Atlantic Perspectives: Places, Spirits and Heritage 9781789204841

Focusing on mobility, religion, and belonging, the volume contributes to transatlantic anthropology and history by bring

205 106 10MB

English Pages 288 Year 2019

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
Introduction. Ethnographic Perspectives on the Atlantic
Chapter 1. Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos and the Memorialization of a Chinese Imaginary through Afro-Cuban Religions
Chapter 2. Of Revelation and Re-creation: Christian Miracles and African Traditions in the Atlantic
Chapter 3. Peruvian Israelites: Territorial Narratives and Religious Connections across the Atlantic
Chapter 4. Defending What Is Ours: Asserting Land Rights through ‘Popular’ Catholicism in a Brazilian Quilombo
Chapter 5. Emergent Atlantics: Black Evangelicals’ Quest for a New Moral Geography in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Chapter 6. Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Portugal
Chapter 7. Our Lady of Fátima in Brazil and Iemanjá in Portugal: Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic
Chapter 8. Eight Movements and a Coda on the Baroque Atlantic
Chapter 9. The Spirit(s) of New Orleans: Community Healing through Commemoration
Chapter 10. Imaging the African Diaspora: Cultural Heritage, Religion and Belonging in the Netherlands
Chapter 11. Places of No History in Angola
Chapter 12. Slavery Histories from the Hinterland: Making Indigenous Heritage Landscapes in Western Burkina Faso
Chapter 13. A Prophetic Enclave: Religious Heritage and Environmental History in Northern Angola
Conclusion. From an Atlantic Point of View: Some Final Thoughts
Recommend Papers

Atlantic Perspectives: Places, Spirits and Heritage

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Atlantic Perspectives

Atlantic Perspectives Places, Spirits and Heritage

Edited by Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

berghahn NEW YORK • OXFORD

First published in 2020 by Berghahn Books © 2020 Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without written permission of the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A C.I.P. cataloging record is available from the Library of Congress Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Control Number: 2019037118 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978-1-78920-483-4 hardback ISBN 978-1-78920-484-1 ebook


List of Figures Introduction. Ethnographic Perspectives on the Atlantic Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

vii 1

Chapter 1. Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos and the Memorialization of a Chinese Imaginary through Afro-Cuban Religions Diana Espírito Santo


Chapter 2. Of Revelation and Re-creation: Christian Miracles and African Traditions in the Atlantic Roger Sansi


Chapter 3. Peruvian Israelites: Territorial Narratives and Religious Connections across the Atlantic Carmen González Hacha


Chapter 4. Defending What Is Ours: Asserting Land Rights through ‘Popular’ Catholicism in a Brazilian Quilombo65 Katerina Hatzikidi Chapter 5. Emergent Atlantics: Black Evangelicals’ Quest for a New Moral Geography in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil Bruno Reinhardt




Chapter 6. Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Portugal Claudia Wolff Swatowiski


Chapter 7. Our Lady of Fátima in Brazil and Iemanjá in Portugal: Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic Clara Saraiva


Chapter 8. Eight Movements and a Coda on the Baroque Atlantic Mattijs van de Port152 Chapter 9. The Spirit(s) of New Orleans: Community Healing through Commemoration Roos Dorsman


Chapter 10. Imaging the African Diaspora: Cultural Heritage, Religion and Belonging in the Netherlands Markus Balkenhol


Chapter 11. Places of No History in Angola Ruy Llera Blanes


Chapter 12. Slavery Histories from the Hinterland: Making Indigenous Heritage Landscapes in Western Burkina Faso Laurence Douny


Chapter 13. A Prophetic Enclave: Religious Heritage and Environmental History in Northern Angola Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo


Conclusion. From an Atlantic Point of View: Some Final Thoughts Ramon Sarró





Figure 4.1 Figure 4.2 Figure 4.3 Figure 8.1 Figure 8.2 Figure 8.3 Figure 8.4 Figure 8.5 Figure 8.6 Figure 8.7 Figure 8.8 Figure 8.9

A house visit during the outings for the collection of joia. Photograph by the author, 2015. 78 Receiving Santa Teresa’s visit. Photograph by the author, 2016. 82 The batuque walking through the scrublands of Alcântara. Photograph by the author, 2016. 83 Pews in Nossa Senhora da Conçeição da Praia, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Video still by the author. 153 One hundred terms describing the Baroque. Created by the author. 154 Dona Lindaura makes lace, Ilha de Maré, Bahia. Video still by the author. 156 Trompe l’oeuil ceiling, Igreja do Carmo, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Video still by the author. 158 Alabé drummers during a ceremony for Ogum, Santo Amaro da Purificação. Video still by the author. 159 Column, Liceu de Artes e Ofícios da Bahia, Salvador. Photograph by the author. 160 Pai Ró, priest of Terreiro Oxossi Matalambo, Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia. Photograph by the author.162 Cornucopia aesthetics: the altar for the Green Feather Spirit. Video still by the author. 163 Edmilson demonstrating how to turn iron into a curl. Video still by the author. 164



Figure 8.10 ‘Christ Tied to the Column’. Igreja da Terceira Ordem de São Francisco, Salvador. Video still by the author. 165 Figure 8.11 Lucas at work in his atelier, finishing a painting called ‘sob o tempo’ (‘under time’). Video still by the author. 166 Figure 8.12 Passeio Público in Salvador. Video still by the author. 167 Figure 8.13 Detail from an altar for the sea goddess Iemanjá, Santo Amaro, Bahia. The darker fabric has a turquoise colour. Video still by the author. 169 Figure 9.1 Bamboula 2000 on Congo Square. Photograph by the author.173 Figure 9.2 ‘Ancestor meditations’ sign next to an old oak tree in Congo Square. Photograph by the author. 176 Figure 9.3 House in the Lower Ninth Ward, ten years after Katrina. Photograph by the author. 178 Figure 9.4 Maafa commemoration in Congo Square. Photograph by the author. 179 Figure 9.5 Maafa commemoration through the French Quarter. Photograph by the author. 180 Figure 9.6 Victor Harris of the Fi Yi Yi Mardi Gras Indian Tribe at the 15th annual Maafa commemoration in Congo Square (4 July 2015). Photograph by the author. 188 Figure 9.7 Tomb of the Unknown Slave next to St Augustine Church in the Tremé neighbourhood. Photograph by the author. 189 Figure 9.8 Maafa commemoration through the French Quarter. Photograph by the author. 190 Figure 9.9 ‘Down by the Riverside’: the end of the Maafa commemoration on the banks of the Mississippi. Photograph by the author. 191 Figure 10.1 Ceramic sculpture, 2013. © Boris van Berkum. 202 Figure 10.2 A Yoruba mask being scanned. © Boris van Berkum. 203 Figure 10.3 The raw data being rendered. © Boris van Berkum. 204 Figure 10.4 The mask being milled in polyurethane foam. © Boris van Berkum. 205 Figure 10.5 Kabra ancestor dance-mask. Boris van Berkum, 2013. Lacquered polyurethane foam, textile, wood (66 × 40 × 40 cm). Collection Amsterdam Museum. Photo Erik Hesmerg.206 Figure 10.6 Mama Aisa sculpture. © Boris van Berkum, 2019. 210 Figure 11.1 Across the desertic landscape, towards Salinas (Namibe, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2013.216


Figure 11.2 Old harbour structure in Salinas (Namibe, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2015. Figure 11.3 Main street of Salinas (Namibe, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2013. Figure 11.4 Mbari funerary art in Bentiaba (Namibe, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2015. Figure 11.5 The Museum of Slavery in Luanda. Photograph by the author, December 2007. Figure 11.6 Depiction of slaves being baptized before being shipped in the negreiro vessels. Photograph by the author, December 2007. Figure 11.7 The old São Miguel Fort, now occupied by a modern military history museum. Photograph by the author, December 2007. Figure 11.8 Panorama of Tundavala (Huíla, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2015. Figure 11.9 Detail from a mural sculpture in the abandoned Cine Estúdio in Namibe, depicting the local attachment to the sea. Photograph by the author, October 2017.


217 218 219 222 223 224 226 227


Ethnographic Perspectives on the Atlantic Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still forever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy. —Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick offered us a fascinating account of the world from an ‘Atlantic perspective’, producing what has recently been called an ‘Oceanic ordering’ (Long 2011), where the Atlantic appears as a fiction, an imaginary, and a perspective to understand the world, given to us by Ishmael, a whaler and seafarer who narrates a specific quest of search and discovery amidst the oceanic waves. Thus, the giant white whale has subsequently populated public imaginaries through multiple artistic refashionings. For instance, several decades later, Witold Gombrowicz would also offer us a Trans-Atlantyk narrative of European exile in America, in the wake of the Second World War. And throughout the twentieth century, other Atlantic imaginaries would ensue, within and beyond the realm of fiction, from the disastrous luxury of the Titanic to the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. But the Atlantic is more than an artistic assemblage of routes and itineraries; it is a space of creativity, imagination, recreation and memory, displayed throughout multiple continuities and discontinuities, connections and disconnections. It is a ‘human affair’ (Balkenhol and Swinkels 2015) that binds people with history, faith, politics and creation. Immediately, an image comes to mind: that of the Yoruba goddess Iemanjá, also brilliantly described in works of the Brazilian novelist Jorge Amado, notably


Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

Mar Morto (‘Dead Sea’), published in 1936. On the shores of the northern Brazilian city of Bahía, the ‘people of the sea’ learn to survive with what Iemanjá, the ‘Queen of the sea’, would give them: death, but also worldview and hope. Iemanjá could easily be understood as a token of the historical, political, social and religious processes that have emerged from the histories of empire and colony in the Atlantic space, in particular in stories concerning trans-Atlantic slavery, exploitation, violence and survival. There is, in such depictions and imaginaries, a certain degree of civilizational recognition, in similar terms to how Fernand Braudel (1972) described the Mediterranean: a longue durée human geography, which produced a socially recognizable maritime ‘physical unity’, as it were. However, as recently reminded by Stephan Palmié in The Cooking of History (2014), there is in this space as much historical weight as there is active mixing and fabricating on behalf of plural constellations of writers, intellectuals, producers and practitioners. And in this framework, we often appreciate how, despite its rhizomatic multiplicity, the Atlantic is often depicted, intellectually speaking, through categorizations that ­section it into distinct pieces. Thus, as several authors have reminded us in recent years, the Atlantic is ‘black’ (Gilroy 1993) but also ‘earth-colored’ (Vale de Almeida 2004), ‘red’ (Weaver 2014), ‘Lusophone’ (Sansi 2007; Naro, Sansi-Roca and Treece 2007), ‘Iberian’ (Adelman 2006; Schwartz 2008), ‘diasporic’ (Johnson 2007), ‘Christian’ (Sarró and Blanes 2008), ‘prophetic’ (Sarró and Blanes 2009a), ‘secret’ (Palmié 2007), ‘trance-national’ (Routon 2006), and surely many other things. Such descriptions and analyses emerge in the aftermath of important innovations in the field of the study of Atlantic history, such as John Thornton’s books Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800 (1998) or Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles and the Foundation of the Americas, 1585–1660 (Heywood and Thornton 2007). Thornton’s contributions were fundamental in the establishment of two historiographical advancements: the transcendence of traditional regional studies into a more flexible and dynamic understanding of the Atlantic as a ‘zone’ that is in constant flux and transformation; and the identification of the plurality and diversity of routes and trajectories through which that zone was configured  – namely, through the description of the role played by central Africans in the process – against the hegemonic narrative that drew the history of the Atlantic slave trade with West Africa as its main point of departure. These contributions came in a time when traditional conceptual (Eurocentric and white) hegemonies concerning the history of the Atlantic were also in process of deconstruction, several decades after



the inspiring works of W.E.B. du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon and others. After pioneering efforts by, for example, Melville Herskovits (1941), Roger Bastide (1967) and Sidney Mintz and Richard Price (1976), perhaps the most poignant of such critiques was Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993), which was a strong argument against cultural nationalism and the way discourses of/on modernity overshadowed an empiria of creative, black (and Jewish) transnationalisms in favour of victorious histories of white EuroAmerican progress and dominion. Thus, for Gilroy, the identification of a ‘black Atlantic’ was as much about the disciplinary work of historical and sociological investigation as about the semantic and political identification of an anti-hegemonic counterculture. One outcome of this political deconstruction was also the progressive abandonment of approaching cultures in the Atlantic as the result of syncretism and ‘hyphenization’, as it were. In this same spirit, but with a closer empirical attention, in this book we propose an ethnographically based route to explore alternative itineraries towards an anthropology of the Atlantic. We continue to look for alternative ‘black Atlantics’: historical and social engagements that not only complexify the Atlantic map, but also reframe the memory work that surrounds it. We do so by conveying a particular emphasis in the issue of ‘perspective’, appealing to the importance of positionality in the creative (re-)constructions of the Atlantic space. This requires an immediate clarification: we are not referring directly to what is known in the discipline of social anthropology as ‘perspectivism’, but rather to the exploration of how worldviews, and the points of view from which they are observed, are navigated. Gerd Baumann has aptly described this with the metaphor of the sextant, ‘the instrument that sailors use to calculate their own position relative to a changing night sky’ (Baumann 1999: 78–79). Within this framework, perspective is more than a mere act of observation – a gaze that seemingly comes from nowhere. Rather, we understand the term ‘perspective’ as a political act of positioning that is deeply embodied, involving subjects and objects, bodies and things, and the relations between them (Balkenhol 2018). Such a view, we argue, goes beyond the false alternative of radical constructivism and positivism, as well as the unquestioned authority of an unqualified ‘insider’ perspective that is becoming dominant in some quarters of the Atlantic world in all kinds of tribalist views of culture, whether nationalist or subaltern (Al-Azmeh, as cited in Baumann 1999: 70). It is more akin to what Donna Haraway (1988) has called ‘situated knowledge’. Insisting on the ‘embodied nature of all vision’, Haraway argues for an ‘embodied objectivity’ that comes from ‘specific and particular embodiment’ instead of a false


Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

vision that promises transcendence (see below). This book is made up of such ‘partial’ perspectives that do not promise a view from above, but nevertheless, in the notion of Atlantic perspectives, they become more than the sum of its parts. Such ‘Atlantic perspectives’ are neither totalizing strategies (‘views from above’) nor capitulations against social complexity, in the sense of the ‘cartographies of the absolute’ that Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle (2014) discussed. They are theories of the world that are consciously conceived of as part of plural and often competing histories. Hence the plural conceptions of the Atlantic that emerge from the references above and from the different ethnographic contributions to this volume. The reader will find contributions that do not stem from strictly ‘Atlantic’ sites. While we work within the physical cartography that connects Africa, America and Europe, we expose logics of Atlantic connection that are go far beyond the Oceanic coasts (e.g. Peru in America, Burkina-Faso in Africa) but that reveal an undoubtedly Atlantic directionality in the geographical and historical imagination of the people whose lives have been shared by the ethnographers. To use Herman Melville’s epigraph, these are places where the Atlantic, too, is in their ‘being’.

Within and Beyond the Christian Atlantic As a lived experience, and not only as an object of academic research, the Atlantic Ocean is today a space of both memory and hope: of memory, because after the centuries of colonial enterprise, slavery and forced mobility, it has become the very soil through which many peoples search and locate their past genealogies and roots, settling accounts with turbulent histories of slavery, mission and conversion (see e.g. Diouf 2007 for a recent compelling account); and of hope, because those processes of location have often been mediated and confronted by both secular and religious movements  – diasporic, extra-territorialized or re-­ territorialized  – that have brought past memories into contemporary, thriving experiences. Some authors have described these movements as branchements (Amselle 2001) or extraversions (Bayart 2000); or, more straightforwardly, as diasporic cultures (Johnson 2007). For instance, at a time in which UNESCO is generating a heritagization of the history of slavery with the ‘Slave Route’ project, several religious and political grass-roots movements, from West Africa to Central Africa, from Latin America to North America, and from Portugal to the Netherlands, promote their own engagements with the history of Empire. This is the case, for instance, of Bakongo prophetic cultures such as Kimbanguism, which



is currently enacting a ‘back to Africa’ movement (see Sarró and Mélice 2012). As we will see from several contributions in this volume, other movements reinterpret and recreate the history and topography of religious missionary encounters in this space. Thus, for instance, in what concerns the history of Christianity in particular, many such movements reflect classic itineraries in the Atlantic history with which we are all familiar today: European mission, heading towards Africa or South America; and the outlook of the so-called Afro-hyphenated religions (Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, etc.), as well as Rastafarianism and other pan-Africanist religious movements. Others, perhaps less notorious for many, are equally relevant: for example, late nineteenth-century international ventures such as the Nazarene movement, or the North American genesis of southern African Zionist churches; or the transcontinental effects of sorcery; or the southern Atlantic expansion of prophetic, messianic and neo-­Pentecostal modalities of Christianity (see e.g. Sarró and Blanes 2009b; Parés and Sansi 2011; van de Kamp 2012; Ramos 2015). Discussions on contemporary religiosity in the Atlantic space have recently been mapping out these diverse trajectories, revealing historically unexpected directionalities: from historical evidence on missionary effort from the ‘south to the north’, to bouncing-back trends of Christian ‘southernization’ of EuroAmerican domains; from specific processes of Pentecostal ­expansion in Africa and South America, to African Christian transnationalization into European or West African transnational religious networks, or African ‘religious extraversion’ through the Caribbean (Mary 2000, 2002; Killingray 2003; Harris 2006; Routon 2006; Capone 2007a and b; Clarke 2007; Sarró and Blanes 2008, 2009a; Adogame and Spickard 2010; Noret 2010; Formenti 2014). In the religious context, several authors have attempted a similar rethinking of the Atlantic space through innovative positionings and arguments that question the classic linearities and tropes. One example is J. Lorand Matory (2005), who has argued for a historicization of the mutual transformations in the black Atlantic, moving beyond the understanding of Afro-Brazilian culture as a ‘survival’ and heading instead towards a recognition of the hyphenated Afro- as a matter of strategic choice. Taking Candomblé, the archetypical Afro-Brazilian religion, as a case in point, he explores its ‘counterparts’ – that is, the different manifestations in such diverse places as Nigeria, Benin, Cuba and Trinidad. Another case in point in the same geographical context is Luis Nicolau Parés and Roger Sansi’s debate on ‘sorcery’ in the black Atlantic (2011), in which they unveil the transnational dimension of what has been historically defined as an ‘African phenomenon’. In a similar vein, Stephan


Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

Palmié (2002, 2007, 2014) has established a critical understanding of ‘Africa’ as seen from other shores (e.g. Cuba), exploring the conceptual potential behind the otherwise neglected notion of creole-ness. In both cases, historical knowledge is about both place and movement simultaneously. As Kenneth Routon (2006) framed it, there are ‘religious imaginaries of belonging’ at stake in the Atlantic, offering new understandings of historical consciousness, mobility and, ultimately, globalization and transnationalism. From this perspective, Toyin Falola and Matt Childs’ The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World (2004), as well as Hermione Harris’s Yoruba in Diaspora (2006), also depict new mappings and political imaginaries in the ‘transatlantic dialogue’ (Capone 2007b). Together with these Yoruba debates, those around the Christian legacies of Portugal have been particularly helpful in the rethinking of Atlantic fluxes and refluxes. In a previous article (Sarró and Blanes 2009a), two of the editors of this volume proposed the concept of ‘prophetic diasporas’ in order to frame the plurality of ‘moving religions’ in the Lusophone Atlantic, exploring new directionalities and politics of belonging – namely, the place of Angolan and Congolese prophetic Christians in the diasporic scenario of Western Europe. Considering the complexity and vitality of the space, both in historical and contemporary terms, we argued that the Christian Lusophone Atlantic deserved further questioning in its own terms. No matter how rooted in the Lusophone colonial and postcolonial heritage, the transnational Christian networks observed today – those involving Catholicism, prophetic movements, Afro-Brazilian cults, Pentecostalism and neo-Pentecostalism  – are multiple, and follow diverse paths that do not necessarily have the former metropolitan Lusophone capital of Lisbon as either an origin or a final harbour. Furthermore, we also found the ‘Lusophone Atlantic’ (see Naro, Sansi-Roca and Treece 2007) a privileged space to rethink contemporary Christianity, not only through the contemporary transnational dynamics but also because of its unique historical legacy after centuries of constant flux of people, ideas and things. However important these debates may be, the Atlantic religious exchange cannot be resumed to the Christian sphere. There are many other ‘religious Atlantics’ operating alongside the Christian and/or Lusophone one (see e.g. D’Alisera 2003; Lovejoy 2004). As several authors have argued (e.g. Sweet 2003, 2011), an excessive focus on the so-called Christian Atlantic (Sarró and Blanes 2008) is exercised to the detriment of many actors and entire belief systems – a point also endorsed by many contributors to this volume. Thus, we offer an invitation for a parallax and a shift of focus in the study of the Atlantic from a grounded ethnographic perspective.



When collecting the essays that became chapters of this book, we realized that it would be impossible to put them into a particular geographical order, or even to create sub-thematic units. Rather, two ‘perspectives’ emerged in the way different authors looked at the intersection of places, spirits and heritage, as they had been invited to do. The first perspective could be captured by the notion of ‘friction’, that is, an intersection  – whether confluence or conflict  – between different social, political and religious movements, and the anthropological exploration of the interlocutionary processes shaping them. The ethnographic analyses under that concept unveil not only processes of identification, self-ascription and distinction, but also the emergence of spaces ‘in-between’. The second perspective could be encapsulated in the very concept of ‘gaze’, by which we mean exploring expressive and aesthetic dimensions of the processes in which places, spirits and heritages unfold. Gaze is understood here not as a passive ‘worldview’, but as a social activity of ‘world-making’ in which looking at the world is part and parcel of creating meaningful spaces of belonging. Attention to these two perspectives may help to navigate the dense ethnographic content of the volume.

Atlantic Frictions Approaches to religious, social and political creativity in the Atlantic space must incorporate questions of pluralism, cohabitation and ­confrontation. Ramon Sarró (2009), in his ethnography of iconoclasm and religious change in the Republic of Guinea, describes how the history of Christianity and Islam in that country throughout the twentieth century cannot be understood without considering the history of iconoclastic campaigns against each other, as well as against traditional religiosity  – and all with a backdrop of transatlantic colony and mission, and subsequent emancipation. At the same time, such dialectics appear against a background of dramatic political transformation. As he described, the memories and worldviews of the Baga were composed of acts of destruction and the recreation of landscapes, topographies and materialities. Similarly, in his study of the emergence of an Angolan prophetic movement known as the Tokoist Church in the late colonial period and throughout the first decades of independence, Ruy Llera Blanes (2014) also identified how it was shaped by shifting transnational political contexts, from the demise of the transatlantic Portuguese empire to the emerging cold war politics, and also by transforming religious interlocutions, from


Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

Euro-American protestant mission and Portuguese Catholicism to PanAfricanist prophetic and messianic cultures. Attention to friction does not necessarily imply a rejection of the historical, social or political relevance of specific categories pertaining to religion, race and ethnicity in the Atlantic space, but is a reframing of their significance from the spaces of intersection and heterodoxy. It allows us to reframe both traditional conceptions of sociality in the Atlantic as syncretism, and as a discrete, bounded reality. We attribute equal epistemological validity to processes of resistance, rupture and creativity, as to the political and academic processes of stabilization (see Chapter 1 by Diana Espírito Santo) and validation/legitimation. Several contributions to this volume highlight the interlocutionary character of Atlantic perspectives, which in turn appear as not selfcontained in the space of the Atlantic itself, but extending relationalities and referentialities beyond it. The starting point is perhaps best identified in Roger Sansi’s contribution (Chapter 2), where he addresses the reproduction of binaries in theories of religion in the Atlantic space: syncretism/adaptation, recreation/resistance, authenticity/invention, etc. In order to overcome the limitations of such binary approaches, Sansi rightly readdresses this history in terms of ‘revelation’ – the disclosures, announcements and expositions that populate the religious worldviews and expressions across the Atlantic. This operates a not very obvious yet fundamental distinction: instead of seeking ‘truths’ in this space, we acknowledge narratives that point towards different truths, which vary according to one’s own positionality. One good example of this is the contribution by Carmen González Hacha (Chapter 3), which narrates the story of a ‘new Israel’ across the Atlantic, even if it is in fact taking place in the rather ‘Pacific’ site of Peru. González Hacha describes the emergence of a prophetic messianic movement known as the Evangelical Association of the Israelites Mission of the New Universal Pact (AEMINPU), also known as Israelites, founded by Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, an Andean peasant from Arequipa (southern Peru), who received the ‘divine mission’ to announce a new salvation pact and a new ‘Royal Law’ to humanity. This process of reinstatement or rebooting, she argues, was effected simultaneously as a narrative for indigenous communities in Peru and elsewhere in South America, but also as a critical revision of Christian theology that, in turn, produced new topographical orderings, which included the reconversion of the Andean landscape and that of the contemporary Peruvian diaspora to Europe into an Israelite Atlantic space. Territory also becomes a central element in the discussion set forth by Katerina Hatzikidi (Chapter 4) in her exploration of the intersection of



religious devotion and land occupation in a rural quilombo (maroon settlements) in the state of Maranhão in Brazil. She explains how the local participation in the local Catholic patron saint festa implies a public claim in terms of their legitimate occupation of communal lands, in particular visà-vis Pentecostal land antagonists. Thus, as she argues, religious activism becomes territorial activism. Similarly, Diana Espírito Santo addresses a topographical problem in her description of the emergence of an Asian spiritual element (the Chinos) in the otherwise classical Afro-Atlantic cosmology of the Espiritismo landscape in Cuba. In this respect, she identifies the processes of ‘imagining and imaging of el Chino’ in the local spiritual-scape, and analyses how that process of spiritual ‘ingestion’ and ‘regurgitation’ of new muertos unveils a diverse Atlantic chronotopy, and at the same time a counter-official Cuban memory that acknowledges the history of Chinese presence on the island. Such processes of mutual constitution appear in two more chapters. Bruno Reinhardt (Chapter 5) describes an emergent space of identification and a new moral geography in the Atlantic: that of the black evangelical movements in Salvador (Bahia). He addresses the apparent conundrum of evangélico movements that have historically been predominantly white – and often described as racist and intolerant, in a context of public confrontation between evangelical and Candomblé movements  – but simultaneously incorporating a plasticity that allows for the emergence of alternative identifications that in turn stage new processes of articulation with black Atlantic history. One consequence identified by Reinhardt is the reflexive deconstruction of mainstream evangelical demonology, which has usually incorporated Afro-Brazilian deities. Claudia Swatowiski (Chapter 6) explores another dialectic: that of the concomitant and simultaneously diverging institutional strategies developed by the UCKG (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God) across Brazil and Portugal, which stemmed from a recognition of the diverse religious and political landscapes in each country. What she describes are the consequences of this acknowledgement in terms of aesthetics and visual statements of the church in the Portuguese public sphere, attempting a balance between its continuity with the hegemonic Brazilian version and the adaptation to local semiotics. Similarly, Clara Saraiva (Chapter 7) delves into the Brazil–Portugal connection to explore the symmetries and mirror-like effects of the ritual display of Afro-Brazilian spirituality between São Paulo (Brazil) and Braga (Portugal). Through her description of shrines and ritual work in the terreiros in both countries, Saraiva discovers a ‘bridge’ that creates a sort of ‘Lusophone space’ of Umbanda, which in turn exemplifies the plural and alternative mestiçagens observed


Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

in this concept, thus complexifying classic narratives of authenticity, primordiality, race and identity in this particular context.

