quest for the Really Real
, pp. 99 - 126
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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