The Afro-Brazilian Experiment

By Freyre, Gilberto | UNESCO Courier, May-June 1986 | Go to article overview

The Afro-Brazilian Experiment


Freyre, Gilberto, UNESCO Courier


The Afro-Brazilian experiment

BRAZIL'S experience can be useful to new nations in Africa, Asia and elsewhere for, after four centuries of pre-national and national development and more than a century of independence, Brazil is now emerging as a civilization in search of forms of expression suited to a tropical environment. This civilization does not, however, repudiate the European values which are so basic to Brazil's national heritage.

Brazil now boasts its own types of architecture, music, painting, cooking, Christianity, social life, attitudes towards health and hygiene, and football--a more dionysiac Brazilian kind of football than the apollonian English one. All of these express a new type of civilization whose novelty derives as much from racial intermingling as from an intermixing of cultures.

The cult of the Virgin Mary is an example: elements have been assimilated from the Yemanja cult (the female counterpart of Orixa, a secondary divinity in the African jeje-nago cult). Brazil has black Virgins like the Virgin of Rosario and mestizo Virgins like Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose devotees pledge themselves by offering exvotos --wood and clay sculptures whose expression and colour symbolism are more African than European.

Brazilians do not consider themselves less Catholic because elements of African rites or beliefs have been incorporated into their religious worship. …

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