The Atlantic Gaze The last examples of the previous section also exemplify how the complex processes of interlocution in the Atlantic space are mediated by a visual, aesthetic element – that which the eye sees, as Ramon Sarró notes in the conclusion to this volume. David Morgan (2005) argued that visual culture, upon which religious experience is often based, is an active engagement rather than an accumulation of passive contemplation. Because of that, he argued, the idea of ‘gaze’ is more encompassing than that of ‘image’: it constitutes the ‘social act of looking’ (ibid.: 3), thus highlighting the mutuality of the intersection between object, image, person and collective, in what comes to religious experience and ideology. Subsequently, Birgit Meyer (2011) has expanded this point of view into one of ‘aesthetic formations’, the articulation of religious experience through ever-­evolving mediatized and sensorial processes, eventually becoming a matter of ‘sensation’ (both in the sense of sensoriality and spectacularity). She noted that, more than mere experience, such formations also act as forms of persuasion that enable ideological and political alignments (2010). In a similar fashion, one can think of the history of a very Atlantic object – the fetish – as the perfect illustration of this intersection. Roger Sansi’s description of Afro-Brazilian art (2007) unearths such processes as being ones of objectification and ‘culturification’, as it were. As he points out, the creative dynamics of representation and ideological projection enable the shifting meanings of objects, places, landscapes and memories. Thus, one identifies logics of ‘production’ that assemble those elements into social and political formations, and make them collectively meaningful. This, for instance, is what Stephan Palmié (2014) identified in his reflection on the epistemology of Afro-Cuban religion. In his highly visual and experimental contribution to this volume, written as a companion of a documentary entitled The Possibility of Spirits (2017), Mattijs van de Port (Chapter 8) creatively delves into an idea of ‘cornucopia aesthetics’ in order to grasp what he suggests can be creatively thought of as the ‘Baroque Atlantic’  – a theatrical, open-ended, ­perhaps even confusing space of consciousness, statement and expression. In a similar logic, many of the other contributions to this volume also highlight another dimension of Atlantic perspectives: how worldviews are informed by material, aesthetic, bodily and sensorial processes that shape the plural experience of the Atlantic space. Thus, Roos Dorsman



(Chapter 9) observes how musical and dance practices in New Orleans’ famous Congo Square become part of what she describes as ‘healing through commemoration’. In her approach to the highly mediatized  – and very often negativized or at least exoticized  – concept of ‘voodoo’, she understands that it signifies something ‘beyond the actual word’, exposing its relevance in multiple layers of topography and historicity, as well as industry (touristic and heritagizing). While she attempts to grasp what voodoo does to local practitioners and believers, she identifies the overarching ‘voodoscape’ that configures their experience. Continuing along the lines of materiality, the body and the senses, Markus Balkenhol (Chapter 10) looks at the role of images in the ‘imaging’ of a diasporic community. Much in line with David Morgan’s notion of the gaze, he understands images as being inextricably linked with their material forms and the perceiving bodies. Abstract notions of diaspora, ancestry and history become palpable through the material images  – in this case, a newly created ancestor mask in the Afro-Surinamese Winti religion. This mask becomes particularly persuasive because it exists at the intersection of artistic, heritage and religious discourses, thus tapping into and amplifying the authority of all of them. Ruy Llera Blanes’ chapter on ‘places of no history’ in Angola also looks into the intersection of overarching and underlying experiences and narratives of memory and belonging in the Atlantic. He conducts an alternative, counter-official journey through notorious heritagized sites of Angola, uncovering the alternative histories that the ‘victorious history’ of the Angolan regime effects upon its topography. In doing so, he identifies heterogeneous Atlantic connections that address and complement the more obvious directionalities of Angolan Atlantic history. Landscapes, scenarios and their heritagization also appear as central aspects in two other contexts debated in this volume. For instance, Laurence Douny explores alternative historiographies and memories of transatlantic slavery in the hinterland of western Burkina-Faso, describing how people engage materially with history, and how historical knowledge is reproduced by acts of recounting, performing, displaying and curating that produce what she calls ‘indigenous heritage landscapes’. Subsequently, she suggests that local definitions of heritage emphasize the ubiquitous and at the same time ambiguous role played by ancestry in the collective and embodied recognition of that history. Likewise, the contribution by Ramon Sarró and Marina Temudo approaches heritage and landscape, in and around one of the most recent UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the city of Mbanza Kongo in northern Angola, whose inhabitants, the Kongo kings, were once one of the major agents in the making of the Atlantic. Their description of the local


Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

landscape, however, unearths a more diverse and complexified heritagescape, of which the UNESCO route is but one layer (on this, see Berliner and Bortolotto 2013). We learn how mountains, rivers, forests and ruins are not only inserted within memory narratives on behalf of local officials and church leaders, but are inherently embedded in local oral history, and determine the form of local rural livelihoods. This is something that Sarró and Temudo identify as ‘inscriptions’ that produce a topography that is divergent from the official historical narrative, exposing a certain resentment and enclaving in the process.

Acknowledgements This book is the output of a collaborative research project developed by researchers from universities in Portugal (Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon), the Netherlands (Utrecht University), Belgium (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and the UK (University of Oxford). It is in the framework of funding granted by the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) consortium, to the research theme ‘Currents of Faith, Places of History: Religious Diasporas, Connections, Moral Circumscriptions and World-Making in the Atlantic Space’. We are indebted to several colleagues from these institutions for the successful completion of the project. We are also grateful for the input of several academics who became interlocutors of the project throughout its existence, and thank them for their critical contributions to the theoretical debates and empirical research developed in the framework of the p ­ roject. Some of them have contributed chapters to this volume. Markus Balkenhol is an anthropologist at the Meertens Institute, Amsterdam, working on issues of colonialism, race, citizenship, cultural heritage, and religion. His PhD thesis, ‘Tracing Slavery: An Ethnography of Diaspora, Affect, and Cultural Heritage in Amsterdam’ (cum laude, 2014) deals with cultural memories of slavery in Amsterdam. His most recent publications include: ‘Iconic Objects: Making Diasporic Heritage, Blackness and Whiteness in the Netherlands’, in Birgit Meyer and Mattijs van de Port (eds), Sense and Essence: Heritage and the Cultural Production of the Real (Berghahn Books, 2018); and ‘Silence and the Politics of Compassion: Commemorating Slavery in the Netherlands’, Social Anthropology/Antropologie Sociale 23(4) (2016).



Ruy Llera Blanes received his PhD from the University of Lisbon in 2007. He is a senior lecturer in Social Anthropology at the School of Global Studies of the University of Gothenburg. His current research site is Angola, where he is working on the topics of religion, mobility (diasporas, transnationalism, the Atlantic), politics (leadership, charisma, repression, resistance), temporalities (historicity, memory, heritage, expectations) and knowledge. He is the author of A Prophetic Trajectory (Berghahn Books, 2014) and co-editor of The Social Life of Spirits (University of Chicago Press, 2013). He is also editor of the journal Religion and Society: Advances in Research. Ramon Sarró is a social anthropologist at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford. He has conducted fieldwork in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Portugal on prophetic movements and their legacies. He has published many articles, and is the author of the monograph The Politics of Religious Change on the Upper Guinea Coast: Iconoclasm Done and Undone (International African Institute, 2009).

References Adelman, J. 2006. Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Adogame, A., and J. Spickard (eds). 2010. Religion Crossing Boundaries: Transnational Religious and Social Dynamics in Africa and the New African Diaspora. Leiden: Brill. Amselle, J.-L. 2001. Branchements: Anthropologie de l’Universalité des Cultures. Paris: Flammarion. Balkenhol, M. 2018. ‘Iconic Objects: Making Diasporic Heritage, Blackness and Whiteness in the Netherlands’, in Birgit Meyer and Mattijs van de Port (eds), Sense and Essence: Heritage and the Construction of the Real. Oxford: Berghahn Books, pp. 236–65. Balkenhol, M., and M. Swinkels. 2015. ‘Introduction: The Sea as an Eminently Human Affair’, Etnofoor 27(1): 7–11. Bastide, R. 1967. Les Amériques Noires: Les civilisations Africaines dans le Nouveau Monde. Paris: Payot. Baumann, G. 1999. The Multicultural Riddle: Rethinking National, Ethnic, and Religious Identities. New York: Routledge. Bayart, J.-F. 2000, ‘Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion’, African Affairs 99 (395): 217–67. Berliner, D., and C. Bortolotto. 2013. Le Monde selon l’UNESCO. Special issue of Gradhiva 18.


Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

Blanes, R. Llera. 2014. A Prophetic Trajectory: Ideologies of Time and Space in an Angolan Religious Movement. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Braudel, F. 1972. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Volume One. Berkeley: University of California Press. Capone, S. 2007a. Searching for Africa in Brazil: Power and Tradition in Candomblé. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ______. 2007b. ‘Transatlantic Dialogue: Roger Bastide and the African American Religions’, Journal of Religion in Africa 37: 336–70. Clarke, K. 2007. ‘Transnational Yoruba Revivalism and the Diasporic Politics of Heritage’, American Ethnologist 34(4): 721–34. D’Alisera, J. 2003. ‘Ghosts and Shadows: Construction of Identity and Community in an African Diaspora’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 9(1): 189–204. Diouf, S. 2007. Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Falola, T., and M. Childs (eds). 2004. The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Formenti, A. 2014. ‘Going for God: Mobility, Place and Temporality among Evangelical Guineans in Lisbon’. PhD thesis, Social Anthropology, University of Lisbon. Gilroy, P. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso. Haraway, D. 1988. ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’, Feminist Studies 14(3): 575–99. Harris, H. 2006. Yoruba in Diaspora: An African Church in London. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Herskovits, M. 1941. The Myth of the Negro Past. New York: Harper and Brothers. Heywood, L., and J.K. Thornton. 2007. Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles and the Foundation of the Americas 1585–1660. London: Cambridge University Press. Johnson, P.C. 2007. Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. Killingray, D. 2003. ‘The Black Atlantic Missionary Movement and Africa, 1780s–1920s’, Journal of Religion in Africa 33(1): 3–31. Long, J.W. 2011. ‘Plunging into the Atlantic: The Oceanic Order of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick’, Alantic Studies: Global Currents 8(1): 69–91. Lovejoy, P. 2004. Slavery on the Frontiers of Islam. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener. Mary, A. 2000. ‘Anges de Dieu et esprits territoriaux: une religion africaine à l’épreuve de la transnationalisation’, Autrepart 14: 71–89. ______. 2002. ‘Le pentecôtisme brésilien en terre africaine: L’universel abstrait du Royaume de Dieu’, Cahiers d’Études Africaines 167: 463–78. Matory, J.L. 2005. Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Meyer, B. 2011. ‘Mediation and Immediacy: Sensational Forms, Semiotic Ideologies and the Question of the Medium’, Social Anthropology 19(1): 23–39. Mintz, S.W., and R. Price. 1976. The Birth of African-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.



Morgan, D. 2005. The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice. Berkeley: University of California Press. Naro, N., R. Sansi-Roca and D. Treece (eds). 2007. Cultures of the Lusophone Black Atlantic. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Noret, J. 2010. ‘On the Inscrutability of the Ways of God: The Transnationalization of Pentecostalism on the West African Coast’, in A. Adogame and J. Spickard (eds), Religion Crossing Boundaries: Transnational Religious and Social Dynamics in Africa and the New African Diaspora. Leiden: Brill, pp. 107–22. Palmié, S. 2002. Wizards and Scientists: Explorations in Afro-Cuban Modernity and Tradition. Durham NC: Duke University Press. ______. 2007. ‘Introduction. Out of Africa?’, Journal of Religion in Africa 37(2): 159–73. ______. 2014. The Cooking of History: How Not to Study Afro-Cuban Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Parés, L.N., and R. Sansi (eds). 2011. Sorcery in the Black Atlantic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ramos, M.R. 2015. ‘Missionários do Sul: evangelização, globalização e mobilidades dos pastores cabo-verdianos da Igreja do Nazareno’. PhD thesis, Social Anthropology, University of Lisbon. Routon, K. 2006. ‘Trance-nationalism: Religious Imaginaries of Belonging in the Black Atlantic’, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 13: 483–502. Sansi, R. 2007. Fetishes and Monuments: Afro-Brazilian Art and Culture in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Sarró, R. 2009. The Politics of Religious Change on the Upper Guinea Coast: Iconoclasm Done and Undone. Bloomington: Indiana University Press for the International African Institute. Sarró, R., and R. Llera Blanes. 2008. ‘O Atlântico cristão: apontamentos etnográficos sobre o encontro religioso em Lisboa’, in M.V. Cabral et al. (eds), Itinerários: a Investigação nos 25 anos do ICS. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, pp. 839–54. ______. 2009a. ‘Prophetic Diasporas Moving Religion across the Lusophone Atlantic’, African Diaspora 2(1): 52–72. ______. 2009b. ‘European Christianities at the Turn of the Millennium: Ethnographic Approaches’. Special issue, Etnográfica 12(2). Sarró, R., and A. Mélice. 2012. ‘Kongo–Lisbonne: la dialectique du centre et de la périphérie dans l’Église kimbanguiste’, Canadian Journal of African Studies 46(3): 411–27. Sweet, J.H. 2003. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the AfricanPortuguese World, 1441–1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ______. 2011. Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Schwartz, S. 2008. All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Thornton, J. 1998. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Markus Balkenhol, Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró

Toscano, A., and J. Kinkle. 2014. Cartographies of the Absolute. Washington, DC: Zero Books. Vale de Almeida, M. 2004. An Earth-Colored Sea: ‘Race’, Culture and the Politics of Identity in the Post-Colonial Portuguese-Speaking World. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Van de Kamp, L. 2012. ‘Afro-Brazilian Pentecostal Re-formations of Relationships across Two Generations of Mozambican Women’, Journal of Religion in Africa 42(4): 433–52. Weaver, J. 2014. The Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000–1927. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Chapter 1

Silent Histories

Deadly Chinos and the Memorialization of a Chinese Imaginary through Afro-Cuban Religions Diana Espírito Santo

Introduction Paul Johnson argues that ‘spirit possession describes the idea of being spoken-through, but it has itself always been spoken through too, ventriloquizing a series of positions … The trick will be to also hear who and what is speaking (or dancing) sideways and in translation’ (Johnson 2011: 419), particularly in the context of the Afro-Atlantic religions he studies. What is, however, the ‘Afro-Atlantic’, and its roster of entities, if not an ontological project designed and stabilized by certain communities, some more visible, and some more ‘local’, than others? And what do spirits and possession say about these variable communities and their historical representations? Inherent to any ritual system with covert as well as overt power relations are its invisible actants, particularly in the cosmologically and ritually fluid Afro-Cuban religions. Afro-Cuban spirit mediumship religions deal in transversal spirit identities that have constituted the Cuban historical labour force and its imagined selves and others – for instance, European, African, Indigenous, and even Arab spirits. Its underbelly lies in the twentieth century  – prostitutes, casino owners, guapos, spirits of those who lived off the street, as well as its bureaucratic pantheons, which have recently included spirits of early Communist Party members. We could say that at stake in an investigation of the appearance of these new regimes of spiritual knowledge and the existential possibilities they afford, is the question of how Cuba’s recent history is somehow recycled and recreated under unpredictable forms of authority


Diana Espírito Santo

and embodiment, and what moral topographies result thereof, national and otherwise. But other, parallel historical registers have had an equal or greater importance in Cuba’s spirit universe, as well as some of its Afro-Cuban religious history. One of these is the category of Chinese spirits, espiritus or muertos Chinos. Chinese indenture or ‘coolie labour’ made it to Cuba from the mid nineteenth century because of the forced end of African slavery on colonial sugar and coffee plantations. They were ‘contracted’ on an eight-year basis, but only 50 per cent of the imported Chinese survived this tenure. The coolie trade began in 1847, with 206 Chinese arriving from Manila; it was uninterrupted until 1874, by which time over 120,000 had arrived. Nearly all were men, and hardly any returned to China (Hu-DeHart and López 2008: 14). Labourers were beaten, deprived of basic rights and food, and forced to work extremely long hours. But while this indentured labour was followed by another seventy years of free immigration, when the Chinese became a relatively commercial, prosperous and urban community (ibid.), the chino still occupied an extremely ambiguous role in Cuban perceptions of racial and social status. The Chinese were construed as neither racially ‘black’, nor fully socially ‘white’. Historian Joseph Dorsey argues that ‘contradictions between the legality of social privilege and the reality of social degradation complicated processes of Chinese alienation and assimilation in Cuba in ways that bear little resemblance to Asian experiences elsewhere in the Americas’ (Dorsey 2004: 20). In particular, the marginalization of the Chinese ‘mimicked forms directed against Africans’ (ibid.: 22). Indeed, as one of my interlocutors told me, ‘where there is [sic] Chinese, there is always something African behind’. While there is ample recent historical and ethnographic evidence that the Chinese did marry and integrate into Afro-Cuban religious families, shaping both the cosmology and material culture of Santería, for instance, which worships the Cuban-Yoruba oricha gods (Tsang 2015), there is more ambiguity at the level of representations of the muerto Chino in the Cuban imagination. My purpose in this chapter is not to examine the historical dimensions of Chinese culture in AfroCuban religious practices as such, but rather to begin to come to terms with a particular imagining and imaging of el Chino in the spiritual-scape more broadly, which in general empowers the persona of the Chinese ‘man-spirit’, while representing him as hardworking, suspicious, rancorous, mysterious and, most importantly, capable of powerful sorcery. These representations are less impactful in Santería than they are in the spirit practices of ‘espiritismo’, a creole mediumship tradition associated with nineteenth-century Euro-American spiritualism, and Palo Monte, an umbrella term for an array of heterogeneous magical practices associated

Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos


with Bantu-speaking slaves in Cuba. Both of these practices deal immediately with the realm of the often hidden, opaque dead. It is tempting to understand the existence of Chinese spirits in both spheres of religious practice as betraying ‘intra-connective’ cosmoses, as Don Handelman (2008: 182) would say, translated in this ethnographic context into the productive appropriation of difference. The dominant Afro-Cuban spirit cosmologies seem to share this characteristic propensity to absorb and encompass ‘otherness’, producing novel ontological forms and connections. But it would not be incorrect to understand Cuban history as having ‘absorbed’ and ‘digested’ the Chinese in ways that are both more familiar and more marginal than spirits of other ethnicities. On the one hand, muertos Chinos are far from the largely anonymous non-family beings that are worked by Espiritistas and Paleros: rather, their ‘appearance’ is generally based on kin relations (distant or not), or on geographical contiguities between person and spirit. On the other hand, the Chinos are popularly understood as peculiarly potent entities. Furthermore, they are not simply rare but constitute the largely unspoken registers of witchcraft in religious parlance. It is for this reason that they are positioned at frictious angles to an Afro-Cuban ontology of connective muertos, producing their own forms of embodiment and historical knowledge. In a recent article on the anthropology of history, Stephan Palmié and Charles Stewart set out to deconstruct some of the principles of Western historiography and the ways in which we can anthropologically turn history on itself, making it an object of inquiry. For one, we could question a ‘linear uniform causality’ (Palmié and Stewart 2016: 212) in any number of ethnographic ways. In one of these, historical knowledge is ‘derived not from diligent and painstaking research and reconstruction, but through revelation, mantic technique, oneiric, prophetic, or otherwise “inspired” (instead of rationally contrived) forms of knowledge production’ (ibid.: 213). Thus, in the 1830s on the island of Naxos in Greece, for example, people had dreams about the Virgin Mary telling them where to dig for buried items, which were then duly found after a few years (ibid.). Hence, in this ethnographic case analysed by Stewart (2012), oneiric knowledge had ontological effects. Another inviolable principle in normative historiography is sequential irreversibility (Palmié and Stewart 2016: 215) – a chronological code. Time moves forward, not backwards. But as the authors, and on a separate occasion Palmié (2006), have argued, the Cuban Palero’s work tool – a composite power object called a nganga – a cauldron-type piece where the initiate assembles entities as diverse as bones of a person, sticks, stones, plants, railway nails, knives, chains, and the blood of animal sacrifice, can ‘come to document a sort of history that chronicles the nganga owner’s agency and mystical pursuits’


Diana Espírito Santo

(Palmié and Stewart 2016: 217). The contents of a nganga constitute a ‘pattern that cascades across time and (social) space in a historicity that appears to defy any and all Western modes of temporal, physical, and even metaphysical common sense’ (ibid.). According to the authors, each nganga is a kind of ‘chronotopic constellation of its own’ (ibid.: 216). In this chapter, I will argue that the muertos Chinos essentially comprise a cosmology within a broader Atlantic cosmology, one with chronotopic singularities, following both Palmié and Stewart (2016) and Kristina Wirtz (2011). In her analysis of religious and folklore performances in eastern Cuba, Wirtz looks at how a ‘romanticizing and exoticizing cloak of nostalgia is wrapped around certain figures and performances marked as “African”’ (Wirtz 2011: 16). She argues that blackness in Cuba is temporalized into what she calls ‘timeless past still among us’, a chronotope that condenses notions of blackness, history and identity into a powerful racializing discourse that enacts Cuba’s colonial past (ibid.: 11). Thus, certain performances assign ‘blackness’ to a perpetually available ‘historical present’ (ibid.: 16), doing so through different perspectives, inflections, discourses, and even religious songs. I believe that it is not just the ‘African’ which is reproduced in chronotopic fashion, but el Chino as well. Cuban racialized representations of the ‘Chinese’ (male) in a popular, public sphere of parlance, literature, television and Afro-Cuban religion, portray him as powerful, secretive and recalcitrant  – a wielder of the deadliest magic, regardless of whether or not this is historically accurate. This ethnographic example alerts us to the dangers of models of straightforward historical memory and commemoration for explaining possession-centred practices, suggesting instead that the production of cosmology and heritage can occur on multiple referential, conceptual and experiential levels – some more concrete, others more abstract. Both cosmological enclosure and open-endedness seem to function here in equal measure.

Imagining the ‘Chinese’ My first attempts at contacting practitioners of Palo Monte who worked with Chinese spirits were failures, albeit revealing ones. One palero in Bejucal, a traditionally religious neighbourhood in Havana, suddenly changed his mind when I called him to say that I was on my way to meet him for our interview. ‘Listen to me,’ he said, ‘I don’t think I understood you well yesterday’, referring to a call in which he had explicitly told me he worked cosas Chinas (meaning, Chinese muertos). ‘I only work African spirits, not Chinese. Anyone who tells you otherwise

Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos


is giving you a cuento Chino’, by which he meant pulling the wool over my eyes. I had another failure with someone I had established contact with in Barrio Chino, Havana’s Chinatown. Maria Lam, an Afro-Chinese owner of a series of restaurants, had told me on the phone that she had a padrino (a religious godfather) who worked Chinese Palo Monte; but when I went to see her, the number had mysteriously disappeared from her phone. While Leonel, a highly experienced Santero in his mid-50s and with whom I have been friends for twelve years, would understand these reluctances as evidence of Chinese-things-not-spoken-of (and indeed, it was he who first alerted me to the ‘notoriety’ [mala fama] of espíritus Chinos in Cuba), Pedro, one of my closest interlocutors in Cuba, puzzled by my interest in muertos Chinos in my last fieldtrip to Havana, hazarded an educated guess on how the association between el Chino and magic was forged in the public imagination in the first place. For one, he told me, there was a recent episode of Trás la Huella, a long-running Cuban police detective series, in which one of the protagonists was investigating a case of stolen bones from the Chinese cemetery in Havana, which he attributed to the efforts of a practitioner of Palo Monte to confection a magical ‘Chinese nganga’. The idea that began to circulate was that a normal African nganga, when ‘charged’ with the bones of a Chinese person, was exceptionally potent. According to Pedro, such a thing had never been heard of before, and it gained rapid notoriety. Added to this is a much older reference made by Cuba’s master ethnographer, Lydia Cabrera, who published her seminal El Monte in the 1950s, based on detailed ethnography as well as stories and narratives of religious interlocutors, and which has become a kind of bible for ­practitioners. I translate: Chinese sorcery is so hermetic, that Calazán Herrera  – his name will appear continually throughout these pages – who has, for those who wish to know, ‘walked the whole of the island’, has never been able to penetrate any of their secrets or learn anything from them. Only that they sometimes eat a paste made of bat meat into which goes the ground eyes and brains of the creatures, excellent for conserving one’s sight; that with an owl they confection a very powerful venom; that the lamp they light to Sanfancón illuminates, but doesn’t burn; that they always have behind the door a recipient full of magical water that they throw onto the back of a person they want to do harm to; and that they feed their muertos very well. (Cabrera 1954: 24)

While Cabrera’s informant is long dead, the idea that there are Chinese secrets that not even the keenest of interlocutors can access has become an enduring myth, shrouding the ‘Chinese’ with religious secrecy. Indeed, Josimar, a middle-aged Afro-Cuban palero I am relatively close


Diana Espírito Santo

to, confirms – second hand – this curious magical imagery alluded to in Cabrera’s text, allying it to the complicity of African spirits. Paleros will rarely tell you they work with Chinese spirits. Our ‘identity cards’ are the ‘African’ spirits and gods, Tiembla-Tierra, Madre de Agua, and so forth. But sometimes paleros ‘cross’ the prendas (ngangas) to do a ‘job’. It’s important that it’s the African element that people see, el espiritu negro, so that, for example, we can have a prenda Africana with a Chinese spirit. That way people can’t anticipate the Chino, because he goes ‘behind’ the African. The African fools the victim.

For Josimar, muertos Chinos are the ultimate battle weapons, to be drawn when all else fails. For Leonel too, these muertos are the most efficient and deadly of all Cuban spirits. He was initiated at seventeen years of age in Santería, and says that back then his religious elders spoke more candidly of such things. There was a black man in Guanabacoa, who must’ve been around seventy years old, and these elders always had their concepts of the Chinos, and he used to say that if you happened to have a Chinese spirit and you sent it to someone else, it’s their downfall, it’s the worst thing that can happen to you. And that’s why I think people say, metaphorically, oye, quitame ese chino que tengo atrás (take away that Chino that I have behind me).

However, neither Josimar nor Leonel worked a nganga China, nor could point me in the direction of anyone who directly did. So, where was I to find these muertos Chinos? Was it a mistake to look for Chinese magical heritage within Palo Monte and espiritismo? Was I looking for something imaginal, literally? The notion that the Chinese and their descendants in Cuba paid homage in elaborate ways to their ancestors is well documented (Pérez Fernandez and Rodriguez González 2008: 143; also, Baltar Rodriguez 1997). But how do we get from that fact to the idea that the Chinese wielded magic of the ‘African’ kind, especially in the light of Cuba’s recent history? From 1959 onwards, the deterioration in diplomatic ties between Cuba and China as well as the beginning of the new Revolution’s anti-capitalist measures, inevitably signalled the exodus of the last direct Chinese descendants from Cuba, leading to the quasi-disintegration of an already elderly and fragile community (Eng Menéndez 2004: 5). While some of its cultural and patrimonial capital was rebuilt after this period, especially from the end of the 1980s (ibid.: 9), Havana’s Chinatown is now known as a ‘Chinatown without Chinese’ (López 2013: 237), and its remaining Chinese newspaper in danger of extinction (ibid.: 239). I believe that given a clearly fading public understanding of the historical

Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos


import of Chinese culture in Cuba, we could should look for the emergence, and indeed maintenance, of the Chinese ‘chronotope’  – which allies Chinese ethnicity to magical prowess  – in the historical alliance between the Chinese and the African elements of Cuban society, and in which the former played a much more ambiguous role. As Dorsey well observes, ‘by socioeconomic and sociocultural fiat, Chinese contract labor made it necessary to create white men who were not, black men who were not, Spanish subjects who were not, and homosexuals who were not’ (Dorsey 2004: 41). The ‘Chinamen’ who were not would thus become central to the narrative of brujería at the heart of Afro-Cuban religious perceptions of magical potency. In an article on the idea of freedom implicit in the Cuba Commission Report, an attempted intervention by the Chinese government to gather data on its overseas subjects and their working conditions in 1876, Sean Metzger argues that the ‘coolie trade generally unsettles the Atlantic as an analytic zone, and specifically shifts the terms under which freedom might be understood’ (Metzger 2008: 106). In this Atlantic seascape, he says, in which the terms of freedom for Caribbean subjects have almost always been articulated through discourses of liberalism and governance between the European metropoles and the colonies (ibid.: 105), the immigrant Chinese population comes up awkwardly. The question for Metzger is ‘how freedom might be understood differently in a seascape where shifting populations include those who cannot be assumed to have absorbed republican ideals’ (ibid.). Based on twelve hundred depositions, the Cuba Commission Report foregrounded the shift from a slave to a contract labour economy. But contrary to Enlightenment ideals of rights-bearing individuals, the contract ‘functioned as an instrument of surveillance that apprehended particular people and contributed to their enslavement by making bodies highly visible as property’ (Lisa Yun 2008: 127 in Metzger 2008: 106–7). Metzger argues, following Yun, that the promise of obtaining freedom created a paper chase that plunged them into a bureaucratic system of freedom deferrals instead (ibid.: 107), creating of the contract a paradox with only the appearance of corporeal liberty. It is no wonder that indentured Chinese labourers had some of the highest suicide rates in the region. Between 1850 and 1872, five hundred coolies took their own lives every year, compared to an annual average of thirty-five slaves (Dorsey 2004: 26). This also fermented bridges with the African slaves and their resistance to oppression, at least until 1886, when slavery was finally abolished, which is not to say that there were no frictions or fights between coolies and Africans. Indeed, as Dorsey argues, contract labour was not meant to undermine slavery: ‘Coolies were used to supplement African captives in


Diana Espírito Santo

the face of British opposition to the Atlantic slave trade, and to facilitate the gradual transition from slave to free labor’ (Dorsey 2004: 22–23). Thus, coolies were not just ‘improperly white’, they were ‘improperly free’ as well (ibid.: 23). The Chinese were also expert murderers on the sugar and coffee plantations they laboured on. Dorsey cites that between 1856 and 1874, there were 314 cases of homicide involving 445 Chinese litigants, the majority of which were prosecuted (ibid.: 27). Many homicides were carried out in alliance with slaves. The coolies tried hard to advance in a system designed to disaffect and discriminate them. Because of the stark difference in numbers between imported men and women, Chinese men were never expected to reproduce; Cuban society curiously portrayed the coolie as homosexual, rather than virile, a definition probably stemming from early representations of the coolie as passive and docile. Even now, many Cubans who are depreciative of Raul Castro call him la china vieja, the old China woman, alluding to his supposed (or imagined) homosexuality. But as Kathleen López shows, the Chinese did form interracial marriages, mostly with black and mulatto Cuban women, which to some measure assisted the transition from bondage to free wage earners, or even entrepreneurs (López 2008: 60), and where possible, they also bought the freedom of their enslaved lovers or wives. López argues that while during indenture, Chinese labourers had close to no access to social networks, given the rupture from their homeland and the lack of patronage in their new home, in a post-indenture period alliances multiplied as relationships were formed (ibid.: 65). ‘Across the Americas’, she says, ‘the overlapping African and Asian diasporas produced new dynamics during the age of emancipation’ (ibid.: 69), making claims about class and caste in society, discrimination, and the rights to business spaces, among others (ibid.). Furthermore, as Martin Tsang describes in his thesis on the influence of the Chinese on the development of what was to become Santería, ‘Afro-Cuban religion’ is not an encompassing enough term to designate la regla de ocha and its multifarious sources. A Chinese cultural import has been ascertained to some measure in all ‘Afro-Cuban’ religions, yet ‘Afro-Cuba’ remains a binary term of European and African mutual influences, which ‘makes no Asian or indigenous connections apparent’ (Tsang 2015: 11). Tsang is explicitly critical of well-known Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz’s famous concept of ‘transculturation’, developed in his Cuban Counterpoint of 1947, where the Chinese barely feature in the ‘constructive enterprise’ imagined by Ortiz (Tsang 2015: 2). Cuba was not a cultural and racial melting pot (with a few solid pieces) as Ortiz had envisaged in his understanding of the nation; rather, some communities were left out altogether of Ortiz’s metaphor of the delicious Cuban stew,

Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos


the ajiaco, which described a sentiment of ‘Cubanness’. Indeed, López argues that Ortiz cast out both the Japanese and the Chinese element of the Cuban nation, accusing them of being spies, and generally undesirable: ‘[I]n addition to being physically different from Europeans and Africans, they were degenerate and morally questionable’ (López 2013: 210). José Marti, Cuba’s patron poet, Republican politician and freedom fighter during the colonial war against Spain, particularly dismissed the Chinese. His main aim was independence from the colony but also the establishment of a racial equality between whites and blacks (ibid.: 126). The Chinese element of the equation only got in the way. Although these founding fathers wished to paint the Cuban Chinese as irrelevant, thousands of coolies and contract-free Chinese joined the ranks of the insurgents and independence fighters, particularly in the ten years war, from 1868 to 1878. They thus helped to achieve the independence that Martí so hoped for. Enrique Cirules argues that the Chinese were not just valiant warriors under the ranks of generals such as Máximo Gomez, and mambi chiefs such as Agramonte, Calixto Garcia and Maceo, but they were also known as experienced guerrilla fighters, having fought other wars in China (Cirules 2000: 29). He defends the popular Cuban notion that when many were caught, imprisoned and tortured by the enemy, not a single one would talk. It is well known, he continues, that the Chinese were experts at infiltrating villages and procuring supplies of clothes, food and medicine for their fellow mambises, in the harshest of times (ibid.: 30). They also independently knew of medicine, plants and herbs, knowledge of which served them well in battle scenarios. However, Cirules also recognizes that the integration of the Chinese in Cuba was a silent and anonymous affair, and often a humiliating one (ibid.: 29). In any case, in popular culture and parlance the Chinese were quickly associated with impossible situations, with mistrust and suspicion, with things beyond remedy. Sergio Valdés Bernal (2000: 67–68) enumerates several popular Cuban sayings that attest to this: no creer ni en un velorio chino (to not believe even in a Chinese funeral), used to affirm suspicion towards something or someone; no lo salva ni un medico chino (they will not be saved even by a Chinese doctor), used to reinstate the irremediable character of a situation; tirar una chinita, which means to assault someone verbally in a subtle way; tener un chino pegado (to have a Chinaman stuck on you), used to describe someone’s bad luck. Part of the reason for this perceived mutual mistrust between Cuba’s Chinese community and the rest of its citizens is the fact that, unlike other immigrant communities, the former managed to preserve much of its linguistic and cultural heritage for a while, mostly at the cost of its conscious isolation from mainstream society (ibid.: 71).


Diana Espírito Santo

My hypothesis is that this relative isolation, as well as underlying public understandings of the Chinese as an ambiguous category of Cuban, fermented a chronotopic representation of the Chinese in the Afro-Cuban religious imagination. Spatial and family-level contiguities play a vital role in this representation.

Contiguities One of my earliest preliminary conclusions from my fieldwork on Chinese spirits in Afro-Cuban religions was that the muerto Chino seemed to emerge with and from ‘African’ spirits, or rather, manifest through Afro-Cuban contexts. But rather than directly, this manifestation was via a contiguity of some kind: a proximal, distant or in-law family, for instance, or a contiguity in space and time with a Chinese person who is no more. Contiguity is so evocative a concept because it suggests that ‘Chineseness’ is not experienced directly, but at right angles, or in parallel, leading to constructions based on space–time chronotopic configurations that condense imagined notions of Chinese identity. Similar to Wirtz’s understanding of ‘blackness’ as a trope used atemporally, ‘the concept of race appears to transcend historical contingency so as to seem universal, timeless, and natural’ (Wirtz 2011: 12). This racialization of Chinese spirits takes several forms, among which are the materials and offerings thought to be required to tranquilize imminently restless Chinese family muertos. Take, for instance, the cordón espiritual  – what spirit mediums call the set of protective entities one is supposedly born with, but that one can also come to acquire through life. In espiritismo, muertos Chinos are known for their disruptive capabilities. This is especially the case because creole forms of espiritismo are intimately allied in ritual ways to both Santería and Palo Monte. Odalys, an Afro-Cuban woman in her late 50s whom I met at a religious celebration, told me how in the necessary espiritista ceremony before she received her own santo (initiation in Santería), a medium observed the spirit of a ‘Chino’ with her, who, in actual fact, was her own deceased father. He had died when she was a child. Before the initiation, Odalys had to construct a rincón del muerto, a ‘corner’ where the dead come to eat, so to speak, and cater to this family spirit. The Chino’s foods could not be near those destined for other spirits, but had to be to the side. What was ‘asked’ of her was to place a cup of black tea, a stick of incense, and a normal white candle, because of a ‘deal’ between her Chinese father-spirit and an African one. Every year, during her santo’s birthday, Odalys sets these gifts out, and a few others – balls of unsalted rice and sesame, and honey. In the ten years since her initiation,

Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos


Odalys had forgotten to do so a few times. According to her, every time she forgets, the coconut shell oracle that santeros use to ask the deities and spirits if they are happy produces negative, unsatisfactory results until she remedies the problem. Another case of family contiguities to the Chinese is that of Tamara, a sixty-five-year old white santera who had been told of a Chinese ‘influence’ on her cordón espiritual when she took a minor initiation in Ifá, Santería’s divination cult, twenty years before. Apparently, a ‘letter’ or divination sign was revealed through the diviner’s oracle that spoke directly both of Chinese ancestry and of Changó, the Cuban-Yoruba god of conflict, justice and thunder associated with the Chinese god Sanfancon in Cuba. During her initiation to Santería she bought a small icon representing Sanfancon, a Chinese warrior who was decapitated during battle, and placed it inside the ceramic vessel of her own Changó, the oricha-saint to whom she was initiated. She also regularly offers rice balls and incense sticks to this ingrained spirit. But while she is phenotypically white and biologically non-Chinese, Tamara says that her family history is directly relevant to this Chinese ‘current’ that she brings along. Her grandmother, after having her mother, and after her grandfather had died, remarried a Chinaman. A whole line of Chinese descendants in her family line then ensued, but according to her, they wanted nothing to do with religion of the Afro-Cuban kind: ‘The elements of my family who began the religious process’, by which she means initiating contact with Afro-Cuban religions, ‘were the whites and mulattos. The Chinos never really took part … they are an ethnicity that always holds something back. They don’t open up easily. Perhaps for this same reason, their Chinese spirits came to me, so that I would have that responsibility’. I found a similar case of the contiguous ‘contagion’ of Chinese muertos in a young couple living with their two daughters in Marianao, Havana. The husband, an experienced priest of Ifá, Chang, is a Chinese descendant, while his santera wife Yani is not. But it is Yani who has the muerto Chino in her cordón espiritual, a five-thousand-year-old Chinese peasant man who is capricious and wilful, as well as old. They built him a nganga china with beautiful Chinese ceramics, a pagoda, a pipe, and Chinese chopsticks, next to a Ceiba tree they planted. When he comes  – only once in a while – in Yani’s body, he is dismissive of Afro-Cuban ‘things’ but he has a characteristic Palo signature composed of familiar-looking signs and symbols, which he designs on the floor with chalk. When the couple asked palero friends to attempt to decipher it, they came up empty. Indeed, while this spirit’s biography has nothing to do with Afro-Cuban religion, in his first ‘appearance’ in Yani’s body he was carrying a Mama Chola nganga over his head. For Chang this was an immediate sign that


Diana Espírito Santo

he worked black magic and that he wanted his hosts to build him a viable work tool. Chang and Yani procured the bones of a Cuban-Chinese man from the Chinese cemetery in Havana, and placed them in the Chinese nganga, along with other attributes. According to them, Yani’s main protective Chinaman made a pact with the former’s spirit and now relies on him to communicate in Spanish, a language he initially knew nothing of. But the process of making this spirit a nganga was entirely experimental, and fraught with mishap and failure, which was the case for instance when the Chino decided to take over Yani’s body and throw away most of its magical objects. Also, he only comes when he wishes, not when he is summoned, and he is suspicious of everyone including his own medium. Finally, we have geographical or spatial contiguities. Maria, a charming forty-five-year-old Afro-Cuban flower vendor who lives just off Calle Salud, in what used to be the Barrio Chino, tells me she ‘inherited’ a muerto Chino by virtue of a spatial and social contiguity with the Chinese neighbourhood and with an old Chinese man, when she was a child. Her grandmother, with whom Maria had lived since she was a girl, was the servant in a house where the old man resided. The Cuban-American who owned the house and rented out the rooms packed up after the Revolution and left, leaving her the entire house to look after. While neither of them understood his attempts at the Spanish language, her grandmother continued to care for the old man, who was playful and kind with Maria. She now remembers sitting with him in his room playing with his Chinese objects, while he looked over her patiently. When he died, she inherited his room, and understands that his spirit may still be there, sticking to her. Maria believes this old man eventually became one of her own protective spirits. The Chino was like family, she says. And the suspicion she has always had is that it is him she has passed when in trance since she was fifteen. But he doesn’t come like the others. He doesn’t knock me unconscious. And he’s always very brief, this Chino. It’s difficult to have him in my body. It’s like I’m trying to speak his language, I’m moving my mouth and nothing comes out. He’s only come (in possession) three times. But all the times have been extremely significant. Once when I got initiated to Santería at age thirty. Another time when I lost a baby I was carrying of six months. And the first time when I was fifteen. At all these moments I’ve offered him his food and placed incense. And he’s always given me what I’ve asked.

As a power expressed through Afro-Cuban cosmology and ritual, the Chino needs to be nevertheless drawn out and controlled; but the issue here is that Chinos resist this control ipso facto. They do not often let themselves be identified or named, even by family members; they appear rarely; they say almost nothing during trance; and they have an

Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos


immanent capacity for chaos and disruption. In this sense, the chronotope of the Chinese spirit is significantly at odds with a cosmos of African muertos that experts learn to manipulate and use for their own ends. Like zombies, these nganga slaves are magically dispossessed of their own will, clearly resonating with Cuba’s plantation labour regimes (Routon 2008: 636), and standing as a key trope for the self-possession, freedom and autonomy required for our Euro-American ‘modern political project’ (Johnson 2011: 396). According to Routon, this enslavement is no simple remembrance of Cuba’s past: Palo sorcerers mimic the social predations of slavery, so as to bolster their power and efficacy (ibid.). Indeed, it is no coincidence that the figure of the ‘African’ is at the forefront of such representations of efficacy. Black slaves were also the nation’s first maroons, celebrated by the Cuban Revolution as rebels who aligned themselves to the mambi independence forces, among others. Wirtz says that ‘in black figures like the maroon, a time-transcending or anachronic past is being made forever immanent’ (Wirtz 2011: 18). But contrary to the ‘African’, the Chinese were excluded from a formulation of nationhood, both metaphorically and in practice. They rather became the invisible players of Cuban history, standing on a precarious middle ground. We could say that the Chinese spirits are somewhat suspended in both time and place; not quite ubiquitous, nor entirely relegated to history. On the one hand, their voices are finally heard through their contiguous descendants, whose commemorative actions and spirit possessions evoke them in a religious present. On the other hand, as Palmié and Stewart argue for ngangas, each family-centred spirit practice is a chronotopic constellation of its own; it is ‘historical’, but its history is ‘subject to change and modification over time’ (Palmié and Stewart 2016: 218). Thus, there’s a history within a history, a cosmology within a cosmology, where ‘affectivity takes precedence over reference’ (ibid.: 219): muertos Chinos get things done in exchange for gifts – they heal, divine, protect, and they have ontological effects. As Palmié and Stewart argue, history can be heuristically defined ‘not only as “practices of knowledge production” aiming at forging “relations to the past”, but also as “intimations of the past”, since the last may be perceived non-objectively, or sensed affectively’ (ibid.: 226). Representations of these relationships to the past need to be investigated ethnographically, they say.

Final Remarks Chinese immigration to Cuba from the mid nineteenth century up until the end of the twentieth century is part of a larger global story that spans


Diana Espírito Santo

over three hundred years of history (Hu-DeHart and López 2008: 15). Hu-DeHart and López say that it began with Columbus, who ushered in the first era of modern globalization and who ‘laid the groundwork for the Manila galleon trade which linked Europe to Asia to America through the exchange of American silver for Asian-made consumer goods from the mid sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries’ (ibid.). From this post-slavery time onwards, industrialization in the Old World required the recruitment of cheap and apparently docile Chinese to labour in New World plantations. Some of this use of Chinese labour produced antiAsian reactions (ibid.: 17). Mostly, it reconstituted Chinese and African families in Cuba, reshaping an ‘Atlantic’ configuration based singularly on a European-African polarity. In this chapter I have argued that this new Atlantic space has generated historical circumscriptions from multiple perspectives that are at right angles to, or in tandem and tension with, other histories. In some of these micro-historical understandings of the ‘Chinese’ – through muertos Chinos, for instance – a chronotope of the Chinese man is reproduced wherein he is seen as quiet, hardworking, and exceptionally powerful at magic; one that both contrasts with and complements the Afro-Cuban religious imaginary.

Acknowledgements I am grateful firstly to the Fondo de Inserción from Ponticifia Universidad Católica de Chile, which funded my fieldwork on Chinese spirits in Cuba at the end of 2015. Of course, I thank the ‘Currents of Faith, Places of History’ project team, especially Ruy Llera Blanes and Ramon Sarró for giving me the opportunity to undertake this fieldwork and to think about these themes in the first place, and HERA for funding our last discussions at the University of Oxford, where a draft of this paper was first presented. Most of all, however, I am grateful to my interlocutors in Cuba who generously shared their stories of Chinese muertos with me. Some names have been changed. Diana Espírito Santo (PhD UCL, 2009) has worked variously on spirit possession and mediation  – in Cuba, with Afro-Cuban espiritismo; in Brazil, with African-inspired Umbanda; and more recently in Chile, where she is currently examining ontologies of evidence in parapsychology movements and paranormal investigation. Her interests include personhood, materiality, divination, witchcraft and technologies. She has published many articles, has written two monographs, and co-edited

Silent Histories: Deadly Chinos


three volumes, including The Social Life of Spirits (University of Chicago Press, 2014) and Making Spirits (I.B. Tauris, 2013).

References Baltar Rodríguez, J. 1997. Los Chinos en Cuba: Apuntes Etnográficos. Havana: Casa Fernando Ortiz. Cabrera, L. 1954 (1989). El Monte. Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas. Cirules, E. 2000. ‘Algunas reflexiones sobre la presencia de los chinos en Cuba’, Catauro: una revista cubana de antropología 1(2): 26–33. Dorsey, J.C. 2004. ‘Identity, Rebellion, and Social Justice among Chinese Contract Workers in Nineteenth-Century Cuba’, Latin American Perspectives 31(3): 18–47. Eng Menéndez, Y.G. 2004. ‘Etnicidad y autorecuperación: la comunidad china en Cuba y el Barrio Chino en La Habana’. Paper presented at the VII Conferencia Internacional, Instituto de Antropología, Havana, 24–26 November. Handelman, D. 2008. ‘Afterword: Returning to Cosmology: Thoughts on the Positioning of Belief’, Social Analysis 52(1): 181–95. Hu-DeHart, E., and K. López. 2008. ‘Asian Diasporas in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Historical Overview’, Afro-Hispanic Review 27(1): 9–21. Johnson, P. 2011. ‘An Atlantic Genealogy of “Spirit Possession”’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 53(2): 393–425. López, K. 2008. ‘Afro-Asian Alliances: Marriage, Godparentage, and Social Status in Late Nineteenth-Century Cuba’, Afro-Hispanic Review 27(1): 59–72. ______. 2013. Chinese Cubans: A Transnational History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Metzger, S. 2008. ‘Ripples in the Seascape: The ‘Cuba Commission Report’ and the Idea of Freedom’, Afro-Hispanic Review 27(1): 105–21. Ortiz, F. 1947. Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar. New York: Alfred Knopf (Reprint, 1995. Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Palmié, S. 2006. ‘Thinking with Ngangas: Reflections on Embodiment and the Limits of “Objectively Necessary Appearances”’, Comparative Studies in History and Society 48: 852–86. Palmié, S., and C. Stewart. 2016. ‘Introduction: For an Anthropology of History’, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 6(1): 207–36. Pérez Fernandez, R., and S. Rodríguez González. 2008. ‘La corneta china (suona) en Cuba: una contribución cultural asiática transcendente’, Afro-Hispanic Review 27(1): 139–60. Routon, K. 2008. ‘Conjuring the Past: Slavery and the Historical Imagination in Cuba’, American Ethnologist 35(4): 632–49. Stewart. C. 2012. Dreaming and Historical Consciousness in Island Greece. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Tsang, M. 2015. ‘Con la mocha al cuello: From Canton to Havana, the Emergence and Negotiation of Afro-Chinese Religion in Cuba’. PhD dissertation, University of Florida.


Diana Espírito Santo

Valdés Bernal, S. 2000. ‘Los chinos desde el punto de vista linguístico’, Catauro: una revista cubana de antropología 1(2): 50–73. Wirtz, K. 2011. ‘Cuban Performances of Blackness as the Timeless Past Still Among Us’, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 21(1): 11–34.

Chapter 2

Of Revelation and Re-creation

Christian Miracles and African Traditions in the Atlantic Roger Sansi

In the study of Afro-Brazilian religions, ‘Christianity’ has often appeared both as a given and as a ghost, something very obvious but yet quite hidden. It pops up in the background and in the periphery, but is rarely at the core of what Afro-Brazilianist scholars are looking for. As Joel Robbins (2007) has said, this is possibly true for most anthropological traditions, since Christianity is too close to the anthropologist, too obviously identified with the West. In most narratives of Afro-Brazil, Christianity appears solely as the dominant ‘other’, the colonial elite; an other radically different from Afro-Brazilian religions, and imposed with violence upon them. If people in Afro-Brazilian religions practise Christian rituals, use Christian objects, and deal with saints, then the Afro-Brazilianist scholar feels compelled to explain the intrusion of these alien elements either as syncretism, or as masking a deeper, Afro-Brazilian truth: Christianity would be the false surface, and Africa the deep truth. The blossoming of a history of Africa that has opened its research focus to the Atlantic colonial world could change this. The work of historians like John Kelly Thornton (1998a, 1998b) and Linda Haywood (2002; Haywood and Thornton 2007) in particular, has offered a vivid picture of a West Central Africa where Christianity became creolized; a colonial creole world that was also, for centuries, the main source of slaves for the Americas. Christianity was not alien to many of these West Central African slaves in the Americas. Following the work of Thornton and other Africanists, some Brazilian historians have started to re-map the Notes for this chapter begin on page 46.


Roger Sansi

history of slavery in Brazil  – people like Marina de Mello e Souza, and Robert Slenes (2002) whose work I will reconsider later on. But in other cases, the narrative does not seem to have changed that much. What in Africa is described as creativity, historicity and continuous change, in what Thornton has interestingly defined as a process of ‘continuous revelation’, once we cross the Atlantic it often becomes the search for traces, survivals and re-creations of an African past, following the old habits of the Afro-Brazilianist literature. For example, James Sweet affirms that ‘[i]n seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Brazil, African religions were not syncretism or creolized but were independent systems of thought, practised in parallel to Catholicism’ (Sweet 2003: 7). Sweet explicitly confronts, in these terms, the Brazilian scholarship from Luiz Mott or Ronaldo Vainfas, to Laura Mello da Souza, who, in his terms is more interested in the ‘syncretism of slave practices, underestimating the continuing centrality of the African past’ (ibid.: 6). My objective in this chapter is to go just a little bit further than this. Reading Thornton’s work, I was surprised how much his discussion of the encounter between Christianity and West Central African religion resonated with my ethnographic experience of Candomblé in Brazil; surprised, because I had always been advised against ‘Afro-Centrism’ or any search for origins in the study of the present. And yet, what was intriguing and brilliant about Thornton’s work, more than identifying traces of ideas and practices to be ‘re-created’ in the New World, was the use of the term ‘revelation’, which is quite contentious but still a useful starting point from which to rethink Afro-Brazilian religions in a new fashion. Perhaps, this very notion of ‘revelation’ could help us to elope the syncretism/adaptation versus re-creation/resistance debate once and for all. In the next pages, I shall start by considering Thornton’s argument on revelation in West Central Africa. Some readers may know this argument well, but it is important for my argument to go through certain details so as to then see how it compares to the Brazilian case. In the conclusions, I will make some considerations on the very notion of ‘revelation’, and on how this argument can help us to shape a wider picture of the ‘Christian Atlantic’.

Continuous Revelation in West Central Africa According to Thornton, what characterized West Central African religion at the time the Portuguese reached its coast, was not an organized clergy and a systematic theology. Religious knowledge was received

Of Revelation and Re-creation


mainly through revelations (Thornton 2002: 73), which could take different forms, from augury and divination, through the interpretation of dreams and visions, to spirit possession or the possession of objects (Thornton 1998a: 239). In many of these cases, the person who received the revelation was not necessarily a religious specialist with a particular knowledge of theology, but a person with a ‘gift’: ‘priests were those who could demonstrate efficacy in contacting the Other World, a skill that was not conveyed by a hierarchy or seminary’ (Thornton 2002: 74). This openness to revelation is probably what explains the quick conversion of the Kingdom of Kongo to Christianity, as opposed to most of the other African nations that the Portuguese had encountered before; for the arrival of the Portuguese could be seen as a momentous event in itself, an event of revelatory effects. Christianity on the other hand is, as we know, a revealed religion. Just like for Kongo religion, revelations and their proof, miracles are the source of religious knowledge in Christianity. ‘Both Christianity and African religions were constructed in the same way, through the philosophical interpretation of revelations’ (Thornton 1998a: 246). Thus, for example, the famous Queen Njinga in 1655 decided to return to the fold of Christianity, because of the message given to her by a spirit medium incorporating her dead brother. The most interesting thing in this case is that the Capuchin missionary attached to her court, Antonio Gaeta, declared the medium’s message to be a ‘miracle’ (Thornton 2002: 87), in spite of the fact that spirit possession is probably not the most orthodox form of revelation in Christianity; still, the structure of revelation ­operates from both points of view. The consequence of this mutual recognition was that conversion to Christianity, as a result of revelation, could be easily embraced by West Central Africans. Conversion not only occurred at the personal level, but also territorially. Local and territorial entities, Simba and nkita, were identified with saints: Many Kongo might come to understand that the beings who had long revealed themselves had always been saints or angels and, rather than being the fairly local and particular deities that they had believed to inhabit the areas, were universal saints of angels.… The merger of these deities with saints was more interesting, because in Catholic theology saints were both universal and particular. This concept of a particular saint being specific to a locality and yet possessing an aspect that was universal was found in Europe, where the Virgin of this or that town was recognized as being both specific to the town and universal. (Thornton 1998a: 259)

Thus, through revelation, the saint is recognized in objects and territories, both in Kikongo ritual traditions and in Catholic practice. What I


Roger Sansi

find particularly interesting in this argument is that the revelation that the simbi or nkita is a saint gives a different historicity and territoriality to the entity; in a way it articulates the universal with the particular. In this sense, the mechanism operated is more complex than ‘syncretism’, which simply presupposes an arbitrary identification. Revelation makes the identification of saint and African spirit necessary, not arbitrary. It not only involves a mixture or identification of different religious beliefs, but the recognition of a particular entity at a specific place and time, from the new point of view purveyed by an event of encounter. I will come back to this point in the conclusions. And yet, according to Thornton, West Central Africans, unlike Christians, ‘did not construct these religious interpretations in such a way as to create an orthodoxy’ (1998a: 246). This lack of orthodoxy facilitated conversion, but paradoxically, it also led to a further effect: overcoming Catholic orthodoxy. For Thornton says that what characterizes West Central African religion is not just revelation, but continuous revelation – and in that sense, it would be different from Catholicism. Based on canonical texts that fixated the orthodox knowledge of the divine, Catholicism is organized as a powerful church whose main task is precisely to contain and control the spread of revelations; to distinguish between revelation and heresy, miracles and spells, mystical inspiration and devil possession. What ended up happening in West Central Africa, from a Catholic perspective, was not just the persistence of paganism, but the spread of heresy. A paradigmatic case of heresy is the Antonines of Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita. Beatriz proposed a rewriting of Christian theology, affirming not only that Jesus and the Virgin were Kongolese, but that Saint Anthony was also God (Thornton 1998b). I will not explain Beatriz’s whole story here, but am interested in some of its details. In 1704, a prophet, Apollonia Mafuta, had visions of the Virgin, who reported her son Jesus Christ’s anger about the wickedness of the people of Kibangu. After that, she found a stone near the Mbidizi River, the largest of the rivers that came from the Kibangu mountain, a great sacred place. The Mbidzi was already an oracle of Lusunzi, a local nkita deity. A perfectly spherical stone found near the river was regarded as a spiritual token of Lusunzi (Thornton 1998b: 12). But the stone that Apollonia found was different. That stone had the shape of a deformed head, and she believed it was the head of Jesus wounded by the hoes of the impious. After this revelation, she started to denounce and burn all the idols and nkisi (spirit objects), including objects of Christian devotion like crosses and medals. She made miracles, like curing a woman of a snakebite by making the sign of the cross.

Of Revelation and Re-creation


When Beatriz Kimpa Vita started being possessed by Saint Anthony and spreading her prophecy, Mafuta gave her full support. Kimpa Vita had had visions of Saint Anthony since she was a child; later she had been initiated as a nganga marinda, a priestess; but the revelation she received drew her not only to renounce and destroy the nkisi, but also to the refoundation of Christianity, including the destruction of Christian ‘idols’ like crosses and medals (Thornton 1998b). All these are well known facts about one of the more extraordinary episodes of the modern history of Africa. Beatriz’s revelations had clear political and cultural consequences, which in fact some claim are still being felt today – Kimbanguism is often referred to as a direct inheritor of the Antonines. In any case, Beatriz is a clear example of how colonial contact in West Central Africa produced a creole culture that was not just either syncretistic, mixing African and European beliefs, or resisting European culture and religion. Going beyond syncretism and resistance, it was engaging with European colonialism and Christianity, and it was overcoming it, proposing something radically new. It has also been argued that all these revelations, miracles and extraordinary events were well grounded in Kongo tradition. MacGaffey quotes one example that is very similar to the story of Christina Mafuta, from a missionary ethnography of the early twentieth century: A woman called Ndandi Mfuka was walking by the edge of the water when she was seized by nkita spirits [a variety of simbi] who took her into the pool, where she remained for nine Nsona days [nine four-day weeks]. On the tenth she emerged with two stones with which she had composed nkisi Nkita under the water. When she appeared in the village she was covered with spots of red camwood. She remained in an enclosure for another Nsona day. On the next, she came out of it, knowing many things about the places under the earth and under the water where the bankita live. That day, she was asked many questions, but answered all of them, forgetting none, and explaining everything. (MacGaffey 1994: 127)

The difference between the stories of Christina Mafuta and Ndandi Nkufa is more in their reach than their character. The revelation that Ndandi Nkufa received was strictly local, whereas Christina Mafuta’s revelation had national, continental, indeed universal consequences  – she was revealing something about Jesus Christ himself, not just a local nkita spirit. The key for the production of a creole Christianity in the Kongo world was not just the syncretistic identification of Christian beliefs and African beliefs, or Christian saints and African nkisi or nkita, but the articulation in space and time of local spirits with saints through revelations.


Roger Sansi

Continuous Revelation in Afro-Brazilian Candomblé The continuous revelations that Thornton describes are familiar to my ethnography of Brazilian Candomblé: tales of found stones that embody spirits, waterfalls and rivers and ponds where people fall in trance, children possessed, or people possessed by childish spirits; and these narratives, as we will see, often follow the same patterns. I could give several ­examples of revelations, or milagres, starting with the Mãe de santo (Candomblé priestess) I worked with, Madalena. In her childhood, Madalena was first possessed by a Caboclo spirit after she found a snake in a waterfall. A Caboclo spirit is a spirit of the forest – ‘the owner of the land’, normally associated with indigenous people. Back then she did not recognize that it was a Caboclo, and her mother sent her to become initiated in a house of Candomblé of the Angola tradition; but she abandoned the house because she was being abused by the Pai de Santo (Candomblé priest). As a grownup, she became a Pentecostal Christian, but the Caboclo wanted her to abandon the church and open a house of Candomblé for him, and he forced her to do so by threatening death to all her family. The Caboclo wanted her to open a house to ‘work’ (trabalhar, or better fazer trabalho, which means working miracles, or healing). She finally opened the house, which is today one of the best-known houses of Candomblé in her city, Cachoeira. Madalena’s life history (Sansi 2009) recalls not only the narrative of Beatriz Kimpa Vita  – first encounter during childhood, initiation, withdrawal and then second encounter – but also the nkita that both Thornton and MacGaffey mention. In fact, the term inkita was still used in Brazil until not so long ago. According to Gisèle Binnon-Cossard, in the old days, one of the essential parts of initiation in Angola Candomblé was the inkita. In this ritual the initiates, in the state of erê, a sort of childish, roguish spirit, were abandoned in the bush where they lived alone, finding their own means of survival – hunting, fishing and sometimes ­stealing. After eight days, they would come back to the house as if they were wild beasts (bichos do mato). They carried in their hand emblems or ferramentas of their newly found spirit: stones, animals, leaves. Binon-Cossard mentions remarkable African precedents of these forms of initiation in Congo rituals of the nkita,1 which she read (in the late 1960s) in colonial ethnographies of Laman or Bittremieux, where the novices find their ‘fetishes’ in the bush or in the waters. Each object-spirit would have its own story, which only the initiate would know;2 and when coming back to town, the initiates would be in a state of violent trance (Laman 1962: 252). But what is even more interesting is that Madalena has no memory of the inkita as a specific ritual: her encounter with the Caboclo was for

Of Revelation and Re-creation


her a revelation, or a miracle, but not a ritual of initiation. On the other hand, as a part of the celebration of the Caboclos, Madalena and her flock perform an analogous ritual, the maionga. At night the initiates would leave the closed room of initiation in the Candomblé house to have a bath (maionga) in a pond in the bush, at the Caperuçu, where the Indians lived (or so it is said) in precolonial times. There they would fall in trance and would grab the first thing on sight – stones, animals, plants – and bring it back to the house. Madalena’s first encounter with her Caboclo actually resembles the encounter with the inkita; the Caboclo, in fact, responds perfectly to the nkita, as a wild spirit of the land, as Slenes (2002 13) has also remarked. But the fact is that, in contemporary Candomblé, what defines a Caboclo is precisely that he is ‘not made’ (não é feito). Unlike the Orixás or Voduns, African spirits, who are ‘made’ through initiation, the Cabolco, the ‘owner of the land’ (o dono da terra), does not need to be ‘made’ through initiation; it is said that the Caboclo ‘is already made’ (já  é  feito)  – that is, the Caboclo does not need initiation; the Caboclo comes to the person who will incorporate him through revelation, not through initiation. This is an important issue within Candomblé as a religion. There are spirits who are ‘made’ through initiation, the Orixás and Voduns, and spirits who are already made, like the Caboclos. The first require a ritual knowledge, a hierarchized organization of the cult, a ‘church’ as it were, while the later emerge in the encounter with whomever they choose to be their medium – a person with a particular ‘gift’. And still there are several other instances in which spirits, Caboclos or saints, reveal themselves, in ways extremely similar to the descriptions of Thornton and MacGaffey. Once, for example, Madalena heard a voice calling her from the house of her sister, which had just fallen down due to heavy rains. She went there with fear of finding someone; but she did not. Instead she said she found a stone, which had the form of a goat’s skull. It was Exú, the spirit of the crossroads and doorways (but also, the Devil) who was calling her. Like in the stories of Ndandi Mfuka and Christina Mafuta, who also found, or better were found by, stones with strange shapes that revealed themselves as divine entities. But not only Indian or African spirits are found. More importantly for our argument here, there are particular places and objects that have been also identified as shrines of Christian saints. And that is not ancient history: there are two of these shrines in the vicinity of Cachoeira, in the state of Bahia, were Madalena lives, that are both less than thirty years old. One is the shrine of Santa Bárbara, in Sáo Félix. The Miracle of Santa Bárbara is a sanctuary near Madalena’s house. There, some twenty years ago, a man heard a voice while going to cut a tree, saying: ‘Don’t cut me!’.


Roger Sansi

He thought it was just his imagination, so he tried to cut the tree, but when the axe hit the trunk, the tree started to bleed. The man then had a vision of Santa Bárbara, or Iansã in Candomblé, who asked him to please not cut the tree as it was sacred to her, and that a fountain of water with miraculous properties was running under it. He promised he would not cut it and that he would make a shrine to her right there. The man built a shrine to Santa Bárbara as he promised, and people from all over the region come to get water from the miracle fountain, including Madalena. Another miraculous water source attended by Madalena is the Milagre de São Roque. The Milagre de São Roque is a precipice made of one big solid rock (what in Brazil is called a lage) with water pouring from its vegetation. The local people say that the water falls down the precipice in both summer and winter at the same pace; it does not come from any river or known water source but it pours from the earth. There are two stories about the origin of the miracle. For some, there is a giant snake that protects the water source. But others say that the milagre was discovered when an image of São Roque was found in a small cave, where nowadays we can see a Catholic shrine. The image was moved to a chapel on top of the precipice; apparently, the image has disappeared, but the devotion is only growing. The Milagre de São Roque has become the object of an immensely popular celebration on the last Sunday of August, gathering many houses of Candomblé, with many Candomblé initiates incorporating their Caboclos. All these examples fall exactly into the patterns described by the literature on West Central Africa. It could be argued that revelation is as central to Candomblé today as it was and still is to the Central West African religion that Thornton and MacGaffey describe. In fact, it is as central also to understanding the relationship between Candomblé and Catholicism as it was in the past to understanding the relationship between Catholicism and Central West African religion. But  – and this is a big ‘but’  – there seems to be a major difference: Beatriz Kimpa Vita was a prophet, who claimed there would be a radical change for the human race, nothing less than a third coming of God. People in Candomblé encounter new spirits, new entities, but they do not seem to proclaim a message that will change the world. Candomblé has not been, historically, a prophetic religion. Or has it?

Revelation and Rebellion in Colonial Brazil Perhaps it is too easy to say that Afro-Brazilian religions do not have a prophetic character. After all, the examples I am giving come from an

Of Revelation and Re-creation


ethnographic present in which conflict is often downplayed. But if we look back in the past, in some instances the prophetic seed of African revelation has given some hints of blossoming. Robert Slenes has spent the last decades looking for traces of Central African revelations in slave rebellions in Brazil, and in fact hints of it do appear here and there from small, apparently unremarkable events, like the strike by a group of sailors who refused to take on board the skull of a porpoise found in a river, to the surprise of a naturalist who was interested in using it for research; what the naturalist identified as ‘superstition’ is for Slenes a clear marker of West Central African beliefs in territorial spirits like nkita, and their embodiment in stones and skulls. Slenes has also found traces of slave cults organized as secret societies, and a slave conspiracy in Vassouras in 1848. The documentation on these movements is relatively scarce, and the identification of the organization and orientation of these cults is difficult, but we cannot outwrite that they had prophetic undertones (Slenes 2002).

Tradition and Revelation in Angolan Candomblé Part of the problem for Slenes is that it is difficult to recognize a tradition that does not identify itself as ‘tradition’, but as ‘revelation’. This, in fact, is still an issue today when discussing the ‘Angola’ nation of Candomblé. I still find myself quite surprised at making an argument about ‘origins’ here, but when these origins are so obvious, it makes no sense to deny them. What is surprising, however, is that confronting a whole industry of production of origins, Afro-Brazilian studies, these clear continuities have not been explicitly noted before  – or at least not more explicitly  – by other authors. The problem, I think, is precisely that these continuities, these origins, have a twist: it is not so much the poverty of origins, but the fact that this tradition is revelation; origin is a discovery of the divine in the here and now. That is what confused generations of AfroBrazilianist scholars, who have often relegated the so-called nation of ‘Angola’ in Candomblé to a second term, after the West African dominant nations, Jeje-Nagô, of Yoruba and Dahomean roots. Candomblé as we know it today is in fact mainly the result of the organization of houses of cult of the Orixás and Voduns, especially in Bahia. The so-called Angola Candomblé was built apparently in response to the Jeje-Nagô model, mapped on Jeje and Nagô houses, and their pantheons were translated into an ‘Inquice’ (nkisi) pantheon. As opposed to Angola, the cult of the Orixás and Voduns was very organized, ritualized and hierarchical, with a strong claim to authenticity, tradition and origins. Compared to the JejeNagô houses, Angola was always seen by scholars of the Afro-Brazilianist


Roger Sansi

tradition in the twentieth century as derivative and potentially syncretistic, due to its ‘poor mythology’, which was often confused with the also ‘poor’ Native American mythology.3 In fact, what these scholars could not recognize was that the cult of the Caboclo, as the ‘owner of the land’, had more to do with Angolan notions of the nkita than with a supposed syncretism with Native American religions. And that was so because the Caboclo cult did not have an explicit discourse of African origins, like the Orixás and Voduns, but claimed to be native to the land. Equally, Angola Candomblé was accused of greater syncretism with Catholicism, because of the weakness of its mythology. This weakness also brings the syncretistic Angola cults closer to ‘magic’ than to ‘religion’, especially in the case of the so-called Macumba of Rio, which Artur Ramos identified as being of mainly Angola and Congo origin, as opposed to Bahian Candomblé, which was mainly dominated by Jeje-Nagô religion, which was pure and non-syncretistic (Ramos 1980). In the mid twentieth century, scholars like Herskovits were making complex charts of correspondences of African Orixás and Catholic saints, analysing syncretism as a gigantic cognitive mapping of identities. In fact, this analysis was missing the point that these identifications were not reducible, and could not be abstracted from the time and space of their production. The identification of certain saints with other entities, African or Native American, was not just the result of a general, abstract cognitive operation, but of a particular revelation, precisely located in space and time. The attachment to a specific territory, stone, waterfall, mountain or church emerges in a revelation as a Caboclo or a Catholic saint. But these spirits do not correspond to specific African spirits, as opposed to the West African Orixás or Voduns. These spirits are explicitly not Angolan, but territorial. That is precisely what makes it very difficult to trace a history of Central African religion in Brazil; because, unlike the Jeje-Nagô cults, it has never exactly been a church, with a hierarchical structure, a theology, an orthodoxy and priests. That is also why its imbrication with Catholicism is more subtle than a map of correspondences.

Revelation and Conversion in the Christian Atlantic What we may need to clarify at this point is the relation between the importance of revelations in Candomblé and Christianity. Joel Robbins (2007: 11|) has argued that Christianity is precisely characterized by discontinuity, by events of radical transformation. Robbins points out that this rhetoric of the before-and-after is also a rhetoric of how the particular comes to be regarded as universal. But as Robbins says, anthropologists

Of Revelation and Re-creation


and historians have been more interested in continuities than the radical transformations that Christianity brought  – how people ‘converted’ only apparently, while keeping their traditional practices. The prophetic movements of West Central Africa, from the Antonines to the Kimbanguists or the Tokoists, clearly contradict this narrative of continuity (Sarró and Blanes 2009), partially because of its explicit, engagement with Christianity, but also being in line with the local emphasis in revelation, as Thornton has pointed out. All this considered, Candomblé, unlike these Kikongo historical churches, seems to downplay the prophetic undertones of West Central African creole religion, although perhaps a more detailed historical picture, like the one Robert Slenes is trying to obtain, would give us a more complex picture of the history of AfroBrazilian religiosity. And still, one could question that if it cannot really be said that ‘­revelation’  – or even in more general terms, an ‘emphasis in ­discontinuity’  – is exclusive to Christianity, what is ‘Christian’ about Afro-Brazilian religions? That is perhaps the wrong question again, since it implies that there is one correct Christianity, one possible way of being Christian. From the perspective of the present, we look at Christianity and religion in general from a discourse – or if we want a semiotic ideology  – of sincerity (Keane 2002), in which belief is an internal state of certainty of the existence of the divine that is then translated into an explicit adherence to a religion that is irreconcilable with other religions and beliefs. ‘Belief’ in this strong sense is not just ‘trust’ but an internal conviction about one irrevocable truth. In this sense, many of the people we have discussed would not be considered Christian. But if we start from the opposite point of view  – the point of view, for example, that Capuchin missionaries like Antonio Gaeta started from, when he declared Queen Ginga’s return to the fold of Christianity as a result of a miracle – we could be more encompassing. ‘Swimming’ in the Christian Atlantic, as Schorsch (2009) has said, lots of peoples have been in and out and in the surroundings of Christianity since the beginning of colonialism, engaging with it, receiving revelations, finding saints in the forest, trusting them (that is believing in them), praying and going on pilgrimage for them. That may not be enough to be a Christian from the orthodox perspective of a purified Christianity, but they indeed consider themselves to be Christians. And contemporary Brazil is not such a different landscape. The Pentecostal churches that proliferate today, based, at least in theory, on a strong sense of belief as internal conviction, call themselves ‘Christians’ or ‘believers’, as opposed to all other folk. Of course, non-Pentecostals do not accept this exclusivity: unless otherwise stated, most people in Brazil, if asked if they are Christian, would answer


Roger Sansi

yes; to be Christian in Brazil has historically meant to be Catholic, to be Brazilian, to be civilized, to be people (ser gente), as opposed to savages, like ‘the Indians’. Still the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has trouble in recognizing all religious practices, devotions, miracles and revelations self-identified as ‘Christian’ as part of its fold. That has certainly been the case for the milagres of Santa Bárbara and São Roque mentioned earlier. The Catholic Church still has not recognized these sites, even if it has not objected to them. And yet this has not been an obstacle for the building of small chapels in these places. On the other hand, a small church called the Igreja Católica Brasileira, the Brazilian Catholic Church, has embraced them fully, blessing the chapels. The Igreja Católica Brasileira, as it was explained to me, is nothing less than a group of priests who were not happy with the official line of the church, in particular in relation to celibacy. But as I have experienced it, the priests of the Brazilian Catholic Church are very tolerant with Candomblé; they allow Candomblé initiates to perform their duties in church, to adopt the cult of popular saints, like São Cosme and São Damião, and have blessed milagres, like Santa Bárbara and São Roque. From the perspective of the Brazilian Catholic Church, there is no problem in recognizing these practices and places as Christian, or in acknowledging these revelations.

Conclusions: On Revelation and Tradition in the Christian Atlantic To conclude, I think we should give greater consideration to the concept of ‘revelation’, as expounded in this chapter. A revelation is, ultimately, the emergence of a truth that was not known before, a truth in the here and now, radically territorialized and historicized. In these terms, revelations at one level subvert narratives of tradition, based on authenticity and identity: revelation subverts the known by showing a truth that is not new in itself, but that had not previously been known. What is new is the knowledge of this truth  – the revelation. Revelations can help to write human history, however the truth that they proclaim may not be temporal, but eternal: revelations change people, but not the divine. In these terms, revelations – if they are acknowledged as such – supersede the authority and legitimacy of traditional knowledge, without necessarily questioning the past or tradition per se, since there is a time for revelations to come. The opposition between tradition and revelation is not the same thing as an opposition between modernity and tradition, for example, as it was conceived in modern Europe. Modern philosophers and scientists have opposed tradition as a source of knowledge in

Of Revelation and Re-creation


itself, instead proposing that the only valid knowledge comes from the scientific method, not from received opinion or tradition. The scientific method is a way of producing knowledge that is cumulative in principle; it describes a line of progress, as opposed to the knowledge of tradition, which (according to modernist thought) is based on prejudice and therefore condemned to annihilate itself in arguments of authority. Revelation, on the other hand, does not oppose tradition in itself, but only supersedes it. There can be good traditions and bad traditions, depending on what the revelation has uncovered. In fact, all revelations eventually become traditions. Thus, a revelation can make it easy to believe that nkisi and Christian saints are the same thing, either in the good or the bad sense – for example, when the Antonines decided that they were all objects of sorcery and decided to burn them all, both nkisi and santos. With all, the historicity of revelations, in most uses of the term, is often described in terms of ‘prophecy’  – an announcement of what is to come. After all, the book of Revelation is the book of the Apocalypse (‘apocalypse’ being nothing more than revelation or ‘unveiling’ in Greek); revelations often involve not only the disclosure of a truth, but point to something that will happen. In this sense, the extended, general sense in which Thornton uses the notion of revelation, simply as the unveiling of a divine (or, in his terms, ‘supernatural’) truth, although correct, leaves room for a certain ambiguity. But this ambiguity is indeed the ambiguity of revelation itself, which in fact can easily lead to prophecy; and the unveiling of the divine in the human world can lead to a radical change for humans. More particularly, the unveiling of a specific, local truth – a local or personal spirit – can perhaps lead to a more general or universal truth. In these terms, the limits between prophecy and revelation, revelation and ritual, revelation and tradition, Christianity and African tradition are perhaps more flexible and reversible than we thought. Something like the first encounter with a saint is at the same time something irreducibly historic a revelation, and an event that corresponds to a religious tradition and can be identified with specific rituals, depending on the perspective taken – and what brings these two apparently irreconcilable perspectives together is the miraculous character of the revelation itself. Roger Sansi was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1972. After studying at the universities of Barcelona and Paris, he received his PhD in anthropology at the University of Chicago (2003). He has worked at King’s College London and Goldsmiths, University of London. Currently he his professor in social anthropology at Universitat de Barcelona, Spain. He has worked on Afro-Brazilian culture and religion, the concept of the fetish,


Roger Sansi

and contemporary art in Barcelona. His publications include: Fetishes and Monuments (Berghahn Books, 2007), Sorcery in the Black Atlantic (edited with L. Nicolau; Chicago University Press, 2011), Economies of Relation: Money and Personalism in the Lusophone World (University of New England Press, 2013) and Art Anthropology and the Gift (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Notes 1. ‘certains minkisi (fétiches) sont fabriqués dans un bois ou dans l’ eau … Une personne en état d’ extase va chercher beaucoup des ingrédients dans les forets, les plaines ou dans l’eau’ (Laman 1962: 72–73, quoted in Binon Cossard 1970: 204). The more recent anthropological literature, describes also the inkita as local ancestral spirits, often associated with pools and waterfalls (Devisch 1993: 180). MacGaffey makes reference to the nkita as ‘nature spirits’ (MacGaffey 2000: 217), and Thornton as a guardian deity of the land (Thornton 1998b: 55). 2. ‘Chaque fétiche jeune ou vieux a son histoire connue seulement de son “legal”, le prêtre. Celui-ci est allé le prendre par exemple au fond de l’eau, oú il demeura pendant neuf semaines de quatre jours. D’autres fois le nganga a trouvé son fétiche au fond de la grande forêt, où il est allé le prendre soit pendant que lui, prêtre, dormait soit dans son divualu, son ermitage, pendant une syncope ou mort, apparente (fua ngambu), ou encore au cours d’un ravissement extatique’ (Bittremieux 1936: 119; also quoted in Binon Cossard 1970: 205). 3. ‘foi a mitica pobrissima dos negros bantos que, fusionando-se com a mitica igualmente pobre do selvavem amerindio, produziu os chamados Candomblés de Caboclo na Bahia’ (Carneiro 1991: 62).

References Binon Cossard, Gisèle. 1970. ‘Contribution a l´étude des Candomblés au Brésil, Le Candomblé Angola’, doctoral thesis. FLSH, Univerity of Paris. Bittremieux, Leo. 1936. La société secrète des bakhimba au Mayombe. Brussels: G. van Campenhout. Carneiro, Edison. (1936–37) 1991. Religiões Negras e Negros Bantos. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilização Brasileira S.A. Devisch, René. 1993. Weaving the Threads of Life: The Khita Gyn-eco-logical Healing Cult among the Yaka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Heywood, Linda (ed.). 2002. Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora. Cambridge: Cambridge Universiy Press. Heywood, L., and J.K. Thornton. 2007. Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles and the Foundation of the Americas 1585–1660. London: Cambridge University Press. Keane, Webb. 2002. ‘Sincerity, “Modernity”, and the Protestants’, Cultural Anthropology 17(1): 65–92. Laman, Karl. 1962. The Kongo, Vol. III. Uppsala: Studia Ethnographica Upsaliensa.

Of Revelation and Re-creation


MacGaffey, Wyatt. 1994. ‘African Objects and the Idea of the Fetish’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 25 (Spring): 123–31. ______. 2000. Kongo Political Culture: The Conceptual Challenge of the Particular. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ramos, Artur. 1980. The Negro in Brazil. New York: Porcupine Press. Robbins, Joel. 2007. ‘Continuity Thinking and the Problem of Christian Culture Belief, Time, and the Anthropology of Christianity’, Current Anthropology 48(1): 5–38. Sarró, Ramon, and Ruy Llera Blanes. 2009. ‘Prophetic Diasporas Moving Religion across the Lusophone Atlantic’, African Diaspora 2: 52–72. Schorsch, Jonathan. 2009. Swimming the Chirstian Atlantic: Judeoconversos, Afroiberians and Amerindians in the Seventeenth Century. Amsterdam: Brill. Slenes, Robert W. 2002. ‘The Great Porposie-Skull Strike: Central African Water Spirits and Slave Identity in Early Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro’, in Linda M. Heywood (ed.), Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 183–208. Sweet, James H. 2003. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Thornton, John. 1998a. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ______. 1998b. The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement 1684–1706. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ______. 2002. ‘Religious and Cerimonial Change in the Kongo and Mbundu Areas (1550–1700)’, in Linda Heywood (ed.), Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 71–90.

Chapter 3

Peruvian Israelites

Territorial Narratives and Religious Connections across the Atlantic Carmen González Hacha

When it comes to understanding the Atlantic space as a space for relationships, I would argue that two concurring social phenomena that appear to contradict each other should be taken into account: on the one hand, the influence of history and memory on people’s narratives and worldviews at present; and the influence of such narratives on the continuous building of such people’s historical memory. A good example for the convergence of these processes is the Evangelical Association of the Israelites Mission of the New Universal Pact (AEMINPU), which is a new Peruvian religious movement also known as ‘Israelites’. This is the name the members of the congregation give themselves and it is also the name they are known by in Peru and the other Latin American countries towards which they are expanding (Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador). It was founded by Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, an Andean peasant from Arequipa (southern Peru), who received the ‘divine mission’ to announce the new salvation pact and the new ‘Royal Law’ (the Ten Commandments of God’s law) to the whole of humanity. Throughout the following pages I will discuss how Peruvian Israelites build a theology of world history and Peruvian history that gives meaning to their congregation within both itself and the rest of the society as part of the search for a place within the rest of the national and transnational social processes. In my research on the Israelites’ narratives I have found several elements coming from Catholic heritage, Andean messianism and Notes for this chapter begin on page 61.

Peruvian Israelites


Peruvian ethno-history, particularly from the Inca period. Examples of this are their arguments saying that Incas ‘already knew God’ on the same terms as they do nowadays; but it was through the arrival of the Spaniards in America that Peruvians – meaning Incas – got to know the Bible and Jesus Christ. Moreover, throughout their discourses they make connections between ‘East’ and ‘West’ – Israel and Peru, for instance – when they relocate holy places such as Jerusalem in Peru, or when they argue that Mount Sinai has moved to Machu Picchu Mountain, transferring to it the importance that Mount Sinai had in biblical times. Thus, in this chapter I will reflect on all these aspects, including that they are nourished by two forces  – a centripetal one and a centrifugal one: on the one hand, the centripetal idea of a project of national salvation through the consideration of Peru as a ‘new sacred geography’; and on the other, the centrifugal idea of the process of transnationalization of the Israelite movement, which is nourished by a transatlantic religious imaginary and has the transnational projection of its doctrine among its objectives.

Peruvian Israelites: An Approach towards Their History and Biblical Andean Exegesis Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal (1918–2000), a peasant from Arequipa, was the one who received the revelation of a belief based on a new compilation of the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic Law. The history of the congregation is closely related to his biography, and he had already had several religious experiences during his life before he founded it (Scott n.d., 1984; De la Torre López 1996, 2007; Marzal 2000). For instance, as stated by Scott in an interview carried out in July 1987, Ezequiel had told him that he recalled having questioned, at the age of nine, the worship of saints as being a consequence of God’s direct instructions, saying that ‘priests are the ones inventing saints’ (Scott 1984: 2). Ezequiel had set himself up as the cornerstone of the congregation since its very beginning, placing himself on top of the ecclesiastical and administrative hierarchy of the AEMINPU, in such a way that the religious movement was shaped around him and emanated from his persona. The role played by him in the Israelite worldview is palpable both within his discourse and in the presence he still has, even after his death, in their religious spaces and practices. In fact, he is still regarded by his followers as the new prophet for the new people of Israel. This congregation has been officially acknowledged as Peruvian religion, which does not mean that it is the official religion of the country.


Carmen González Hacha

According to Désilets (2006: 36), the Israelites are a religious movement born in Peru, with its utopia being the restoration of the people of Israel in Peru (Colombani 2008). This is in contrast with one idea that recurs within their discourse, which is that of the need to spread their word throughout the planet so that humanity can be saved and have its place at the doomsday, a prescription which they have been defending since their founding. The researchers working on this congregation (Scott 1987; Marzal 1988; Ossio 2003, 2014; De la Torre López 2004; Désilets 2006) have labelled it as a ‘Peruvian religion’ because of the Andean roots that characterize its worldview, the weight this historical background has on its configuration, and the very importance they give in their discourse to the Peruvian nation and territory, which they identify as ‘Privileged Peru’ – which means the land where God came to found the pact, the ‘navel of the World’. However, it is necessary to revise this predisposition of the social sciences to determine religion geographically (Sarró and Blanes 2009a). Ossio (2014) argues that the vast expansion of the Israelite movement began in the 1980s, when it brought native Andeans, Amazonians and coastal dwellers together, probably because they were looking for alternatives to Shining Path’s terrorism. It was in those years that the Agricultural People’s Front of Peru (FREPAP), the political party founded by Ezequiel Atacusi Gamonal, was born; it is defined in its founding statutes as being the actual party of the exploited and marginalized people in Peru. As already noted, the members of this congregation call themselves ‘Israelites’ because they assume to be the modern-day spiritual ‘brothers’ of the biblical people of Israel. They could be defined as a prophetic, Christian, messianic-millenarian religious group, whose main characteristic is the biblical literalism1 that impregnates their doctrine and religious aesthetic; which translates into an obsession with putting their biblical exegesis into practice and thus fulfilling their divine commandments. As an example, this biblical literalism makes them visually recognizable because of the clothes they wear – both men and women wear robes, and women also wear veils. In addition, both make use of the semejanzas or nazareato, which consists in letting their hair grow, including their beards and moustaches in the case of men, and their religious practices  – they gather every Saturday, every new moon, every 10 October for the expiation, and for the three annual festivities: Ázimos in April, Pentecost in June and Cabañas in October. Among their ritual practices it is important to stress holocausts,2 the singing of hymns and the expiation through blood. Such visibility, which has not always been positive or accepted by the rest of Peruvian society, is used by parishioners as a strategy for religious proselytism (Meneses 2005).

Peruvian Israelites


The doctrine of AEMINPU is based on three fundamental propositions: (1) the messianic confirmation of Peru as the chosen place – ‘Privileged Peru’; (2) the idea of Ezequiel as the new messiah, acknowledging Jesus Christ as the ‘Eastern Christ’, with Ezequiel as his reincarnation, referred to as the ‘Western Christ’. His death in 2000 led to an identity crisis within the congregation around the matter of succession. Before dying, under divine inspiration, he said that his successor would be his youngest son, Ezequiel Jonás Ataucusi Molina, although the entire congregation does not agree on this decision; and (3) the millenarian certainty that the current generation of Israelites will be the fourth generation that God will come to judge: after one thousand years of life, seven years of punishment will come, which only the Israelite congregation will survive, and for whom the heaven on earth will begin (De la Torre López 2005: 334; Meneses 2009: 100). Nowadays, Jonás is still the official leader, for he has held the overriding authority in the congregation since 2000. When Ezequiel died, brothers turned to the Bible in search of a new prophecy that allowed them to explain what was happening and what to do in the future. The argument raised by them to explain this charismatic transition and to legitimate the leading of Jonás is the following: Ezequiel’s body was a temple for the Holy Spirit, a means for the divinity to communicate with humanity, but such bodily shape ended its time without having accomplished its ‘divine mission’, so the Holy Spirit had to look for another temple: Jonás’ body, to whom the name of Ezequiel was added in order to identify him more closely with his father. Although brothers claim that ‘both of them are the same thing’, they had to look for a biblical legitimation for this new face and the conditions under which he would carry out his leading.

East and West: Two Key Territorial Terms in the Israelite Worldview Israelites make use of the terms Oriente and Occidente referring to East and West. These are two key territorial terms in the Israelite worldview; because for them it is in Peru and through their congregation that both parts of the world become fused. It is from the moment this encounter takes place onwards that the countdown for the doomsday and the end of the world begins. Within their discourse, Israelites identify the East with Israel, a territory that belongs to the biblical people of Israel; and the West with Latin America, in particular with Peru, the place where the new people of Israel were born as a restoration of the old biblical Israel. Their worldview understands the world map in a very special manner,


Carmen González Hacha

as for them there are two hemispheres that do not correspond with north and south, but with what they consider to be the eastern and western hemispheres, with the Atlantic Ocean acting as the separating element between them, not only territorially speaking, but also in terms of morality and temporality. The biblical text on the basis of which this division is validated is taken from Isaiah 43:5, ‘Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the East, and from the West I will gather you’. This text is studied together with another two that support their argument: Zechariah 8:7, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country’; and Numbers 34:6, ‘For the western border, you shall have the Great Sea and its coast. This shall be your western border’. Machu Picchu is one of the elements with a deep symbolic character for the Israelites, given that some of them claim the Ten Commandments to be hidden there. Others argue that the Indian head drawn by the mountains on the outline of Huayna Picchu corresponds to the Inca’s face, which they merge with Ezequiel’s face not only in their discourse but also in many illustrations, as if they were the same person. Ossio quotes a text, broadcasted on the Internet by m ­ embers of the congregation, saying that INCAS means Israel was born in Cusco in South America, these people also disobeyed God’s laws (ama sua, do not steal; ama quella, do not be weak; ama llulla, do not lie) and God distanced them from him, yet he did not abandon them, and on their descendants would the Kingdom of God be erected by the end of time (now). The city of Machu Picchu was built with the power of the Holy Spirit, and it was there that the Inca royalty and the empire administrators celebrated the feasts commonly referred to as Inti Raymi, the Sun God feast.3 (Ossio 2014: 159)

This connection with Peru involves a tendency towards linking with the Incas, which also implies highlighting Ezequiel’s image as the ‘new’ Inca and strengthening the connection with Machu Picchu as much as defending and proposing Tahuantinsuyo as a viable sociopolitical model to be restored under their worldview nowadays. Through the biblical interpretation of different archaeological sites or landscapes, Israelites make a link with the East  – Israel. They morally circumscribe themselves (Blanes 2012) to a distant territory through a time–space connection, which counts on the Incas as a connecting link through time, because they were the immediately preceding people with whom God established a covenant of salvation as they descended from the ancient biblical people of Israel; and on the Atlantic Ocean as a bridge through space, as it is space for relationships between East and West.

Peruvian Israelites


Regarding time, this interpretation allows them to build narratives of their ethno-historical past, which they claim to be the national history. In other words, they hold in high esteem the oral memory about the Inca Empire that has been transmitted from generation to generation (in a loose sense); and also about all the archaeological sites linked to them through a biblical interpretation, which is unquestionable and allows them to blend mythical times into the narrative because it comes from the Holy Scriptures. This is the way in which pre- and postcolonial historiography interweaves in the Israelite discourse and worldview, where elements of this Andean messianism can be found through the messianic and redeemer role first played by Ezequiel and then by his successor and son Ezequiel Jonás. Regarding space, a process of relocating holy places, which is necessary in order to understand the Israelite imaginary, may be detected. If we look at religion through the lens of the studies on mobility and transnationalism, we have to be conscious that not only do people and beliefs travel, but also territories and places. Israelites produce a New Jerusalem in Peru, they move the East to the West, and understand that the Amazon forest is the ‘new’ Promised Land, the place to retire in order to wait for the arrival of the Last Judgement, as it will be there where God will come to collect the chosen. All of this is built on the messianic-millenarian idea of salvation that allows them to have a future in the midst of the socioeconomic and political crisis in which Peru was immersed at the time when this congregation was founded.

‘Privileged Peru’ and the Transatlantic Israelite Diaspora: An Analysis of Israelite Territorial Narratives Since the beginning of the congregation, the restoration of the people of Israel in Peru has been one of the utopias shaping the Israelite imaginary. In the process of materialization of such utopia, the way in which they understand Peru as the ‘privileged country’ plays a key role, not only in terms of symbolism, but also geographically and territorially speaking. In order to understand this utopia, the thorough analysis and examination of their ‘territorial narratives’ was of great help. Damonte understood this as: Narratives in which discourses and social practices with an explicit and evident territorial dimension are integrated, producing thus non-circumscribed social spaces. Such narrations are textual in so far as they include oral and written history, as well as collective memory; but they are also practical, since they include rituals and everyday practices. These are social narrations about a physical space (Damonte 2011: 19)


Carmen González Hacha

Such narratives  – which constitute a fundamental category of analysis, since they make it possible to understand the constitution of territories and analyse the different forms of territorial ascription – in the case of Israelites are mediated by their ways of religious reflection. In other words, these territories and the claim for an Israelite territoriality over them are founded on specific chronotopes (Bajtin 1981; see Navarrete Linares 2001 and Cantón Delgado 2008) produced by their narratives, in which they interweave several space–time dimensions: a biblical one, one of the past and one of the present. This allows them, on the one hand, to produce and legitimate a network of sacred territories comprising the different places of worship or ritual spaces, and on the other hand, to acknowledge Peru as the ‘privileged country’, not only in terms of religion, but also ethno-politically and territorially; and eventually, it also allows them to appropriate the Peruvian national territory, for the moment symbolically speaking. I refer to this situation as being ‘for the moment’ owing to the fact that they did start a ‘process of colonization’ (De la Torre López 2007) in the Peruvian jungle (see De la Torre López 2004, 2007; Ossio 2014; Meneses 2015, 2017), where they hold the actual and divine property of the land, and consider it their territory. Damonte (2011: 19) makes analytical distinctions between the categories of ‘territorial narratives’, ‘territory’ and ‘land’. He claims that the first ones ‘are key elements in territories, but they are not territories’, and that they give spatial support to the discourses and collective practices. Therefore, territories are built through the articulation of diverse territorial narratives ‘in a political project which not only looks to describe but also to rule a determined space’, as it is observable in FREPAP’s politico-religious proposals and also in the jungle colonies. In other words, Israelites, with Ezequiel as their leader, have modelled a political project in order to be able to practise territoriality over a space that is not only physical, but also symbolic, since it implies their connection with a history in which ethno-religious elements allow them to elaborate ‘territorial narratives’ through which they can claim such territory, which they understand as theirs biblically, religiously and politically. Since I began the work that I have been doing in the last years about Israelites, I have placed myself in a theoretical position from which I can problematize the relationship between religion and territory, escaping from the geographical fixation of religion. That is the reason why I consider it necessary to reflect on how the idea of ‘privileged Peru’, or the process through which Israelites try to create a ‘New Jerusalem’ in Peru, has been built, and how this is articulated with the centrifuge idea of spreading the Israelite Word towards the ‘four corners of the earth’. In order to consider this, I believe the concept of ‘moral circumscription’

Peruvian Israelites


proposed by Ruy Llera Blanes (2012) is relevant, which has allowed me to regard beliefs in a deterritorialized manner and reflect on how their religious discourse produces territories of geographies where cultural history and sacred places from Peru and the Middle East meet. In other words, it involves understanding what Israel and Peru mean for them, and what the mechanisms are that allow Israelites, as Peruvians, to produce ideologies of ethnic and religious belonging to Israel. For such purpose, the concept of ‘remote place’ (Sarró 2008) has been equally helpful, since it has allowed me to think about the meaning of the word ‘Israel’ in their imaginary, and to understand what they mean when they claim to be Israelites. The motto ‘privileged Peru’, which is observable in many Israelite ritual spaces, constitutes a mechanism of legitimation that provides a basis for their leader’s place of birth, and gives support to the congregation (De la Torre López 2005; Meneses 2009; Ossio 2014). According to Meneses (2009: 100), ‘Peru is the scenario for the new covenant and for the new people that was chosen for the alliance with a God that took pity on human kind’. In this sense, one brother claimed that ‘this congregation appeared here in the West and in Peru. That is why Peru is privileged, because this was the first country’. Apart from this reason, Israelites turn to the Bible as an ultimate source of legitimacy in order to blend certain biblical texts with the territorial location of Peru according to their world geographic hermeneutic. This narrative about ‘privileged Peru’ is not made up exclusively of words (where I include their celestial hymns), but it is also complemented with images or photo montages that are used for garnishing churches, political headquarters, public sermons and web pages, in order to accompany and visually reinforce the discursive act – see the prior example of Machu Picchu. Another element of legitimation is constituted by their diverse interpretations of the Peruvian map. We must forget the Mercator (1569) map projection and all the ones that have followed it up to the present day, because the Israelite cartographic conception responds to a symbolic rework of such geographic coordinates that is mediated by their religious hermeneutic. Sarró (2013: 384) reminds us that ‘“territory” is not thought by everybody in similar terms’; that is to say, territorial configurations are built from a particular position in a specific spatial dimension, and thus we think of geography or world cartography in a necessarily different manner. In line with Smith’s work (1978) Map Is Not Territory, Sarró claims that a ‘map is not a primary or direct representation of the land, but a tool to represent space in a very different way as we perceive it in reality, a tool whose complexity we are not usually aware of’. They create and legitimize the ‘mystery of privileged Peru’ through their vision of the


Carmen González Hacha

world map, which provides them with a mapping of the world and a way to inhabit it according to their universe of meanings (Smith 1978: 291–92). This relationship between AEMINPU and territory turns even more complex when two ideas are intertwined: the centripetal one of a national salvation project through the constitution of Peru as ‘new sacred geography’; and the centrifugal one of the process of transnationalization of the movement itself, in so far as, in the first place, it is nourished by a transatlantic religious imaginary, and that it also has among its goals the ­transnational projection of its doctrine. Therefore, two dimensions emerge that may seem to oppose each other but, at the same time, they give meaning to their own existence. Regarding the second dimension, it could be stated that the Israelite congregation is made up of a network of people who are constantly moving, not only within the Peruvian borders, but also to the neighbouring countries where the congregation is settling (Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, etc.), and even across the Atlantic Ocean, as is the case with the Israelites I have been in contact with in Madrid and Barcelona (Spain). Ezequiel himself announced in his testimony that ‘spreading the Word of God to the four corners of the earth’ is one of the tasks that God handed over to him in his ‘encounter’ with the providence. In this way, the process of expansion of the Word, which answers to a strategy of transnational religious proselytism, was driven and legitimated by the founder of the congregation himself. On several occasions, reference to the existence of Israelites in Latin America and all around the world has come up during the conversations and interviews held with Israelite brothers. This is upheld as another element of legitimacy and power for the congregation, and is regarded as a further step of great importance for the whole of humanity to get to know the people of Israel and to have the chance to join the Israelites in order to be saved in the Last Judgement. Transnational religious processes imply migratory flows which involve a flow of symbols, signs, meanings and representations (Perera Pintado 2007: 146) that constitute elements that are essential in the reconfiguration of feelings and discourses of ethnic, religious or territorial belonging (see Sánchez Carretero 2008; García 2008). According to Levitt (2001: 10), ‘despite similarities between contemporary and earlier migration experiences, clear differences characterize contemporary migrants’ transnational religious lives’. This has to do with the development and implementation of new technologies both in transportation (planes, for instance) and in means of communication (mobile phones and Internet), and the access to them. These new technologies allow greater frequency and immediacy in connections between people who move somewhere

Peruvian Israelites


else and those who stay, and also with those whose lives are in frequent movement. Considering all the foregoing, it seems interesting to examine the Israelite diaspora as an active agent in religious transnationalization, in which diverse diasporic dimensions are articulated. According to the Israelite narratives about their past, in which they identify themselves with the biblical people of Israel and resemanticize the arrival of Spaniards in South American territories in order to justify their present and even their future, I consider the Israelite congregation to have been born as a Christian diasporic community because of their identification with the physical or symbolic territory of Israel and the holy city of Jerusalem, which is where the idea of creating a New Jerusalem in Peru comes from – their search for the promised land, and the imperative intention to spread their Word. That is to say, with their religious ‘diasporization’, they are leading to a process of resemanticizing and remapping of the history of Christianity and, specifically, the history of Atlantic Christianity. In this regard, one brother told me: ‘Spaniards were the ones bringing the Bible in Peru – but now it is us, Israelites, who have to bring the Word of God to Spain and to the four corners of the world’. This reasoning justifies diaspora as a ‘divine mission’, and shows the diasporic circulation process of Christianity carried out by the Israelite congregation, which works as a filter that produces a new form of Christian belonging based on their narratives about their local historical memory. In other words, they give new meanings to the history of Christianity from a Christianity that travelled and then relocated in Peru, and was thus transformed, which now again tries to expand  – or still tries to expand  – its religious imaginary through the Israelite diaspora.

Human Mobility and Religion: The Atlantic Ocean as a Space of Circulating People, Ideas, Beliefs and Religious Practices Although Peru is not an Atlantic country geographically speaking, but a Pacific one, it is important to propose my analysis from an Atlantic perspective, since if we take the Atlantic history (Armitage 2004) and the Israelite imaginary into account, it is possible to claim that Israelites share in the Atlantic traffic started in the fifteenth century, which includes Peru in such a dynamic since the arrival of European colonists to this territory in 1532. The Atlantic space works as space for relationships, which is constantly built by human mobility, and it plays a key role in the creation of the historical memory of the populations settled around it. Not only in


Carmen González Hacha

the physical meaning of ‘around’, but also in the symbolic one, in so far as there are nearly endless connections mediated by the Atlantic space between South American territories not directly bordering this ocean and Europe or Africa. Furthermore, it becomes necessary to relativize the idea of ‘around the Atlantic Ocean’ in physical terms also, since if we think at a regional level, it could be said that South America is an Atlantic region or a region bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Following Sarró and Blanes (2009a: 7), I consider religion as one of the relevant signs in the analysis of human mobility. In fact, ‘although quantitatively [the number of people moving could be] barely significant, they have an impact on the target religious scenarios’ (ibid.: 9), and such impact does not only take place in the religious sphere (see Teixeira Sáenz 2014). However, not only the diverse spheres constituting the environment where new beliefs are introduced are influenced, but the process of religious relocation itself is a reciprocal process of influences whereby the arriving religion is also affected. Moving people or groups not only bring religion, as any other aspect of their cultural background, but they re-create it and relocate it (see Baumann 2010). Religious patterns interact with each other during the mobility process, and also with the new environment they arrive in. People are not hermetically sealed containers in which it is possible to safeguard the content from any kind of inclemency or influence of the environment. Quite the opposite – any kind of process involving migration or religious transnationalization or, in short, human mobility, opens a field of agency. This particular instance allows me to show how beliefs, groups or territories are located in diverse societies and territories. Therefore, it is possible to claim that ‘transnationality does not contradict the development of new religious territorialities’ (Moreras 2006: 13), but it allows the opening of diverse dimensions in such processes.

Final Thoughts Firstly, I would like to suggest that diverse variables intertwine within the elaboration of Israelite narratives about ‘privileged Peru’, such as the hermeneutic of their ethno-historical past, their religious imaginary and the reading of the Bible, and their way of seeing and re-creating maps. The meeting of all these aspects shows a creative process of religious production of the territory and the landscape. Not only this, it also reveals the continuous process of transferring a symbolic narrative to several physical means with the intention of appropriating them, not only physically but also symbolically, and attributing a heritage to it from their religious imaginary. Furthermore, I consider that ‘Peru’ and ‘Israel’ are

Peruvian Israelites


not just locations in the Israelite narratives. These are concepts beyond the territory attributed to them by specific cartographic coordinates; they constitute signifiants flottants (Sarró 2008), which are also in a continuous process of resematicizing. On the other hand, I would like to bring up a reflection on the idea of the search for the Promised Land. According to what is said by De la Torre Castellanos (2009: 17–18), it could be claimed that the Israelites’ project prompts consideration on ‘the role played by religion in the refoundation of “chosen peoples” and/or “promised lands” through making the spiritual discourse into an instrument for the redefinition of novel identities and territorialities in order to face the dislocation attached to ­globalization’ – and not only on the role played by religion, but also on the role played by territories in such new ways of religious reflection, in which the claim for both territory and land intervenes in cases such as the Israelites. When Ezequiel promotes the migration towards the jungle, where brothers – who generally come from the poorest sectors of society – will have access to land and will be able to devote themselves to the divine business of agriculture, I understand that he is merging together the peasant claims for land and the search for the Promised Land, which is characteristic of the biblical diaspora of the people of Israel. Both dimensions, a more ethno-political one and a more religious-symbolic one, are part of a discourse that mobilizes its followers and allows them to begin with the long materialization process of their social utopia in agricultural colonies that were built from an Andean worldview which acted as a filter in Peruvian Israelites’ biblical hermeneutic. But not only does it allow them to materialize such utopia, it also makes it possible for them to implement a political project on a geography that is considered sacred by means of transferring their territorial narratives from an abstract or symbolic level to a physical environment covering not only the jungle but also other spaces, where landscape depicts elements from the Incaic past. Finally, as mentioned above, my intention has been to consider the Atlantic space as a space for relationships that is constantly built by human mobility. Such an analytic approach towards the Atlantic space has a lot to do with the concept of Atlantic history, which has been developed mainly in the Anglo-Saxon world. ‘Atlantic history’ is defined by Simal Durán (2013: 200) as an analytical construction that departs from ‘the claim that the geographic area defined by the Atlantic Ocean – that is, the European, American and African continents – started in the early modern period’, and it was born as ‘a consequence of the European maritime expansion, which is a process of triangular integration that ended up in the formation of a world with commonalities’.


Carmen González Hacha

Thus, it would not be possible to analyse the history of such places unilaterally, but from the connections existing between them, with the Atlantic Ocean as their meeting space. In spite of the criticism received about this approach (see Simal Durán 2013), taking it into account allows me to observe the social phenomena emerging from the circulation of people and ideas across the Atlantic space. In this specific case it has allowed me to approach the transnational dynamics or connections framed and produced by the Israelite diaspora. In social sciences, the Atlantic Ocean has received several forenames: Latin Atlantic (Queirolo Palmas 2009), Christian Atlantic (Sarró and Blanes 2008; Sarró 2009), lusophone Atlantic (Sarró and Blanes 2009b), black Atlantic (Gilroy 1993; Silvestre 2002; Armitage 2004; Johnson 2007; Parés and Sansi 2011; Fioux-Salgas 2014), white Atlantic and anglophone Atlantic (Armitage 2004), North Atlantic and South Atlantic (Cardoso Reis 2015) and Spanish Atlantic (Andrien 2009; Altman 2011; Simal Durán 2013). Although such names refer to religious, ethnic, linguistic, political and geographic aspects, it could be claimed that all of these adjectives problematize the Atlantic Ocean as a space for relationships, for interactions (Thornton 1992), for traffic (Gilroy 1993; Braz Diaz 2012) and for missionary journeys – travessia missionária (Sarró and Blanes 2008), which, in short, refer to human mobility. With all that, what is clear is that the Atlantic Ocean has and contains a religious history. Sarró and Blanes (2008: 841–43) claim that ‘the Atlantic Ocean had to be tamed and illuminated by the torch of the Christian civilization from the fifteenth century’, and that it ‘was always a force for the transmission of the Christian religion, and it still is nowadays’. Thus, it has been at the same time the scene and the main character in Christianity’s history and expansion. Part of this history has been built and carried out by Peruvian Israelites, not only because nowadays the Israelite diaspora has crossed the ocean to relocate itself again in the eastern hemisphere – specifically in Spain – but also because when Christianity spread throughout the entire American continent, starting in the fifteenth ­century, it scattered the seeds for the emergence of religious groups such as the Israelites, thus constituting part of the Christian diaspora with a connection to a common place of religious origin: Jerusalem or Israel – and also Peru in the case of Israelites – thus establishing links between both territories. However, the Israelite diaspora does not take place as a phenomenon separated from Peruvian and other Latin American transatlantic diasporic flows. Therefore, in order to consider the Israelite diaspora, it is necessary to articulate this religious dynamic together with others that are outside of the religious, economic and political spheres, though resemanticized from the Israelite point of view in order to shape transnational

Peruvian Israelites


mobility as a religious ‘path’ or, in short, as the Israelite diaspora, which (self-)­identifies them with the biblical people of Israel and perpetuates their search for the ‘Promised Land’ (see Meneses 2017). Translated by Daniel González Hacha Carmen González Hacha is a Spanish anthropologist who finished her PhD in 2017 at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon. In the development of her thesis, she worked within the project ‘Currents of Faith, Places of History: Religious Diasporas, Connections, Moral Circumscriptions and World-Making in the Atlantic Space’. Her main research interests are religion, memory and Atlantic diasporas.

Notes 1. I consider it necessary to briefly comment on the usage of this concept, since literalism could be defined as the understanding of texts according to their ‘literal’, ‘simple’ or ‘evident’ meaning (Crapanzano 2000). However, such meaning is neither universal nor uniform (Crapanzano 2000; Riba i Cañardo 2007), for it is mediated by the user’s cultural background, which is why the use of certain practices depends on the reader, who reads/interprets. 2. Holocausts or burning offerings constitute a fundamental ritual element for Israelites. It consists in the burning of a previously prepared animal on a wood pile while hymns are sung. 3. In Spanish, the use of INCAS as an acronym matches the words Israel Nació en el Cusco en América del Sur.

References Altman, I. 2011. ‘The Spanish Atlantic, 1650–1780’, in N. Canny and P.D. Morgan (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World, 1450–1850. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 183–200. Andrien, K.J. 2009. ‘The Spanish Atlantic System’, in J.P. Greene and P.D. Morgan (eds), Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 55–79. Armitage, D. 2004. ‘Tres conceptos de historia atlántica’, Revista de Occidente 281: 7–28. Bajtin, M. 1981. ‘Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel: Notes towards a Historical Poetics’, in Mijail Bajtin, The Dialogical Imagination: Four Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp. 84–258. Baumann, G. 2010. El enigma multicultural: Un replanteamiento de las identidades nacionales, étnicas y religiosas. Barcelona: Paidós. Blanes, R. Llera. 2012. ‘Moral Circumscriptions Involuntary Mobility Diaspora Tokoist Church’, Canadian Journal of African Studies / La Revue canadienne des études africaines 46(3): 367–80.


Carmen González Hacha

Braz Diaz, J. 2012. ‘Música Cabo-verdiana, Música do Mundo’, in J. Braz Díaz and A. De Souza Lobo (eds), África em Movimento. Brasilia: ABA, pp. 85–102. Cantón Delgado, M. 2008. ‘Los confines de la impostura: Reflexiones sobre el trabajo etnográfico entre minorías religiosas’, Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares 63(1): 147–72. Cardoso Reis, B. 2015. A Centralidade do Atlântico: Portugal e o Futuro da Ordem Internacional. Lisbon: Instituto da Defesa Nacional. Colombani, H. (ed.). 2008. Nouvelle Terre Promise. Paris: CNRS Images. Crapanzano, V. 2000. Serving the Word: Literalism in America from the Pulpit to the Bench. New York: New Press. Damonte, G. 2011. Construyendo territorios: narrativas territoriales aymaras contemporáneas. Lima: Grade y Clacso. De la Torre Castellanos, R. 2009. ‘De la globalización a la transrelocalización de lo religioso’, Debates do NER 10(16): 9–34. De la Torre López, A.E. 1996. ‘La ‘primera religión del Perú moderno’: Los israelitas, una aportación peruana a los NMRs contemporáneos’, Renovación Ecuménica 117: 23–29. ______. 2004. Movimientos milenaristas y culto de crisis en el Perú: Análisis histórico y etnológico. Lima: Fondo Editorial de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. ______. 2005. ‘“La más rigurosa secta de nuestra religión”: La Asociación Evangélica de la Misión Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal’, in M.M. Marzal (ed.), Enciclopedia Iberoamericana de Religiones: Religiones Andinas, Vol. 4. Madrid: Ed. Trotta, pp. 311–57. ______. 2007. ‘El paraíso escondido: El proceso de colonización del oriente peruano por los “Israelitas del Nuevo Pacto”’. Una introducción’, in F. Navarro Antolín, Orbis Incognitvs: Avisos y Legajos del Nuevo Mundo. Huelva: Universidad de Huelva, pp. 661–78. Désilets, C. 2006. ‘Violence, migration et naissance d’un messianisme autochtone dans les peripheries urbaines de Lima (Pérou)’, Diversité urbaine 6(2): 35–50. Fioux-Salgas, S. 2014. ‘Introducción. “El Atlántico Negro” de Nancy Cunard Negro Anthology, 1931–1934’, Revue d’Anthropologie et d’Histoire des Arts 19: 108–26. García, P. 2008. ‘El carácter transnacional de las creencias y prácticas religiosas de los inmigrantes latinoamericanos en España’. Retrieved 25 November 2016 from Gilroy, P. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso. Johnson, P.C. 2007. Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa. Berkeley: Universitiy of California Press. Levitt, P. 2001. ‘Between God, Ethnicity, and Country: An Approach to the Study of Transnational Religion’. Workshop on Transnational Migration: Comparative Perspectives. Princeton University, NJ, 30 June – 1 July. Marzal, M.M. 1988. Los caminos religiosos de los inmigrantes en la Gran Lima. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. ______. 2000. ‘La religión en el Perú: Categorías y números en la religión del Perú hoy’, in M.M. Marzal, C. Romero and J. Sánchez (eds), La religión en el Perú

Peruvian Israelites


al filo del Milenio. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica-Fondo Editorial, pp. 21–58. Meneses, L.E. 2005. ‘El Amazonas la tierra prometida de los israelitas: Territorio, región y religión en una comunidad campesina de Colombia’, in A.M. Bidegain and D. Damera (eds), Globalización y Diversidad Religiosa en Colombia. Bogota: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, pp. 375–98. ______. 2009. ‘Las contradicciones de la identidad de la Iglesia Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal’, Universitas Humanística 68: 97–119. ______. 2015. ‘Tras la tierra prometida en la Amazonia: la Asociación Evangélica Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal’, Boletín Cultural y Bibliográfico 49: 87–101. ______. 2017. El Amazonas: ‘la tierra prometida’ de los Israelitas del Nuevo Pacto Universal’: Trabajo de grado para optar al título de Doctor en Antropología. Bogota: Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Departamento de Antropología de la Universidad de los Andes. Moreras, J. 2006. Migraciones y pluralismo religioso: Elementos para el debate. Barcelona: CIDOB. Navarrete Linares, F. 2001. ‘Dialogo con M. Bajtin sobre el cronotopo’, La tortuga marina, historia en extinción. Ossio, J. 2003. ‘Una nueva expresión del Mesianismo Andino: Israel del Nuevo Pacto Universal’, in F. Graciano and L. Millones (eds), Indigenous Cultures of Spanish America (Vol. 3): Modules in Emerging Fields. New London: Connecticut College. ______. 2014. El Tahuantinsuyo bíblico: Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal y el mesianismo de los Israelitas del Nuevo Pacto. Lima: Biblioteca Nacional del Perú–Fondo Editorial. Parés, L.N., and R. Sansi (eds). 2011. Sorcery in the Black Atlantic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Perera Pintado, A.C. 2007. ‘Prácticas transnacionales y discursos de actores religiosos en Cuba’, in D. Mato and A. Maldonado Fermín (eds), Cultura y Transformaciones sociales en tiempos de globalización: Perspectivas latinoamericanas. Buenos Aires: CLACSO, pp. 141–61. Queirolo Palmas, L. 2009. ‘Pandillas en el Atlántico latino: identidad, transnacionalismo y generaciones’, Íconos. Revista de Ciencias Sociales 34: 125–38. Riba i Cañardo, A. 2007. ‘Los fundamentos del fundamentalismo’, I Concilio ateo de Toledo. Retrieved 12 October 2016 from concilio-fundamentalismo.pdf. Sánchez Carretero, C. 2008. ‘La creencia en la “no-creencia” de los espíritus y otras cartografías de lógicas religiosas: el caso de los centros de portadoras de misterios dominicanos en Madrid’, in M. Cornejo Valle, M. Cantón Delgado and R. Llera Blanes (eds), Teorías y prácticas emergentes en Antropología de la Religión. Donostia: Ankulegi Antropologia Elkartea, pp. 253–71. Sarró, R. 2008. ‘¿Qué es un lugar? Reflexiones antropológicas sobre lo cercano y lo remoto’, in R. Cabecinhas and L. Cunha (eds), Comunicação e Sociedade: Comunicação intercultural. Perspectivas, dilemas e desafíos. Oporto: Campo das Letras, Editores, pp. 135–46.


Carmen González Hacha

______. 2009. ‘Kongo en Lisboa: Un ensayo sobre la reubicación y la extraversión religiosa’, in Y. Aixelà, L. Mallart and J. Martí (eds), Introducción a los estudios africanos. Barcelona: CEIBA, pp. 115–39. ______. 2013. ‘Map and Imagination: Towards a Phenomenology of Remote Places’, in J. Mapril and R. Llera Blanes (eds), Sites and Politics of Religious Diversity in Southern Europe: The Best of All Gods. Leiden: Brill, pp. 381–87. Sarró, R., and R. Llera Blanes. 2008. ‘O Atlântico cristão: apontamentos etnográficos sobre o encontró religioso em Lisboa’, in M. Villarverde Cabral et al., Itinerários: a Investigação nos 25 anos do ICS. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, pp. 839–54. ______. 2009a. ‘Apresentaçao: Religião, espaço e movimiento’, Análise Social 44(1): 5–13. ______. 2009b. ‘Prophetic Diasporas: Moving Religion across the Lusophone Atlantic’, African Diaspora 2: 52–72. Scott, K.D. 1984. Asociación Evangélica de la Misión Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal. Lima: Concilio Nacional Evangélico del Perú. ______. 1987. Asociación Evangélica de la Misión Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal. Lima: CEPS. ______. n.d. ‘La Asociación Evangélica de la Misión Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal’, Prolades. Retrieved 18 October 2018 from http://www.prolades. com/cra/regions/sam/per/israelitas-scott.pdf. Silvestre, O. 2002. ‘A aventura crioula revisitada: versões do Atlântico Negro em Gilberto Freyre, Baltasar Lopes e Manuel Ferreira’, in H. Carvalhão Buescu and M. Ribeiro Sanches. Lisbon: Edições Colibri e Centro de Estudos Comparatistas, pp. 63–103. Simal Durán, J.L. 2013. ‘Una perspectiva atlántica para la historia española en la Era de las revoluciones’, Ayer 89(1): 199–212. Smith, J.Z. 1978. Map Is Not Territory: Essays on the History of Religions. Leiden: Brill. Teixeira Saénz, D.A. 2014. ‘Os israelitas: Religião, cultura e migração em espaços amazónicos. O caso da AEMINPU em Benjamin Constant, Amazonas’. Doctoral thesis. Porto Alegre, Brazil: Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. Thornton, J. 1992. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400– 1680. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 4

Defending What Is Ours

Asserting Land Rights through ‘Popular’ Catholicism in a Brazilian Quilombo Katerina Hatzikidi

Σὺν Ἀθηνᾶ καὶ χεῖρα κἰνει

—Aesopic dictum1

This chapter explores the dynamics of religious devotion and land occupation as they manifest in a black rural quilombo community2 in the state of Maranhão, Brazil. Through an ethnographic analysis of current religious practices in the quilombo and adjacent areas, it will be argued that tensions over land occupation take shape as tensions over religious identity. With a particular focus on the annual religious festival of the community’s patron saint, Santa Teresa de Jesus, the chapter will delve into the ‘hidden transcripts’ (Scott 1985, 1990) of Catholic peasant resistance against what is often experienced as an overwhelming growth of Pentecostalism in the region. The chapter aims to show that through participation in the various ceremonies that comprise and surround this festa (feast),  as well as through the circulation of ‘parables’, Catholic residents seek to reaffirm the religious affiliation of all residents of the ‘saint’s lands’  – the collective territory that belongs to Santa Teresa. As will be shown in the following pages, this endeavour manifests itself through three main grass-roots acts of ‘religious activism’: (a) oral accounts narrating Santa Teresa’s divine intervention to protect the residents and her lands; (b) physical mapping of the collective territory in outings to collect donations for the organization of the feast; and (c) the actual feast days (14, 15, 16 Notes for this chapter begin on page 86.


Katerina Hatzikidi

October) when Catholics from the forty villages that comprise the ‘lands of Santa Teresa’ and beyond gather together to celebrate their patron saint and their shared religious and land heritage. These acts aim to reinforce Catholicism vis-à-vis a growing Pentecostal presence in the area, which is often perceived by quilombolas (the residents of quilombos) to be at odds with their way of inhabiting their collective territory. Ultimately, this chapter wishes to contribute to anthropological discourses on placemaking and Christianity by shifting the focus from questions of ‘capturing souls’ (through religious conversion) to an issue that has been given far less attention, that of ‘capturing land’ and the larger question of land antagonisms.

Itamatatiua, Alcântara and the Quilombo Clause Slavery had always been accompanied by revolts and escapes of the enslaved that often led to the formation, lasting out different periods, of informal settlements called quilombos and mocambos3 (Arruti 2006; Leite 2015). In Alcântara, a municipality in the north-west of Maranhão state, quilombos started to proliferate, especially after the second half of the eighteenth century when, due to the region’s deep economic crisis, colonists were largely impelled to abandon their estates and seek more prosperous opportunities elsewhere (Viveiros 1999; Almeida 2006: 72; Sá 2007). The region’s distinctive economic and trade history created especially propitious conditions for the creation and growth of rural communities of formerly enslaved people (self-emancipated, freed and runaways), who were able to establish their presence in a nearly uninhibited way (Linhares 1999; Almeida 2006: 29–31; Andrade and Souza Filho 2006) several decades before the official abolition of slavery in 1888.4 In large part due to this remarkable history, Alcântara is currently the municipality with the greatest concentration of black rural quilombo communities in the country, numbering nearly two hundred (Mattos 2005; Gomes 2015: 154). Virtually all of them are certified ‘descendants of quilombos’ by the Palmares Foundation  – the government institution entrusted with the task of issuing official certificates to quilombo remnant communities based on their self-identification as such  – but none has effective title deeds. The struggle for land is a continuous and arduous reality for hundreds of quilombos in Brazil, and one that is increasingly ensnared in the ongoing socio-political crisis in the country. Article 68 of the Temporary Constitutional Provisions Act (ADCT) of the 1988 Federal Constitution (the so-called ‘Quilombo Clause’) recognized, for the first time, quilombo

Defending What Is Ours


descendants’ rights to land.5 Ever since, it has become the focal point of an array of social movements and political organizations working in defence of land and other human rights, and has given legal grounds to quilombos’ struggles nationwide. However, while nearly 1,700 quilombos are requesting official titling of their communally inhabited lands, only 179 quilombo territories in the country have been given titles deeds.6 Contrary to constitutional provisions and facing strong opposition from parties averse to quilombo land regulation (Hatzikidi 2019), the process of land identification and the issuance of title deeds is a long and bumpy road for petitioning quilombolas (inhabitants of quilombos). The formation of free peasantry in Alcântara since at least the eighteenth century, and the absolute lack of any legal documentation recognizing their effective land occupation created a ‘lacuna between reality and legality’ (Caires 2012: 157). This ‘lacuna’ enabled the invisibilization of Alcântara’s peasant population, the non-acknowledgment of their land possession, and ultimately the selection of Alcântara during the years of the military dictatorship (1964–1985) for a military satellite-launch base, run by the Brazilian Air Force, leading to the construction of the Alcântara Launch Centre (Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara, henceforth CLA) in the early 1980s. Among the major arguments put forward by political and military officials in favour of Alcântara’s selection was that the area presented a unique ‘demographic void’ (Almeida 2006: 56); a ­compelling premise for the realization of Brazil’s space technology development plans (Braga 2011: 46). Its construction displaced twenty-three communities which were relocated in seven government-funded project communities (agrovilas). Both the occupation of quilombo land and the uprooting of the communities created a massive wave of reaction and protest by quilombolas and political activists who joined their cause (Andrade 2006; Pereira Junior 2009; Serejo Lopes 2012; Mitchell 2018). The CLA clearly holds a key place for Brazil’s position as a global power, but at the same time it emblematically embodies land threats for most Alcântara’s quilombos, as the possibility of further expansion of the space base, and therefore further evictions, continues to loom large.7 Alcântara’s quilombo history of a long and nearly uninterrupted land occupation for many generations has instilled a deep-seated conviction of collective land ownership, despite the lack of official documentation of land possession. Well before, and independently from, the 1988 constitutional provisions that reinforced, and gave legal basis for, quilombo struggles for land across Brazil, quilombos in Alcântara had on several occasions successfully managed to maintain sovereignty over their lands against land grabbers. Such ‘success stories’ survive in narratives that circulate widely among quilombolas but they used to be less well known outside


Katerina Hatzikidi

the region and the state. As Mitchell noted, ‘the planners of Brazil’s space program could not have known in advance that they would attempt to build their equatorial spaceport in an area with deeply remembered traditions of winning and holding land from powerful adversaries through resistance and persistence’ (Mitchell 2008: 39). Quilombolas in Alcântara – whether directly or indirectly affected by the CLA – united in a common struggle for visibility and defence of their land rights that also reinforced various individual communities’ independent land struggles. As a result of this mobilization, several social movements emerged (many of which aligned with regional and national quilombo and black social movements) and an even stronger awareness of land rights was consolidated in the rural population. United they have achieved some important, albeit ‘fragile’, wins such as the (unofficial) demarcation of 78,105 hectares as ‘unified quilombo territory’, one of the three zones in which Alcântara’s territory is informally divided. Nevertheless, the long wait for land titles (due to the extremely slow-moving process of quilombo land regulation), together with the various challenges quilombolas are faced with on a regular basis, exacerbate land insecurity in the area and urge residents to seek alternative ways of asserting their land rights and protecting their communal territories. This discussion grounds the larger question of quilombo land struggle in the context of Itamatatiua, one of Alcântara’s villages situated within a second municipal zone (called ‘lands of Santa Teresa’) and outside the area directly affected by the CLA. I will try to show that in this particular case, and unlike the ‘unified quilombo territory’, land tensions are primarily articulated as religious tensions, namely between Catholics (historically being the single major religious group in the area) and the growing Pentecostal minority. I will do this by discussing grass-roots actions that residents take in defence of the collective territory against those they perceive as religious antagonists. More specifically, I will seek to explore some of the ways Catholic residents reinforce Catholicism and religious ties amongst quilombolas in order to counter the emergence and influence of Pentecostal churches, whose approach to land property is perceived to be incompatible to their own. It will be argued that the community’s major religious feast, Festa de Santa Teresa, is the culmination of a compound of elements that articulate the ‘Catholic social’ and help establish a robust opposition to Pentecostal expansion and concomitant land threats. In defending and maintaining a Catholic identity, residents are simultaneously defending their communal territory, regarded as intrinsically Catholic since its foundation as Itamatatiua.8

Defending What Is Ours


Children of the Saint and Children of the Land Itamatatiua, officially within the administrative borders of Alcântara, is part of an informal zone denominated ‘lands of Santa Teresa’, a geographic association that resonates strongly with the history of the community, as many residents perceive it. The over 50,000 hectares of the lands of Santa Teresa encompass approximately forty quilombos, with Itamatatiua being the zone’s symbolic and administrative centre. This area largely corresponds to the fazenda Tamatatiua, former property of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Carmelites) in Alcântara, dating back to 1745. Today, it remains the property of the state of Maranhão while in the process of land regulation as quilombo territory. Despite several mentions of the existence of quilombos in the vicinities of the Carmelite fazenda in colonial archives,9 tracing the exact period of foundation of the quilombo that is today Itamatatiua is virtually impossible. However, since collective memory ‘always supposes an authoritarian beginning’ (Fernández Bravo 2008: 161), Itamatatiua’s foundation narratives place its own not at a specific point in time but at a specific event: a holy agreement between residents and their patron saint, Santa Teresa de Jesus. According to those narratives, Santa Teresa invited the ‘Black people of Itamatatiua’ to live on her lands and promised to protect them. In exchange, the people  – who hence became ‘the saint’s children’  – ­promised to revere her and take care of her land. To concretize this pact for future generations and make their kin relation with the saint explicit, residents adopted her religious name, Santa Teresa de Jesus, as their own last name. ‘Everyone who is a child of the land (filho da terra) is “de Jesus”’, Dona Irene, one of the residents, told me; she continued: ‘When you see that someone has a different last name, then you know they are from someplace else’. An essential part of the agreement between Santa Teresa and her children was the establishment of the role of the land custodian (encarregado/a da terra). The role, passed on from one generation to the next to this day, is the most important administrative role within the saint’s territory since it carries the responsibility to keep the agreement made with the saint and administer the communal lands. There are three main elements that distinguish Itamatatiua from the rest of the quilombos within the saint’s lands: (1) the existence of the church (where Santa Teresa herself is believed to reside) and the main cemetery; (2) the fact that the land custodians are always drawn from the same Itamatatiua-based extended family; and (3) the adoption of the saint’s name by Itamatatiua’s residents. While the church, the cemetery, and the figurine of Santa Teresa serve


Katerina Hatzikidi

as convergent points and poles of attraction for all Catholic residents of the saint’s lands, the institution of the land custodian and the adoption of the saint’s name, refer to aspects of the relation with the patron saint exclusively enjoyed by Itamatatiuenses. This distinction underpins Itamatatiua’s key a­ dministrative role within the shared territory. Itamatatiua residents’ territorial awareness is especially pronounced and directly associated with their own religious and onomastic identity. As Pereira Junior has observed, the adoption of the saint’s religious name ‘needs to be seen as a means to reinforce social links with the Saint and the land’ (Pereira Junior 2011: 96). It was precisely through the establishment of kinship ties with Santa Teresa that the people of Itamatatiua became, and continue to be, the legitimate heirs and custodians of her lands. Since this putative inheritance was not accompanied by legal papers (legally a saint cannot own anything, let alone transfer property rights) it remained a holy verbal pact between the people and the saint. Hence, from the saint’s children’s point of view, assuming the responsibility to live on, and take care of, the lands Santa Teresa bestowed upon them, constitutes a very real and binding pact that justifies them  – both in the literal and the theological sense of the word ‘justify’10  – as lawful occupiers of those territories under the saint’s divine protection. It is this firm belief of legitimate land occupation that compels them to defend their communally owned lands from alleged predators. Having the saint as their strongest and most faithful ally,11 has provided Itamatatiuenses with courage, determination and faith in their overt and covert confrontations with land antagonists ever since the community’s foundation. Besides Santa Teresa herself, the Catholic Church has also built a strong relationship with Itamatatiua, and neighbouring quilombos over the years. From the mid-1950s, and particularly during the years of the military dictatorship, sectors of the Catholic Church in Brazil were instrumental in the dissemination, especially in rural areas and the north-­eastern Brazilian states, of what Michael Löwy (1996) has called ‘liberationist Christianity’; a socio-religious movement deeply influenced by egalitarian and socialist ideas and values that later informed the body of writings called liberation theology. Among other things, it contributed to the emergence of a strong Catholic black consciousness movement (Burdick 1993; French 2007). The then formed Ecclesiastic Base Communities (CEBs) embraced critical pedagogical and Marxist theories, and worked hand in hand with underprivileged groups across the country, contributing to the consolidation of a liberal political education, especially among the rural poor in Brazil (Dullo 2013). They also importantly provided practical knowledge for political mobilization, having a strong influence on the ways quilombolas

Defending What Is Ours


and other peasants voiced their concerns and organized themselves in defence of their rights (Montero 2012: 171). In Alcântara, pastoral agents took an active role in the struggle of quilombolas against the CLA, defending residents’ land claims and spreading awareness of their cause. From the early 1980s to this day, clergy and lay advisers in Alcântara have, by and large, joined forces with the quilombolas in the articulation of their positions. Quilombola and black movement activists have built a tight relationship of collaboration with Catholic missionaries and priests in Alcântara, something that has not happened with Pentecostal pastors and their churches more broadly. The work of the Catholic Church influenced by liberationist Christianity has gradually built a profile of a church of acceptance, of the poor and marginal, and of all those less privileged in general. Löwy importantly underpins that this was not a uniquely Brazilian phenomenon but was widespread across Latin America where the ‘Church of the Poor is the inheritor of the ethical rejection of capitalism by Catholicism’ – a product of ‘negative affinity’, in Weberian terms, between the two (Löwy 1996: 30). This is especially important when contrasted with the ‘dominant conservative political/religious culture of most Evangelical churches’ that ‘often turns them into passive or ardent supporters of the status quo and sometimes even of sinister military dictatorships, like those of Brazil, Chile and Guatemala’ (Löwy 1996: 113). Known for their powerful political alliances and rapidly accumulated wealth (Siepierski 1997; Cunha 1999; Campos 2011; Machado and Burity 2014), this side of Evangelical churches is strongly reflected in popular perceptions in Alcântara about the recent ‘infiltration’ of Pentecostal churches in their communities. For many quilombolas, an identity of ‘poor’ (pobre) imbued with dignity and pride is perhaps one of the most impactful residues of the work of liberationist Christianity. Also, importantly, the political alliance between members of the Catholic Church and Afro-Brazilian movements in Alcântara (especially in the 1990s) further contributed to the creation of an imaginary whereby the Catholic Church is defending and wishes to empower quilombolas and their cultural traditions. There are several ethnographic cases where Catholicism has emerged as a religion that respects and even protects local cultures against a competing power or other religion. For example, Sarró makes a compelling argument about the ‘alliance between Christianity and “custom”’ (Sarró 2009: 81) in his discussion of the Baga in Guinea. Facing increasing rates of conversion to Islam, many Baga opted for conversion to Catholicism as they felt that in this way they could better protect their religious and ethnic traditions against what they saw as Islam’s sweeping, modernizing force (ibid.: 78). All things considered, Catholic Christianity, as practised


Katerina Hatzikidi

in places like Itamatatiua, similarly transpires as a church that allows relative freedom of religious and cultural expression in comparison to the strict prohibitions and rigid rules of many Pentecostal churches. Furthermore, many of the current quilombo leaders have collaborated with local CEBs and pastoral agents, usually alongside civil political activists. Several priests have spent spells in Itamatatiua contributing not only to residents’ religious education but also to political and human rights. Father Haroldo, for instance, first went to Itamatatiua in 1958 and has since worked closely with Neide, the land custodian and community leader. He has overtly embraced the community’s struggle for land rights. In a conversation I had with him he expressed his vehement position with regards to the presence of an Evangelical pastor in Itamatatiua. He said: ‘Who has entered there now is a Protestant, isn’t that right? And he shouldn’t have. Because this colony is of the quilombolas. Not his. This is wrong, it is just wrong. It’s like me arriving there and building a house. No. This is a quilombo. A quilombo. A quilombo’, he repeated firmly.

Evangelicals in the Lands of Santa Teresa The presence of Pentecostal churches has been growing significantly in rural Alcântara over the past decade, especially of the Assemblies of God,12 reshaping and reconfiguring the religious map of the area. Although no Protestant church has been built in Itamatatiua so far, other communities that are part of the saint’s lands have already seen an Assembleia de Deus being constructed in their quilombo. A pastor of the Assembly of God has been established in Itamatatiua with his family in the past few years, with the overt plan to erect a church in the centre of the quilombo. Similar to Father Haroldo’s account, the arrival of crentes in Itamatatiua has been seen by many Catholic residents as an intrusion into the territory of the saint and a direct violation of their territorial rights. While Father Haroldo’s justification for the repudiation of the Evangelical presence in the community was made on ethno-legal grounds (Itamatatiua having the legally protected status of quilombo), many residents articulate their objection to the pastor’s establishment in their community on entirely religious grounds, Itamatatiua being land of Santa Teresa, and hence, by definition, Catholic only. ‘These are the lands of Santa Teresa,’ Nazaré, a resident of Itamatatiua told me, ‘because ever since I became aware of myself everyone was saying that this land is the saint’s – and I continue to believe the same’. One of the main reasons the Protestant presence has been experienced as invasive by many Catholics is the curtailment, or outright repudiation,

Defending What Is Ours


of local rules of land use and management, and, by consequence, the role of land custodian. According to the pact made with the saint, and which the land custodian is in charge of applying, all residents of the saint’s territory have free and equal access to land. It is the land custodian’s role, however, to administer the 50,000 hectares of land and to allocate plots for use and appropriation by residents, according to their needs. No one is allowed to do so without consulting the land custodian, nor to fence out, or otherwise demarcate, land for private use or sale.13 Despite these regulations, the illicit demarcation of plots of land has become an increasingly frequent phenomenon in recent years. Seu Chico, a resident of Itamatatiua, illustrates a common objection to any land appropriation by ‘outsiders’ and/or non-Catholics that takes place in the lands of Santa Teresa: And when they [arrived] … they started … each one grabs a small piece of land. But this land is one only, a single unit. Nobody can say ‘I am the owner’ because it is Santa Teresa’s, it was donated to Santa Teresa. The Carmelites donated it because they didn’t find who to sell it to at the time, so they donated it to Santa Teresa. Because she is the owner. I mean, they didn’t donate it to me, or to Neide or to Luisa, or even to the elders. No. It was donated to Santa Teresa. (Emphasis added)

Even though Evangelical Christians (whether ‘outsiders’ who moved to the saint’s lands or the very ‘children’ who converted) are not the only ones who show ‘disrespect’ of local land regulations and curb the role of the land custodian when deciding to build their houses or cultivate land, they are identified by the majority of Catholic residents as the main (and often only) transgressors. Their presence is largely seen as an intrusion and a direct violation of their collective land rights. On the one hand, alluding to the classic Weberian thesis, the Protestant ethic has been tightly connected to capitalism and private property, while Catholicism, in the ‘true’ Christian spirit and to a large extent due to the legacy of liberationist Christianity, has popularly been associated with an economic ethic of sharing  – especially in Brazil. On the other hand, one needs to acknowledge that Protestant churches have also historically been on the side of the poor and the marginal – from their role in the US civil rights movement (see e.g. Taylor 2002) to their contemporary growing popularity among working- and lower-middle-class AfroBrazilians (Burdick 1999; Jacob et al. 2003)  – while the Catholic Church has expressed competing views on private property and free enterprise (as prominently expressed in Centesimus annus), also spurring some highly controversial works in defence of a capitalist Catholicism (Novak 1982, 1993; Neuhaus 1992).


Katerina Hatzikidi

A critical anthropological discussion of the study of quilombo as a utopian socialist community (cf. Andrade 2006; Souza Filho and Andrade 2012) against the background of views on land and property rights that the churches embraced by quilombolas espouse and the ways these ­materialize in specific contexts, would shed much-needed light on the intricacies of the quilombo religious landscape and its closely knit relationship with land. Such an exercise might serve to show the diversity of the different case studies, and warn against categorical associations between religious affiliation and perception of property rights. However, this or a comparative analysis between Pentecostal and Catholic approaches to land and property in time and space clearly go beyond the scope of the present chapter. A question that seems central to our discussion is why do Evangelicals stand out as the ones mainly responsible for the current land crisis in the lands of Santa Teresa? For most Catholic quilombolas, the answer is obvious: Evangelicals have a different approach to land than they do. While they have a collective understanding of land use, Evangelicals tend to appropriate land privately and for their exclusive use. Similarly, Boyer observed that the main conflicts between Catholics and Evangelical converts in the Amazonian quilombo Silêncio do Matá were due to the ‘collective ownership of land that the [residents’] association wanted to impose’ on Pentecostal residents (Boyer 2002: 170). As my field data suggest, however, in the case of Itamatatiua the problem of private land appropriation acquires a different dimension: not only does it go against an established ethic of sharing, but it contradicts the axiom that the land belongs to Santa Teresa (hence it already has an owner) and that her children are there to inhabit it collectively and not to appropriate it individually. In other words, the problem lying at the heart of this religious tension has to do with the nature of land occupation; not only in terms of individual versus collective ownership but also importantly between using and appropriating (someone else’s) land.

Affirming ‘Radical Breaks’ Connecting present-day Pentecostal Christianity to its historical roots, Roberta Campos discusses Pentecostalism as a movement that carries with it its Reformation mark of ‘dissolution’  – of breaking any interference in the devout’s relationship with God (Campos 2011: 1014). Amongst other anthropologists of Christianity, Joel Robbins has argued that Pentecostalism ‘avails itself of meaningful idioms for talking about the past and about current social problems’ and broader concerns (Robbins

Defending What Is Ours


2004: 129). Within a context of radical land insecurity, and tapping into culturally meaningful modalities of the social, Pentecostals make use of available ‘mechanisms of producing consensus’ (Montero, Arruti and Pompa 2011: 154) to adopt a new theological model, which effectively becomes an evocative channel for the dissemination of new ideas, the aggregation of new members, and the legitimization of their opposition. Drawing on Campos’s notion of ‘dissolution’, on the notion of a ‘radical break’ with the past as introduced by the anthropology of Christianity (Meyer 1998; Robbins 2003; Engelke 2004; Cannell 2006; Marshall 2008), and on field observations, I suggest that for the ‘dissidents’ of the saint’s lands  – those who for whatever reasons oppose or disapprove of the hereditary role of the land custodian (currently in the hands of a woman who is also the elected community president in Itamatatiua)  – Pentecostalism provides an idiom that enables radical breaks with established regimes and relationships. Evangelical converts do not see the ‘children of the saint’ as any more legitimate heirs to the land than themselves. Indeed, they do not see any ‘children of the saint’ for that matter. They do not believe in the existence of saints and, by consequence, they do not acknowledge land possession by one. By breaking with the figure of the saint they also render the role of the land custodian redundant: if there is no saint, there are no saint’s lands, and no need for an administrator of those lands. What is in place after conversion is the convert’s direct relationship with God and his/her direct (individualized and no longer collective) access to land. For some quilombolas, such is the impact of land grabbing and the ‘infiltration’ of Evangelicals and ‘outsiders’ (usually from nearby towns/­ villages), with their concomitant modifications to the way land used to be acquired, that they no longer see all lands of Santa Teresa as hers anymore. Dona Maria de Jesus, one of Itamatatiua’s eldest residents at the time of writing, contemplated: ‘This land used to be enormous. Santa Teresa used to have so much [land]. But not anymore, only this little bit here [Itamatatiua]’. Restricting the limits of the lands of Santa Teresa to Itamatatiua, one of the few communities without a Pentecostal church, Dona Maria is making an implicit connection between religious affiliation and land denomination. As would become clear in the course of my fieldwork in Itamatatiua, Dona Maria and others no longer consider as saint’s lands those areas with a conspicuous Pentecostal presence. Put differently, the very use of land by non-Catholics, and, perhaps especially, Evangelical Protestants, has a direct implication on the ownership of land, which the saint is being denied. In that case, the land itself ceases to be property of the saint and turns into just any (free) land. Zé Roxo, a resident of Itamatatiua in his sixties, remembers:


Katerina Hatzikidi

At the time I became aware myself, it [the saint’s territory] stretched far away on that side … all of that was hers; all, all, all, all of it. And today, not even half of it is left. But at that time, as I say, [there were] few people, everyone believed [in the saint], everyone… ‘she is the owner, she is the patron saint, she is the owner’ … and then, with this story … how many crentes don’t they live here? And they go around saying ‘[a] saint does not own land. This is just scrubland’. (Emphasis added)

When land ownership is intrinsically attached to the observance of a specific religion by its residents (in this case, Catholicism), then the maintenance of religious faith becomes imperative to the safeguarding of territory. In order to protect the inherent mono-religiosity of, and preserve their sovereignty over, the more than 50,000 hectares of the lands of Santa Teresa, while they await formal attribution of their communal land titles, Itamatatiuenses are actively involved in actions that help to reinforce Catholicism in the saint’s lands and reassert their territorial rights. ‘We need to defend what’s ours, otherwise all will be lost’, said Marinete, a resident of Itamatatiua and a former city councillor candidate. Many other residents share Marinete’s resolve and feel that the community ‘as a family’  – as Ribinha, Itamatatiua’s resident and current city councillor emphasized in a community meeting  – ‘needs to work together’ to resolve land tensions. But exactly how big is the family of Itamatatiua? Or, inverting the question, who is not part of this family? For the Catholic residents of the lands of Santa Teresa, the family of Itamatatiua is composed of all the saint’s children: the descendants of the founding family and, by extension, all Catholics who inhabit the saint’s land and abide by her rules. However, religious affiliation, as an acknowledgement of one’s attachment to a religious community, is ‘simultaneously [an] articulatory and marginalising’ (Burdick 1998: 7) practice that aggregates some while alienating others. Similarly, the right to property can also be defined ‘as the right to exclude  – the ability to determine who does and does not belong in a particular space’ (Staeheli and Mitchell 2008: 32). For many Itamatatiuenses and other residents of the saint’s lands, inclusion in and exclusion from the family of Santa Teresa’s children is circumscribed by religious affiliation, which in turn determines, and is determined by, land use. If one lives in the lands of Santa Teresa then one is necessarily a Catholic (or, at least, a Catholic sympathiser and respectful of the role of the saint’s land custodian) by virtue of the agreement between the saint and first residents. Conversely, if one is not a Catholic (or does not observe land rules) then one has no place in those lands. Boyer has argued that the close relationship between the black movement and the Catholic Church has created a religious discourse that

Defending What Is Ours


leaves little room for Evangelicals. Even as a minority group within the predominately Catholic quilombo, she argues, ‘a religious group that rejects the cult of saints appears as a threat when the legitimacy of political engagement (the Black cause) is constructed through the participation in the Catholic feasts’ (Boyer 2002: 170). Although this view may exaggerate the influence of national quilombo and black movement politics on religious life in the quilombo, it makes an important point by stressing the ‘incompatibility’ of quilombola and Evangelical identity as many (within and outside the quilombo) perceive it. While some would welcome a harmonious coexistence of Catholics and Pentecostals, for many such a scenario is not viable. Benedita, a devotee of Santa Teresa from Itamatatiua, talks about the need for mutual respect: ‘We respect their law and they need to respect ours’. Dona Maria dos Santos, another resident of Itamatatiua, similarly says: ‘We need to celebrate the Saints’ feast days, you know? They [Evangelicals] don’t accept these things. But everyone does what he wants, right? What he likes. For me this is how it goes. You like your community? Then you stay there, and we stay in ours, right? This is how it is’. In this case then, respect also entails the acknowledgement of the impossibility of coexistence, since one ‘law’ overlaps or clashes with the other. In discussing cohabitation, Bruno Latour heralded the replacement of time with space as ‘the main ordering principle’, arguing: The questions are no longer: ‘Are you going to disappear soon?’ … An entirely new set of questions has now emerged: ‘Can we cohabitate with you?’ ‘Is there a way for all of us to survive together while none of our contradictory claims, interests and passions can be eliminated?’ Revolutionary time, the great Simplificator, has been replaced by cohabitation time, the great Complicator’. (Latour 2004: 30)

A specific religious identity is firmly ingrained in the shared territory of the saint’s land. Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, patron saints have been entrusted with the protection of lands under their patronage (Christian 1972: 11–12, 181). Santa Teresa’s offer of land and protection to the people of Itamatatiua is the foundation of a widespread conviction, amongst Catholics, about the inherent religiosity of those lands. Conversion to a Pentecostal church would equal repudiation of the pact; cessation of devotion to the saint and, consequently, disregard of the land regulations as implemented by Santa Teresa and carried out by the land custodian. Itamatatiua’s distinctive land identification is pointed to by Catholic residents as being the main reason why Pentecostal conversion has largely failed in their community. It is also why they argue that the coexistence of Pentecostals and Catholics is unattainable in the saint’s


Katerina Hatzikidi

lands. For them, there is little room for plurality in the lands of Santa Teresa, which need to remain hegemonically Catholic. Hence, many feel impelled to join forces and reassert sovereignty over their legitimately occupied territory. It is in this spirit that the ‘Catholic family’ of the lands of Santa Teresa comes together to reinforce its ties and manifest its presence on a territory that becomes evermore polarized. As we will see next, through stories that narrate the saint’s divine intervention in defence of her children and her land while punishing wrongdoers, and through participation in the annual feast in honour of the patron saint, Catholics seek to manifest their presence against religious and land antagonists. ‘The so-called religious “circumscriptions” allow for an alternative mapping’ of quilombos, argues Almeida (2006: 170). In those instances, the ‘Catholic social’ cogently emerges and places itself (mainly) against the ‘Pentecostal social’ and everything it represents.

Reassembling the Catholic Social: The Stories, the Joia, the Festa In the introduction to this chapter, I argued that there are three main streams of ‘religious activism’ that aim at maintaining and renewing the historical and religious ties amongst Catholics who inhabit the lands of Santa Teresa. In what follows, I will attempt to show how these grassroots actions materialize.

Figure 4.1 A house visit during the outings for the collection of joia. Photograph by the author, 2015.

Defending What Is Ours


The three days of celebration of Itamatatiua’s patron saint constitute the first of these actions. While preparations for the festa begin months in advance, and involve a great number of people and activities that are central to the celebrations, the actual feast days (14, 15 and 16 October) are in many respects the culmination of Itamatatiua’s religious life. On the feast days, people from all across the towns and villages of the Baixada Maranhense region visit Itamatatiua either to redeem a promise to Santa Teresa or just to partake in the religious ceremonies. For many years, this festa has been an important event in the festive calendar of the area, and an occasion for important encounters within the Baixada. As Borges, one of the founding members and leading figures of the movimento negro in Alcântara told me in an interview, it was during the festa of Santa Teresa in October 1993 that one of the first meetings of the still unborn black movement took place: We participated in the festa of Santa Teresa, in Itamatatiua. The black people of the quilombo of Frechal, from Mirinzal, because they had received in 1992 the title of their area, which is an ‘extractive reserve’ (reserva extrativista), came with the Dança do Congo, which is a black dance, to redeem a promise to Santa Teresa. The group of the CCN-MA14 came, people from the SMDH,15 they all came so we could have a meeting … so we had our first meeting during the festa. I met the people of Frechal, and from then on … in January of 1994, we had the first meeting of the black movement in Alcântara.

The case of the people of Frechal (the first quilombo in Maranhão, and one of the first in Brazil, to have its communal territory demarcated), departing from Mirinzal, a municipality about 200 km away from Alcântara, to redeem a promise to Santa Teresa, is by no means unique. In the two annual feasts I attended in Itamatatiua, I spoke to dozens of people who had come to ‘pay their promises’ (pagar promessa) from places that far exceeded the limits of the saint’s lands. Two women from Palmerandia, a municipality in the Baixada Maranhense, told me that they had been going to the festa every year for decades: ‘Back in the day, the festa of Santa Teresa in Itamatatiua was an important pilgrimage for the entire Baixada and beyond. It was our Círio [de Nazaré]’,16 said one of them, emphasizing the importance of the feast as a religious reference in the region, even though the saint had no bearing on land issues for those communities outside her lands. As Hertz observed in his pioneering essay on pilgrimage, for the Catholics participating in the Alpine rite, ‘[t]he greater the gathering of pilgrims, the “finer” the festival is judged to be and the more the saint is honoured’ (Hertz 1983: 60). The use of the past tense when talking about the ‘grandiosity’ of the festa, however, underlines that today things have changed. ‘The festa is no longer what it


Katerina Hatzikidi

used to be’, said Zé Roxo as we were walking in the fields near his house outside Itamatatiua. ‘[As] I remember [it], there was not a single crente on this land’, he told me pointing across the vast open area of the campo that was stretching in front of us; ‘can you imagine that?’ What for several generations used to be an ‘unmitigated’ Catholic territory, where nearly everyone identified and fostered strong ties with Santa Teresa, whom they acknowledged as ‘onwer of the lands’ (dona das terras), is now in many ways a ‘divided’ territory between Catholics and Pentecostals. Counterpublics, argues Warner (2002: 63), ‘are, by definition, formed by their conflict with the norms and contexts of their cultural environment’. The counterpublic’s ‘cultural horizon against which it marks itself off is not just a general or wider public, but a dominant one’ (ibid.: 119). In this sense, Pentecostals are the arguably smaller in size ‘counterpublic’ to Catholics, since they have created ‘alternative spheres’ of public action (Staeheli and Mitchell 2008: 142) – even though not particularly strong in Itamatatiua so far. Yet, it is always by comparison with other competing ties that any group tie is emphasized, and the children of Santa Teresa are precisely struggling to reinforce existing connections among them and defend their lands from Evangelicals who stand against their religious and territorial affiliations. Despite waning number of attendees, as my interlocutors noted, the festa continues to mark an important symbolic event in the local Catholic religious calendar, and offers a major opportunity for Catholics from within and outside the saint’s lands to celebrate Santa Teresa and honour their relationship with her land. In a similar way to Leal’s description of the Holy Ghost festas in North America, ‘[t]he relationships between the people involved may be loose or sporadic; however, there is a sense of being part of a collective, which the festa itself helps to create’ (Leal 2015: 7). The second form of ‘religious activism’ in defence of the shared territory consists of the countless stories narrating the punishment of arrogant and doubtful people (usually crentes) who have overtly defied Santa Teresa’s land regulations and/or threatened her children. There was the man who ‘wanted to show’ that Santa Teresa was neither alive nor owned land, but he fell off a boat on his way to Itamatatiua and his body was never found; and the land grabber who illicitly demarcated land but then fell inside a water well he was building; and the aspiring thief who confessed to not being able to overcome an invisible barrier that was preventing him from getting anywhere near the church, despite his ­willingness to enter and steal the saint’s figurine – the stories never end. These narratives, that circulate widely well beyond the limits of the saint’s lands, demonstrate both the vitality of Santa Teresa and her

Defending What Is Ours


willingness to protect her children at any cost. Consciously breaching the customary law dictated by Santa Teresa, wrongdoers, according to these accounts, find themselves in dreadful situations as a result of the saint’s intervention aimed at protecting her territory and her children. In the words of Pereira Junior, ‘the Saint is alive, and frequently walks through the limits of her lands, defending them from invaders and personally protecting the people’ (2011: 95). As Alessiane, a schoolteacher from Itamatatiua, told me, these stories are so well known and commonly narrated that even those who do not believe in Santa Teresa, nor identify as Catholics, are ‘afraid to doubt. Because there have been people who doubted … they doubted, and then something bad happened to them’. The stories continue to be retold by young and old, and by doing so they contribute to the dissemination and crystallization of the knowledge of the qualities and power of Itamatatiua’s patron saint. They make clear the relation that Santa Teresa maintains with her children and, as Zé Rodrigues, resident of another community on the saint’s lands, mentioned when concluding one such story, they instruct and ‘remind everyone to let go of the things of others’. They thus ultimately create a cloak of protection above the saint’s lands by educing a subtle sense of awe and fear, even for those who may otherwise question the existence of Santa Teresa – such as Pentecostals. Anyone breaching her rules needs to know they are not (only) challenging the Catholic residents, but the saint herself. The third stream of grass-roots ‘religious activism’ consists of the visits that Santa Teresa and her batuque (an itinerant group from Itamatatiua) make to all the villages within (and usually also some beyond) the limits of her territory in order to collect donations for the organization of her annual feast. Santa Teresa participates in the visits in the form of a small figurine that is considered to be the saint herself. Although there are other statuettes in the church of Itamatatiua, only the one participating in these outings is regarded as the ‘real’ one.17 In this touring that lasts for weeks, the saint ‘physically’ visits the people’s houses and gives them her blessing. Walking through plains and babaçu palm forests, the saint with the caixeiras (women playing the drums of Santa Teresa) map the shared territory, delimit the area under her sovereignty, and manifest their ­presence everywhere within it. While Itamatatiua organizes and hosts the festa for their patron saint, it is with the help and material and immaterial contributions of all Catholic devotees (or ‘children’) who inhabit the saint’s lands that the festa comes into being every year. These individual or household contributions are called joia. The first outings for the collection of donations usually begin in July, and are destined to those communities that are on the outer limits


Katerina Hatzikidi

of the saint’s lands and hence the furthest away from Itamatatiua, which is both geographically and symbolically located at the centre. As the weeks go by and the visits are getting closer, they gradually end up in Itamatatiua, where the last collection of joia is carried out on the eve of the festa. In these centrifugal expeditions (and centripetal returns home), the sum of miles walked under the equatorial sun increases as the radius covered by the saint and her group shortens. ‘Joia’, commonly translated as ‘jewel’, also has the meaning of ‘fee’ or amount paid upon admittance as a member of an association, club or society. Dona Heloisa, a resident of Itamatatiua, explained to me how joia outings emerged: ‘We never had to pay taxes [for land tenure] because this land belongs to the saint. So instead of paying taxes (foro) we give the joia to the saint’. By using the word ‘foro’, which also translates as ‘pension’ or the ‘fee’ a tenant pays to the rightful owner for the use of a building or property, Dona Heloisa directly linked the offering of donations for the organization of the festa of Santa Teresa to the obligation of a land tenant. Since there was no other form of taxation (the saint being the only owner) the joia has been a form of fee in exchange for the free tenancy the saint offers to all inhabitants of her lands. It seems then, that ‘joia’ in the context of the festa is used to designate the symbolic contribution of the inhabitants. I use the word ‘symbolic’ here in the sense used by Lefebvre: ‘The Greek word: συμβάλλεσθαι, which gives us that word so characteristic of our religions and ideologies, “symbol”, means initially “to pay one’s share”’ (Lefebvre 2014: 224). Each household contributes with anything it can offer, such as flour, rice, fruits, eggs, an animal or money. Although most devotees who offer their joia may not make the explicit association

Figure 4.2 Receiving Santa Teresa’s visit. Photograph by the author, 2016.

Defending What Is Ours


that Dona Heloisa made, they do think of their donation as a way of contributing to the organization of the festa of their beloved saint, or as ‘payment’ for a promise they have made. These associations are intrinsic to the offering of the joia. Put differently, once a year, the saint, in her capacity as landowner, physically visits all occupiers of her land and collects their contribution, given as a token of gratitude for the land and the protection she is offering. The change in religious demographics in the lands of Santa Teresa in recent years has gradually created two competing social spheres as the decision by, especially, most Pentecostals to not give joia is not a passive one but a clear stance against the saint, her festa and everything that is associated with it. In the words of Lefebvre: ‘[T]he “sacrifices” which everyone had to make for the festival  – gifts, contributions from each family and each household – appeared as a down payment for the future. To refuse to participate would have been to set oneself apart from the community’ (Lefebvre 2014: 224). If, paraphrasing Latour, we see the social as a movement of associations, then the refusal to give joia equals a failure to renew a previously existing connection (Latour 2005: 8–9). It is precisely this renewal and reinforcement of religious and, by consequence, territorial ties that the stories of Santa Teresa’s divine intervention and continuous presence, together with the joia outings and the festa, are aiming at. The saint’s visits to each and every household that is willing to open its door, as well as the actual feast days when hundreds of Catholics from different quilombos

Figure 4.3 The batuque walking through the scrublands of Alcântara. Photograph by the author, 2016.


Katerina Hatzikidi

and towns gather together in Itamatatiua to celebrate Santa Teresa, are based on a shared religious and territorial history, and they help to maintain and strengthen existing ties amongst residents of the saint’s territory against religious and land antagonists.

Conclusion In this chapter, I have tried to convey the conviction of the Catholic majority of quilombolas in the lands of Santa Teresa that ‘community and Catholicism are inextricable’ (Boyer 2016: 29). I have argued that having exhausted all legal channels for the final emission of collective land titles, Catholic residents resort to ‘popular’ religious practices, which they use to reinforce Catholicism and to counteract the spread and influence of Pentecostal churches. I have sought to show that two socio-religious regimes (Catholic and Pentecostal Christian) are competing with one another on religious and territorial grounds. Both Catholics and Evangelicals set out their limits, and often make explicit that they see no common ground between them, nor wish for any. However, disregard for customary land rules by (mainly) Evangelicals transforms a tension that is primarily about land into a religious one. A large proportion of the local population feel threatened to that they might lose control over an essentially religious territory, and, together with parallel efforts to attain official land titles, strive to maintain the saint’s territory as strictly Catholic. The saint’s presence is always relevant and ‘felt’, especially through the widely circulated and well-known stories of her divine intervention, and through the affectionate relationship between her and her devotees. What happens during the festa is ‘the explosion of forces which had been slowly accumulated in and via everyday life itself’ (Lefebvre 2014: 222). In the limited space of a single chapter, I have only focused on some of the main forms that quilombolas use to aggregate the ‘Catholic social’, without exploring the forms in which the ‘Pentecostal social’ is manifested. I have not suggested that all residents involved in the festivities around the festa of Santa Teresa are also consciously mapping out territorial claims or manifesting their conviction of their legal land occupation to Pentecostals. After all, ‘[a]ction is not done under the full control of consciousness; action should rather be felt as a node, a knot, and a conglomerate of many surprising sets of agencies that have to be slowly disentangled’ (Latour 2005: 44). Instead, I have tried to show that in a rapidly shifting religious world, such as that of Itamatatiua, ‘religious actors’

Defending What Is Ours


are immersed in a tense socio-political landscape (with each side largely positioning itself in opposition to the other) and, to a lesser or greater extent, through their actions they are ‘capable of reconfiguring the scene of public debates’ (Claverie 2008: 8). Since many identify strongly as ‘children of the saint’, it is through this identification that they claim membership in their social world and position themselves in relation to other groups. Practices linked to religious festivities that take place in public spaces evoke memories and conceptions of a shared heritage, renewing (or failing to renew) social ties and associations between different actors. Even to those who choose to no longer acknowledge those ties, the festa of Santa Teresa serves as a visible reminder of both the Catholic presence and their assertion of territorial rights. By its very occurrence on the communal lands of the saint’s children, the festa invites residents to participate in it and reinforces the links that comprise the Catholic social world. The physical mapping of the shared territory, by the saint and her batuque, delimit the area under Catholic sovereignty. Momentarily, Santa Teresa reoccupies the contested space and asserts her dominion over it. She reunites her children and reminds them that they are but one big family, sharing one territory and one religious faith. What happens during the festa, hence, is a commemoration of those links, which represent the reasons they are tied together. In that sense, not unlike what Hertz (1983) has argued about St Besse’s pilgrimage, which brings together villagers of the valleys of Piedmont once a year, the festa, if not ‘the last vestige of those links’ (MacClancy 1994: 36), it is certainly the most evocative one.

Acknowledgements I am grateful to Marcio Goldman for his insightful suggestions during my field research. I would also like to thank Elizabeth Ewart, Stephanie Postar, João Leal and Eduardo Dullo for their comments on early versions of this chapter. Katerina Hatzikidi is a social anthropologist (PhD, University of Oxford) with a main area focus on Brazil. Her thesis, ‘Children of the Land and Children of the Saint: Religion, Heritage and Territoriality in a Brazilian Quilombo’, focused on quilombola grass-roots organization around land in Maranhão state. She was visiting researcher at the National Museum, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and 2018/19 stipendiary


Katerina Hatzikidi

fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), SAS, University of London. Dr Hatzikidi is postdoctoral affiliate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA), SAME, University of Oxford, and 2019/20 Swiss Government Excellence postdoctoral fellow at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

Notes  1. In Latin: ‘Minerva auxiliante, manum etiam admove’. In English, commonly as: ‘God helps those who help themselves’.  2. Black rural quilombo communities (comunidades negras rurais quilombolas) is the name commonly given to contemporary quilombos and mocambos (both historically denoting maroon settlements) in Brazil. It mainly emerged from its use by political activists of the black movement in Brazil – especially from national black rural community meetings in the early 1980s in the states of Maranhão and Pará (Arruti 2016; Oliveira and Müller 2016) – and was largely established after the organization of the first National Meeting of Black Rural Quilombo Communities in Brasilia, in 1995, and the creation, in 1996, of the National Coordination of Black Rural Quilombo Communities (CONAQ). See indicatively: O’Dwyer 2002; Costa 2008.  3. These are essentially synonymous terms. For a discussion of definitions and different appropriations, see especially: Almeida 1996; Leite 2008, 2012; Arruti 2009; Gomes 2015.  4. Starting in 1755, and for twenty years, the General Commerce Company of GrãoPará and Maranhão had the ‘exclusive right to supply slaves to the eastern Amazon region’ (Carreira 1988; Carney 2004: 13–14) connecting Maranhão directly with the ports of West Africa, and decisively shaping Alcântara’s landscape and economy due to the proliferation of plantation sites (predominantly cotton fields). By the end of the eighteenth century, however, trade had entered an insurmountable economic crisis that persuaded white colonists to seek profit elsewhere, leaving their estates behind. Eventually, these estates were taken over by the non-white population, which had significantly grown in numbers over the decades.  5. Art. 68 states that ‘final ownership shall be recognised for the remaining members of the ancient runaway slave communities who are occupying their lands, and the State shall grant them the respective title deeds’. Further to federal constitutional land provisions for quilombos, Art. 229 of the 1989 Maranhão’s State Constitution affirms that ‘the state will recognise and legalise, in the form of law, the lands occupied by remaining quilombo communities’. The two are the main juridical instruments for the recognition of quilombola collective rights in Maranhão and have greatly reinforced local struggles.  6. The figures are based on data published by the National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), which, since 2003, is the federal institution responsible for the emission of land titles to quilombo communities. See the webpage of Comissão PróÍndio:, last accessed on 27 December 2018.  7. In June 2015, the Secretary for Racial Equality (SEIR) in Alcântara announced the state government’s plans for the ‘return’ of 42,000 hectares of land to the state (to be deduced from the area already recognized as ‘unified quilombo territory’, thus causing further displacements). The news created an immediate wave of reactions from quilombolas, who gathered public support from different social movements and organizations, including the Brazilian Anthropology Association (ABA), which urged immediate land titling. At the time of writing, meetings of quilombolas with state representatives

Defending What Is Ours

 8.  9. 10. 11.



14. 15. 16.



and political movements continue to take place in Alcântara, and the issue remains unsettled. Some of the ideas around this argument were first presented in Hatzikidi 2018. See Repertório de documentos para a história da escravidão no Maranhão, 1754–1840 (Vol. I) and 1818–1852 (Vol. II) in the Public Archives of the State of Maranhão (APEM). The Oxford English Dictionary describes the theological (Christian) meaning of the verb as: ‘To declare or make righteous in the sight of God; to confer or assure righteousness’. OED online: entry 102230. It is perhaps worth mentioning that it is the very same Santa Teresa de Jesús (also known as Santa Teresa d’Ávila) who came close to becoming Spain’s co-patron saint (alongside Santiago el Mayor) in the long debate over co-patronage (1617–30). Among the main arguments put forward by the supporters of Santa Teresa was their desire for ‘the saint’s aid in interceding to combat Protestantism in Europe’ (Row 2005: 7). There are a few other Pentecostal churches in Alcântara, such as the First Baptist Church Alcântara and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, but their presence in the interior remains virtually non-existent, especially in comparison to the, by now, ubiquitous presence of the Assemblies of God. At the time of writing, no so-called neoPentecostal, or neo-charismatic, churches (such as the nationally powerful Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – UCKG) are found in Alcântara. According to a 1978 land demarcation act (Ação Discriminatória de Terras Devolutas), which first gave legal shape to locally established land rules, within the area of 50,000 hectares denominated ‘Itamatatiua’ and corresponding to the ‘lands of Santa Teresa’, no resident can sell, buy or demarcate land for private use (Process n. 20003700000079-1). Centro de Cultura Negra do Maranhão (Centre for Black Culture in Maranhão). Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos (Human Rights Society of Maranhão). Círio de Nazaré (The Taper of Our Lady of Nazareth) is one of the largest Catholic celebrations in Brazil, and takes place in the city of Belém, in Pará state. Celebrations start in August and the main procession concludes the festivities on the second Sunday of October (the time frame largely coincides with that of Itamatatiua’s festa). On the agency of objects, see: Berliner 2007; Blanes and Sarró 2015.

References Almeida, A. Berno de. 1996. ‘Quilombos: sematologia face a novas identidades’, in SMDDH, CCNM, AMQF (eds), Frechal: Terra de preto: Quilombo reconhecido como reserva extrativista. São Luís: SMDH-PVN/CCN, pp. 11–19. ______. 2006. Os quilombolas e a base de lançamento de foguetes de Alcântara: Laudo antropológico. Brasilia: MMA. Andrade, M. de Paula. 2006. ‘Quilombolas: Etnicidades emergentes? Subsídios para uma discussão’, Ciências Humanas em Revista 4(1): 49–60. Andrade, M. de Paula, and B. Souza Filho. 2006. Fome de farinha: deslocamento compulsório e insegurança alimentar em Alcântara. São Luís: Editora da Universidade Federal do Maranhão. Arruti, J. 2006. Mocambo: antropologia e história do processo de formação quilombola. Bauru: Edusc. ______. 2009. ‘Quilombos: Objeto aberto’, Revista Jangwa Pana 8(1): 102–21. ______. 2016. ‘Entre campo e cidade: Quilombos, hibridismos conceituais e vetores de urbanização’, in O. Martins de Oliveira (ed.), Direitos quilombolas &


Katerina Hatzikidi

dever de Estado em 25 anos da Constituição Federal de 1988. Rio de Janeiro: ABA, pp. 241–54. Berliner, D. 2007. ‘When the Object of Transmission is Not an Object: A West African Example (Guinea-Conakry)’, Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics 51: 87–97. Blanes, R. Llera, and R. Sarró. 2015. ‘Geração, presença e memória: A igreja Tocoísta em Angola’, Etnográfica 19(1): 169–87. Boyer, V. 2002. ‘Quilombolas et évangéliques: une incompatibilité identitaire? Réflexions à partir d’une étude de cas en Amazonie brésilienne’, Journal de la société des américanistes 88: 159–78. ______. 2016. ‘A comunidade católica e a congregação evangélica: Duas interpretações de um mesmo modelo sócio religioso’, Tempo da Ciência 23(45): 27–37. Braga, Y. Rosendo de Oliveira. 2011. ‘Território étnico: conflitos territoriais em Alcântara, Maranhão’. MA dissertation. São José dos Campos: University of Vale do Paraíba. Burdick, J. 1993. Looking for God in Brazil: The Progressive Catholic Church in Urban Brazil’s Religious Arena. Berkeley: University of California Press. ______. 1998. Blessed Anastácia: Women, Race, and Popular Christianity in Brazil. New York: Routledge. ______. 1999. ‘What is the Colour of the Holy Spirit? Pentecostalism and Black Identity in Brazil’, Latin American Research Review 34(2): 109–31. Caires, D. Rincon. 2012. ‘Entre barões, foguetes e quilombolas: museu casa histórica de Alcântara e a institucionalização de discursos e representações sobre a cidade de Alcântara’, Outros Tempos 9(13): 149–68. Campos, R. Bivar Carneiro. 2011. ‘O profeta, a palavra e a circulação do carisma pentecostal’, Revista de Antropologia USP 54(2): 1013–49. Cannell, F. (ed). 2006. The Anthropology of Christianity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Carney, J. 2004. ‘“With Grains in Her Hair”: Rice in Colonial Brazil’, Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies 25(1): 1–27. Carreira, A. 1988. A Companhia Geral do Grão-Pará e Maranhão: O comércio monopolista Portugal-África-Brasil na segunda metade do século XVIII, Vol. II. Rio de Janeiro: Companhia Editora Nacional, Instituto Nacional do Livro. Christian, W. 1972. Person and God in a Spanish Valley. New York: Seminar Press. Claverie, É. 2008. ‘Religion et politique’, Terrain 51: 4–9. Costa, I. Rodrigues. 2008. ‘CONAQ: Um movimento nacional dos quilombolas’, in Projeto Vida de Negro (eds), Quilombos e Terras de Preto. São Luís: PVN. Cunha, M. do Nascimento. 1999. ‘O crescimento do marketing evangélico no Brasil – resultado da inserção da doutrina neoliberal no discurso religioso das igrejas evangélicas’, Comunicação e Política 2(3): 68–133. Dullo, E. 2013. ‘A produção de subjetividades democráticas e a formação do secular no Brasil a partir da Pedagogia de Paulo Freire’. PhD dissertation. Rio de Janeiro: Museu Nacional, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Engelke, M. 2004. ‘Discontinuity and the Discourse of Conversion’, Journal of Religion in Africa 34(1–2): 82–109.

Defending What Is Ours


Fernández Bravo, Á. 2008. ‘The Dictionary as Inventory: Notes on Luis da Câmara Cascudo’s Dicionário do folklore brasileiro’, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies: Travesia 17(2): 155–65. French, J. Hoffman. 2007. ‘A Tale of Two Priests and Two Struggles: Liberation Theology from Dictatorship to Democracy in the Brazilian Northeast’, The Americas 63(3): 409–43. Gomes, F. de Santos. 2015. Mocambos e quilombos: uma história do campesinato negro no Brasil. São Paulo: Claro Enigma. Hatzikidi, K. 2018. ‘Filhos da terra e filhos da Santa: Manifestações de um território católico quilombola na festa de Santa Teresa’. Special Issue: Dinamismo e criatividade nas ontologias religiosas dos dois lados do Atlântico, Revista Pós – Ciências Sociais 15(30): 29–48. ______. 2019. “‘Ethnic Group” Land Regularization at the Crossroads: Some Notes on the Challenges Faced by Quilombolas in Brazil’, STAIR – St Antony’s International Review 13(1): 154–169. Hertz, R. (1913) 1983. ‘St Besse: A Study of an Alpine Cult’, in S. Wilson (ed.), Saints and Their Cults: Studies in Religious Sociology and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 55–100. Jacob, C., et al. (eds). 2003. Atlas da filiação religiosa e indicadores sociais no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: EdPUC-Rio; São Paulo: Loyola. Latour, B. 2004. ‘From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik – An Introduction to Making Things Public’, in B. Latour and P. Weibel, Making Things Public – Atmospheres of Democracy. Catalogue of the show at ZKM. Cambridge: MIT Press. ______. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Leal, J. 2015. ‘Festivals, Group Making, Remaking and Unmaking’, Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 81(4): 584–99. Lefebvre, H. 2014. Critique of Everyday Life: The One-Volume Edition. London: Verso. Leite, I. Boaventura. 2008. ‘O projeto politico quilombola: desafios, conquistas e impasses atuais’, Estudos Feministas 16(3): 965–77. ______. 2012. ‘The Transhistorical, Juridical-formal and Post-utopian Quilombo’, in J. Gledhill and P. Schell (eds), New Approaches to Resistance in Brazil and Mexico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 250–269. ______. 2015. ‘The Brazilian Quilombo: “Race”, Community and Land in Space and Time’, The Journal of Peasant Studies 42(6): 1225–40. Linhares, L. 1999. ‘Terra de preto, terra de Santíssima: Da desagregação dos engenhos à formação do campesinato e suas novas frentes de luta’. MA dissertation. São Luís: Federal University of Maranhão. Löwy, M. 1996. The War of Gods: Religion and Politics in Latin America. London: Verso. MacClancy, J. 1994. ‘The Construction of Anthropological Genealogies: Robert Hertz, Victor Turner and the Study of Pilgrimage’, JASO 25(1): 31–40. Machado, M. das Dores Campos, and J. Burity. 2014. ‘A ascensão política dos pentecostais no Brasil na avaliação de líberes religiosos’, Revista de Ciências Sociais 57(3): 601–31. Marshall, R. 2008. Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria. Chicago: UCP.


Katerina Hatzikidi

Mattos, H. 2005. ‘Remanescentes de quilombos: Memory of Slavery, Historical Justice, and Citizenship in Contemporary Brazil’, Repairing the Past: Confronting the Legacies of Slavery, Genocide, and Caste. Proceedings of the seventh annual Gilder Lehrman Center International Conference at Yale University. Meyer, B. 1998. ‘“Make a Complete Break with the Past”: Memory and Postcolonial Modernity in Ghanaian Pentecostal Discourse’, in R. Werbner (ed.), Memory and the Postcolony: African Anthropology and the Critique of Power. London: Zed, pp. 182–208. Mitchell, S. 2008. ‘Relaunching Alcântara: Space, Race, Technology, and Inequality in Brazil’. Doctoral thesis. Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago. ______. 2018. Constellations of Inequality: Space, Race, and Utopia in Brazil. Chicago: UCP. Montero, P. 2012. ‘Controvérsias religiosas e esfera pública: repensando as religiões como discurso’, Religião e Sociedade 32(1): 167–83. Montero, P., J.M. Arruti and C. Pompa. 2011. ‘Para uma antropologia do político’, in A.G. Lavalle (ed.), O horizonte da política: Questões emergentes e agenda de pesquisa. São Paulo: UNESP, pp. 145–84. Neuhaus, J. 1992. Doing Well and Doing Good: The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist. New York: Random House. Novak, M. 1982. The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. Lanham, MD: Madison Books. ______. 1993. The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Free Press. O’ Dwyer, E. Cantarino (ed.). 2002. Quilombos: Identidade étnica e territorialidade. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV. Oliveira, O. Martins de, and C. Müller. 2016. ‘Considerações finais. Direitos quilombolas: identidade, práticas culturais e território’, in O. Martins de Oliveira (ed.), Direitos quilombolas y dever de Estado em 25 anos da Constituição Federal de 1988. Rio de Janeiro: ABA, pp. 315–26. Pereira Junior, D. 2009. Quilombos de Alcântara: território e conflito. Intrusamento ao território das comunidades quilombolas de Alcântara pela empresa binacional Alcântara Cyclone Space. Manaus: Editora da Universidade Federal do Amazonas. ______. 2011. ‘Tradição e identidade: A feitura de louça no processo de construção de identidade da comunidade de Itamatatiua, Alcântara – Maranhão’, in C. Carvalho Martins et al. (eds), Insurreição de saberes: Práticas de pesquisa em comunidades tradicionais. Manaus: UEA, pp. 20–52. Robbins, J. (ed.). 2003. ‘The Anthropology of Christianity’. Special issue, Religion 33(3). ______. 2004. ‘The Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity’, Annual Review of Anthropology 33: 117–43. Row, E. 2005. ‘Disrupting the Republic: Santiago, Teresa de Jesús, and the Battle for the Soul of Spain, 1617–1630’. Doctoral thesis. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University. Sá, L. 2007. O pão da terra: propriedade comunal e campesinato livre na Baixada Ocidental maranhense. São Luís: Editora da Universidade Federal do Maranhão.

Defending What Is Ours


Sarró, R. 2009. The Politics of Religious Change on the Upper Guinea Coast: Iconoclasm Done and Undone. London: International African Institute / Edinburgh University Press. Scott, J. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ______. 1990. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Serejo Lopes, D. 2012. ‘A base especial e as comunidades quilombolas de Alcântara’, Anais da 64a Reunião da SBPC. São Luís: Maranhão. Siepierski, P. 1997. ‘Pós-Pentecostalismo e Política no Brasil’, Estudos Teológicos 37(1): 47–61. Souza Filho, B., and M. de Paula Andrade. 2012. ‘Patrimônio imaterial de quilombolas: limites da metodologia de inventário de referências culturais’, Horizontes Antropológicos 18(38): 75–99. Staeheli, L., and D. Mitchell. 2008. The People’s Property? Power, Politics, and the Public. New York: Routledge. Taylor, C. 2002. Black Religious Intellectuals: The Fight for Equality from Jim Crow to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Routledge. Viveiros, J. de. (1950) 1999. Alcântara no seu passado econômico, social e político. Coleção Documentos Maranhenses – 17. São Luís: AML/ALUMAR. Warner, M. 2002. Publics and Counterpublics. Brooklyn, NY: Zone Books.

Chapter 5

Emergent Atlantics

Black Evangelicals’ Quest for a New Moral Geography in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil Bruno Reinhardt

In this chapter, I explore ethnographically how contemporary black evangelicals from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, have produced and reclaimed Atlantic connectivity. These are alternative forms of imagining and embodying African ancestrality in contemporary Brazil that pluralize it from an evangelical perspective. Their final aim is to propose a still inchoate political subject in this country – a racially conscious black ­evangelical – a figure that appears especially unintuitive in a city where blackness has been tightly associated with ‘Black Atlantic’ religions (Matory 2005), such as Candomblé, and where evangelicals have been tagged as intolerant and even racists vis-à-vis the latter (Reinhardt 2007). Conceptually, my analysis relies on David Scott’s approach to the Black Atlantic, not only as a set of empirically traceable transnational flows bridging the Middle Passage, but primarily as a ‘historically extended, socially embodied argument’ (Scott 1999: 10), a discursive tradition (MacIntyre 1984) having ‘Africa’ and ‘slavery’ as foundational matters of concern, sites of self-inquiry and political inquiry. Scott’s argument frees anthropologists from the ‘verificationist’ role (Scott 1999: 107) of authenticating, or not, Atlantic connections. Rather than a stable lieu de memoir (Nora 1989), it recasts this subaltern transnational milieu as a set of disputed and layered moral geographies, corroborating Smith’s claim that ‘ethical deliberation is incomplete without recognition of the geographical dimension of human existence’ (Smith 2000: viii). As such, the Black Atlantic is made up of various circuits of practices, artefacts, Notes for this chapter begin on page 108.

Emergent Atlantics


ideas and agencies, as well as authoritative spatial–temporal frames for their recognition, including their own historicities (Hirsch and Stewart 2005). Although valid for a vast range of cases, I consider this approach especially suitable for my research subjects, whose discursive connections with Africa are explicitly emergent, requiring a notion of ‘origins’ that can be traceable ‘as they arise, perform their moral and political work, and, at times, make way for … rival “past-relationships”’ (Palmié 2013: 46). In what follows, I first introduce some of the particularities of the context in which my interlocutors militate. This is vital to understand their ambivalent status as double-members and double-outsiders vis-àvis both the black movement and the evangelical community. I argue that this precarious discursive positioning renders their very existence parrhesiastic (Foucault 2011), an inherently provocative way of being. I address some of the strategies whereby my interlocutors advance what they c­ onsider to be their God-given mission: to interpellate black movement activists as well as evangelicals through a process of mutual problematization. I conclude by revisiting some of the tensions arising from their non-ecumenical breed of pluralism, based upon a notion of religious difference that transcends the culturalist grammar that has dominated academic and political debates around the Black Atlantic.

Blackness and Religion in Salvador: The Black Evangelical Discursive Void A major metropolitan area of north-east Brazil, with a population composed of almost 80 per cent self-defined pretos (blacks) and pardos (mixedrace), Salvador has become widely known in the country and abroad as ‘the Orishas’ city’, the cradle of African spirituality in Brazil. Such identification reflects the influence of multiple flows and counter-flows (Verger 1976; Parés 2013) of enslaved Africans helping to shape the city’s demography and religious and cultural life since the sixteenth century, but also a more recent alignment between these religious traditions and the hegemonic ‘idea of Bahia’ (Pinho 1998) emerging, especially since the second half of the twentieth century. Once despised, repressed and marginalized as a ‘primitive’ residue hindering Brazil’s path towards ‘civilization’, to be tackled by neo-Darwinian strategies of whitening (Santos and Hallewell 2002) and the legal defence of ‘moral order’ against ‘witchcraft’, ‘charlatanism’ and ‘uncivilized habits’ (Maggie 1992), AfroBrazilian religions have been slowly transfigured into ‘a symbol bank of Bahian representational economy’ (Van der Port 2011: 100), where artists,


Bruno Reinhardt

anthropologists, politicians, and tourism agencies, as well as environmental, black, gay and feminist activists, have drawn resources to advance specific versions of Bahian and black identities. In the case of Salvador’s black movement militants, Candomblé figures as a unique source of resistance against white colonial domination as well as a privileged ethico-political resource for cultivating racial consciousness and African ancestrality in the contemporary  – a discourse that reverberates also at a national level. According to an article published in the journal of the Movimento Negro Unificado (MNU), Brazil’s most far-reaching contemporary black movement association (Covin 2006), ‘Religions of African origin in our country, particularly Candomblé, always fulfilled a major role in the affirmation of the black person and of African culture, representing a source of resistance to the dominant ideology and culture, an alternative to existing powers’ (Siqueira 1989: 9). The notion that ‘the black man finds in Candomblé’ an ‘apex of identification’ (ibid.) with his or her African origins has been strategic to the establishment of Salvador as a major node of Afro-Atlantic connectivity in Brazil, with a transnational vitality that reaches the contemporary (Dawson 2014). Albeit certainly socially and politically productive, this countercultural discourse has unfolded in Salvador not beyond, but amidst, complex overarching processes of aestheticization, commodification and heritagization advanced by the state, the market, NGOs and civil society (Collins 2015). One of its effects has been a visible inflation and, at times, reification of the relation between blackness and Afro-Brazilian religions. How to account, for instance, for the fact that fewer than fifty thousand ­individuals, out of a population of more than three million, declared themselves Candomblé affiliates in the 2010 census, almost half of whom were self-defined whites?1 One of the possible causes for such disparate configuration is the culturalist bias of Brazil’s black movement at large (Hanchard 1994), which has often grounded blackness in cultural practices – including those associated with Candomblé  – highly porous to hegemonic appropriations from Brazil’s mestiçagem national paradigm, both domestically and internationally (Cesarino 2017). This has rendered these symbolic resources ‘precarious, often fleeting, organizational reservoirs for leadership as well as collective development’ (Hanchard 1994: 83). Despite the recent crisis of the mestiçagem discourse in Brazil, caused by growing demands for multiculturalist inclusion and a juridical apparatus more responsive to the question of reparation, affirmative action and racism (Htun 2004), to walk the thin cultural line between blackness and nationess remains a challenge for the black movement.

Emergent Atlantics


According to Sansone, young black movement activists from Salvador align themselves with Candomblé ‘diacritically more as a symbol of blackness than for its religious and healing properties’ (Sansone 2006: 99). Selka remarks: ‘In Brazil, where racial and ethnic boundaries are porous and racial classification is flexible, the negotiability of racial identity makes mobilization on the basis of a clear-cut black identity rather difficult. Accordingly, activists focus on establishing a categorical black identity, often drawing on images from Candomblé’ (Selka 2005: 76). Whereas Candomblé’s capacity to oscillate between religion and culture facilitates its discursive currency among self-defined Catholic and nonreligious black subjects, its monopoly over blackness in Salvador has also alienated large sectors of the population, especially those unable to make similar hybridizations such as the evangelicals, who represent, according to the 2010 census, more than 25 per cent of the city’s religious field. Different factors have indeed contributed to open antagonism between the black movement and evangelical Christianity in the city. First, many activists have paralleled mestiçagem and syncretism as assimilationist dispositives, and rejected Christianity in general because of its historical links to slavery. Second, evangelicalism is regarded as a path to assimilation into ‘white culture’, its universalism and individualism contrasting with Afro-Brazilian religion’s ethnic and familial social formations, which resonate more closely with a racial grammar that requires ethnic markers to become socially operational. Third, large sections of the evangelical community explicitly demonize African spiritual agents, including cultural artefacts inspired by these traditions (food, monuments, sartorial styles, music genres, dances), which have become the foci of multiple controversies over the past decades (Reinhardt 2007; Sansi 2007). Given the close association between Candomblé, African heritage, and black resistance in this city, it has been common to equate evangelicals’ ­religious intolerance with racism. Actively broadcasted in the public sphere, tensions between evangelicals and Afro-Brazilian religions in Salvador have produced an enormous discursive void between blackness and evangelicalism, thus rendering invisible the massive numbers of black citizens taking part in this religious movement. Dealing with this issue in Southern Brazil, Burdick argues that ‘as pubic discussion of racial politics and affirmative action heats up in Brazil, it becomes increasingly important to ask what black evangelical protestants have to contribute to the debate. Evangelical Protestantism is Brazil’s fastest-growing religion, has a disproportionately large membership of self-identified negros, and exercises broad cultural influence in Brazilian society’ (Burdick 2005: 149). In an early article reflecting on the vast evangelical ‘lost constituency’ of the Brazilian black


Bruno Reinhardt

movement, he argues that ‘far from being a simple corrosive of black identity or antiracist sentiment, Pentecostalism can and does in various ways articulate elements of both these agendas’ (Burdick 1998: 145). It is important to underline that Burdick’s ‘lost constituency’ is both an actual and virtual group, since the question at stake here is not whether evangelicalism has empowered black subjects, but how it does so, and whether blackness is part of this process. This is where we find the singularity of the two civil associations I have been following in my recent fieldwork in Salvador: the Coletivo Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK Jr. Collective) and Cuxi. These recently founded black movement groups, composed of men and women coming from multiple evangelical denominations with Pentecostal influences, display an intersectional drive to problematize both the evangelical community and the black movement. They do not feel represented, for instance, by MONEBA (the Black Evangelical Movement of Bahia), an older association with apparently similar purposes, founded in 1999. MONEBA’s mission is to voice out black evangelicals’ existence in the public sphere, thus challenging Candomblé’s monopoly over blackness in Bahia. However, this organization also embraces an oppositional approach to religion and race rejected by the two groups I have been working with. This is testified by the speech of Reginaldo Germano, a pastor connected to the Universal Church of God, uttered during one of this organization’s meetings: The creation of this movement shows that black people who want to serve God through the church have no longer reasons to believe that they must belong to religions of African origins to do so. No. We are free. And this happened not in 1888 [the end of slavery in Brazil], but when we met Jesus. In 1888 we remained enslaved. Since the moment we met Jesus we were set free, and Bahia created MONEBA.

His comment is certainly about empowerment, but it is also a classic example of how evangelicals’ focus on the temporal discontinuity of conversion as spiritual rebirth (Robbins 2007) can indeed entirely absorb racial difference within religious difference, preventing more intersectional racial identification. MONEBA, in this sense, seems to be more concerned with countering the hegemonic black movement than with promoting race awareness among evangelicals. As a reflex, their emic definition of Christianity (Garriott and O’Neill 2008) remains largely colour blind. My interlocutors’ strategy is distinctive. They would argue that Christ has certainly empowered them through conversion, but they would also claim that Brazil’s black citizens in general have never been liberated, not even in 1888, given their continuous marginalization through

Emergent Atlantics


racism, white privilege, police violence, and precarious access to education, health and the judicial apparatus (see Amparo 2018). As black evangelicals, they consider themselves a minority in a threefold sense: within Brazil as black citizens; within their own churches as racially conscious black Christians; and within the black movement, which often embraces a notion of blackness that excludes evangelicals. Their project of mutual problematization of blackness and evangelicalism is condensed by a prayer led by Ivone, one of Cuxi’s leaders, after one of their meetings held at her charismatically renewed Baptist Church: This is Romans 12.2: ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. I am on a journey without return. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me your Word, which reveals my status as a black woman and your servant in a racist society. Thank you, because you don’t let me ignore so much violence, the slaughtering of women in this country, in their majority black, with low education and working in the informal market. Thank you for keeping me sensitive to the extermination of the black youth. Thank you, Lord, because I can season and enlighten the world through my speech. Thank you for leading me to justice, for love of your name. Thank you for having chosen me still in my mother’s womb for missionary work. Thank you because it was through the reading of the Bible and books by Frantz Fanon, Bell Hooks, Lélia Gonzalez, Luther King Jr., Kabengele Munanga, and Abdias do Nascimento that my character has been shaped. Thank you, Lord, because I am on a journey with no return. Thank you, Lord, because on this journey I am not alone: your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Thank you, Lord, because I can hear your voice saying: Do not fear, because I am with you. Thank you, Lord Jesus, because I follow your road and on your road there’s only one signpost: go on.

According to Ivone, conversion is a ‘renewal of the mind’, which both unveils racial injustice and provides resources to tackle it. Her submission to Christ as ‘Lord and personal saviour’ makes room for a kind of pluralism that visibly lacks in Germano, to the point of introducing in her thanksgiving prayer – performed according to the conventional evangelical script – a number of Black Atlantic thinkers and activists who have shaped her Christian character along and, as I will argue later, through the Word of God. Ivone was born in the poor black neighbourhood of Cosme de Farias, and was raised by a single mother, who still works as a maid. As most black evangelical activists I engaged with, she started developing racial consciousness before conversion, by becoming aware of everyday racism. At that time, her initial response was to align herself ethnically with African ancestrality. She started growing an ‘Afro hair’ and became engaged with what she called ‘Afro culture’, which included


Bruno Reinhardt

learning the dances of the Orishas, although she was never affiliated to a Candomblé terreiro (temple). Ivone held on to this cultural sensibility after being born-again, and literally converted it according to what she calls a ‘diasporic’ Christian grammar. She nurtured her leadership skills both in church, as a lay leader, and through political activities in the secular world. She attended a Baptist seminary for four years, but also pursued a secular degree in history, having written a monograph about the history of Protestantism in Bahia. She also started working in Salvador’s city administration as a social worker, mostly with vulnerable black youth. After noticing the lack of an environment conducive for her ideas to flourish, both amidst evangelical churches and the black movement, Ivone founded Cuxi along with a number of other black female evangelicals from various churches. Similar to Ivone, all my interlocutors engage with race primarily as a socio-political marker shaped in opposition to racism, which, after all, affects Salvador’s black population regardless of their religious or cultural adhesions. This naturally leads them into a specific kind of ­religious pluralism, which I consider irreducible to secular liberal ‘tolerance’ or ‘ecumenism’, often based upon a weak approach to religious difference as comprising a ‘diversity of beliefs’ about the same God (Asad 1993).2 Conversely, Ivone made sure to qualify her evangelicalism as an ‘untouchable’ component of her ethics and politics, and underlined her commitment to Christ’s singular soteriological role: ‘I’ve been born-again for more than twenty-five years. I believe only Jesus Christ can save, but I respect your choices. I cannot see myself in any other religious segment, only here, worshiping the Lord, invoking his name, singing, praying, carrying my Bible in one hand and my tithes in the other. That’s untouchable’. Indeed, all my interlocutors made sure to highlight that, despite their intersectional disposition to engage politically with other black citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, they were not ecumenical, thus understanding their political militancy in line with evangelical normativity. A ‘black evangelical’ for them was neither an evangelical who happens to be black, as in Germano’s view, nor a sign of double-filiation, someone who behaves as an evangelical in some contexts and as a black citizen in others. They define a black evangelical as someone who displays an ongoing effort to coordinate Christianity and blackness into a single ethicopolitical disposition. This emergent subject’s very existence in Salvador can only be intrinsically provocative, or parrhesiastic (Foucault 2011), as it interpellates proximate others who lack the symbolic resources to recognize them as such. I elaborate below on some of the strategies whereby they advance this life project while redefying the Black Atlantic through

Emergent Atlantics


an alternative moral geography (Smith 2000), which reshuffles its most conventional articulations between history, place and ethics in Salvador.

Centrifugal and Centripetal Missionization As argued earlier, members of Cuxi and the MLK Jr. Collective struggle in their everyday lives to coordinate a twofold, mutually reinforcing existential status as black and evangelical. This is reflected exemplarily by their leaders when they recognize themselves as ‘missionaries’, giving a religious underpinning to their political activities, which they understand as a divinely appointed calling. Indeed, I believe the notion of ‘mission’ best defines these groups’ strategic intervention in Salvador, whose interpellative strategies comprise both centrifugal and centripetal trends. By centrifugal missionization I mean these missionaries’ engagement with non-Christian sections of the black movement, and with society at large. Since most of them were involved in political militancy before conversion, they often use these previously honed skills and networks to advance their black evangelical mission. These include organizing rallies around pressing issues, such as police brutality, public conferences and workshops in which they problematize black identity in Brazil, and applying for state funding from the Ministry of Culture or the Secretary for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPIR), to promote their views. These intersectional strategies have born fruits. In 2014, The MLK Jr. Collective, for instance, was able to weave a broad alliance between evangelical and non-evangelical politicians in the state’s House of Representatives in order to establish 4 April as ‘Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’ Day in Bahia, when they organize a large walkout and other events. The collective has also received funding from SEPIR to promote awareness about the American civil rights movement in public schools. Jocélio, one of the collective’s main organizers, recognized the historical importance of Candomblé terreiros for black resistance in the city, which he did in his own style, by quoting the Bible by heart: ‘We must honour our predecessors. Terreiros have done much for the black population in Salvador. This is prescribed by Paul in Romans 13.7: “Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour”’. As a black movement activist since his youth, Jocélio was constantly in Candomblé terreiros, although he was never initiated: ‘There’s also a history in my family. One of my aunts was an ialorixá [priestess]. But I had an encounter with Jesus. When I left this space, the world, and I met the gospel, there was a huge difference between what I was and what I am today’.


Bruno Reinhardt

Today, Jocélio militates for a more inclusive archive of African ancestrality in Salvador, finding the dominant focus on African religions anachronistic and disconnected from the reality of most black Brazilians and contemporary Africans. The collective finds in the figure of Martin Luther King Jr. an exemplary type for their members, as well as a suitable mediator of Afro-Atlantic connectivity, since it is plastic enough to generate consensus amongst non-evangelical militants while still underscoring the historical importance of evangelicalism in their shared struggle. Despite cases of consensus, black evangelical associations are likely to operate in Salvador’s public sphere mostly as agents provocateurs, raising their voices during black movement walkouts and conferences to counter their tight articulation between traditional African spirituality and blackness, or generalist comments about evangelical intolerance. They admit that intolerance and racism exist within Christian circles, but also reverse these accusations by calling attention to how intolerance against evangelicals has been invisibilized in Salvador, or to how black movement meetings in Salvador, even when financed by the secular state, are opened by prayers and libations to the Orisha Exú, which they deem to be an offence to their religious freedom. By centripetal missionization, I mean these missionaries’ interpellation of their evangelical peers, black or otherwise, since they do not embrace the project of a black church as either desirable or feasible in Brazil. The MLK Jr. Collective organizes workshops about African history addressed to pastors, aimed at countering racist sensibilities about Africa and outdated representations of this continent’s religious field. Cuxi has received state funding from SEPIR to organize workshops for evangelical ­educators about the federal Law 10.639, which prescribes the teaching of African history in public schools. The emphasis, set by the state’s pedagogical materials on African religions, has met resistance from evangelical teachers nationwide, which Cuxi members address and negotiate while persuading them to submit to their legal duties. Centripetal strategies are also directly concerned with fostering a more self-critical Christianity by calling attention to the racism affecting the body of Christ. According to pastor Leandro, a member of the collective, who leads an Assemblies of God temple in the peripheral neighbourhood of Caixa D’Água: The church is not the world, but people bring the world to church with them, so society contaminates the church. Racism is strong in Brazil, both inside and outside the churches. Sometimes you have congregations in which 80 per cent are black, but the pastors, their assistants, the deacons, are all white men. Why so? Is this biblical? Are they following Paul’s precepts to choose these people? There are also more nuanced cases. When the white sister prophecies, she is

Emergent Atlantics


always ‘a blessing’, a ‘delicate vessel’. When it is a black sister, she is ‘a woman of fire’. The idea of strength is always attributed to the black person. Not so much in terms of sensuality, which evangelicals tend to control, but in the spiritual field. In the world, it’s always about the body, the voluptuous forms of the black woman. In church, it’s her ‘spiritual strength’. She prays more, more fervently, but does not have the capacity to preach from the Word. She’s simply led by the Spirit. Black believers also embrace these human prejudices.

It is interesting to note how the pastor’s very sensibility to racism is embedded in his evangelicalism. Some of its more nuanced aspects, such as his awareness about gender  – and race-biased notions of spiritual power – are hardly accessible directly by those who, like myself, do not share his faith. I believe it is this visceral and immanent appraisal of reflexivity and argumentation that leads David Scott (1999) to reframe the Black Atlantic according to MacIntyre’s (1984) notion of tradition. It is one of MacIntyre’s basic points that reflexivity should be taken as a normative component of ethical traditions, since ‘what constitutes a t­radition is a conflict of interpretations of that tradition, a conflict which itself has a history susceptible [to] rival interpretations. If I am a Jew, I have to recognize that the tradition of Judaism is partly constituted by a continuous argument over what it means to be a Jew’ (MacIntyre 1977: 460–61). This works as a counter-point to Enlightenment notions of criticism predicated on ‘impartiality’, on abstaining from belonging through the ahistorical standpoint of impersonal Reason.3 Criticism, for MacIntyre and Scott, should be taken as a modality of belonging, as long as we consider traditions not simply as ‘identities’ to be policed in their consensual borders, but as shared modalities of both being and inquiring. I am arguing that, in the case of my interlocutors, this process of performing belonging through criticism is twofold: they interpellate the black movement by asking ‘what it means to be a black person’, and interpellate their religious peers by asking ‘what it means to be an evangelical and a black evangelical’. A major tool of criticism they deploy in the latter case is biblical hermeneutics, so members from both Cuxi and the collective dedicate much of their time to organizing Bible reading groups concerned with finding the black person in their sacred book. At a more personal level, these reading groups are about textualizing their dual status through ‘citationality’ (Hollywood 2002; Mahmood 2005), a pedagogical process of self-­recognition that they perform, for instance, through analogies between African and Jewish experiences of slavery and diaspora, or through ­typological engagement with particular black biblical characters or groups. The name Cuxi, for instance, was inspired by the Cush tribe, a black nation descending from the eldest son of Ham, Noah’s son, whose curse was strategic for legitimizing slavery in Western Christian circles


Bruno Reinhardt

for centuries (Goldenberg 2017). By defining themselves as contemporary ‘cushites’, Cuxi members reclaim African roots and provocatively ­counter racist theological frames. It is important to underline that, for evangelicals, the Bible is a historical record that carries the imprint of God’s sovereign will, their hermeneutics being irreducible to secular oppositions between ‘literalist’ and ‘symbolic’ (Harding 1994). The Bible for my interlocutors is therefore an authoritative source for reshaping the Black Atlantic archive, one that that circumvents, like the American civil rights movement or contemporary Africa, references to traditional African spirituality. During the Bible reading meetings I attended, they displayed a keen interest, especially in Ethiopia and Egypt as black civilizational roots. Similar to analogies with Jewish history, such focus on precolonial African empires has a long history among diasporic and pan-African movements (Obenga 1973; Chireau and Deutsch 2000). Besides operating as tools for theopolitical reflexivity, Bible reading groups are also about increasing their participants’ power of persuasion vis-à-vis less racially conscious evangelicals. I was told multiple times that you cannot persuade an evangelical if you are unable to make your political point biblically sound. Before changing evangelical mind-sets and sensibilities concerning race and racism, they must first be ‘broken down with the Bible’ (quebrados na Bíblia), which is used as a tool of problematization. Cuxi member Jaqueline, a lay leader at the Pentecostal denomination Igreja Internacional da Graça, exemplified one of these encounters: Talking with a brother after Sunday service, I identified myself as Queen Candace. Why did I do that? This person immediately reprehended me: ‘Sister, take heed to the Word, because our queen is Esther’. He even told me to read the Bible more carefully, and cited Acts 10:26, on Philip and the eunuch. So I decided to reflect upon the text he quoted. I explained that the eunuch was a high officer of Queen Candace. He worked for a prosperous nation that had as their queen a woman: Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. I also talked about the meeting of King Solomon with the Queen of Sheba: another black woman who governed over a great black nation, according to 1 Kings 10. Even after that, this brother told me: ‘This people was not chosen by God’. So I answered that I was not a Jew and, as a black evangelical woman, I know my ancestrality, just like the Jews knows theirs. I also told him that a black evangelical man like him should seek his ancestrality and do some research on Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya and Sudan. Those are all blessed lands in the Bible. In sum, he told me to stop that conversation and talk about Jesus instead. But that’s biblical! It’s all about Jesus [laughter]. People think that nobody had heard about Jesus in Africa before white missionaries arrived. They don’t know that Christianity was also born in Africa and that Africa today is one of the most Christian continents.

Emergent Atlantics


Jaqueline’s ironic tone exemplifies what I earlier called the parrhesiastic disposition of this evangelical subgroup, whose lifestyle, like that of the ancient Cynics or the early apostles invoked by Foucault (2011), merge the testimonial interpellation of others and ethical self-fashioning into a single disposition: a provocative lifestyle against established sensibilities. Her irony is certainly not about the subject of their debate, which she takes profoundly seriously, but about the insurmountable series of misrecognitions she attempts to trespass without success. She engaged with this task, nevertheless, by conveying her political view through a competent enactment of evangelicalism: by citing, expanding and debating biblical history. This is ultimately Jacqueline’s very centripetal missionization at work, and she believes she had at least planted a seed of discomfort in her fellow believer’s heart, ‘God willing’. A final strategy of interpellation I would like to mention concerns ­aesthetics, which assumes both centrifugal and centripetal forms. The politics of reclaiming African ancestrality is one of showing and performing belonging, thus bringing to the fore the aesthetical dimension of both politics (Rancière 2004) and religion (Meyer 2009), while debating its boundaries. As I argued above, it is indeed Candomblé’s capacity to articulate blackness and ethnicity much more sensorially than evangelicalism that makes it such a dominant mediator of African ancestrality in Salvador. Evangelicals’ spiritual aversion to statues, beads, Africa headbands and drums further alienate them from this field, and has sparked general doubts in Brazil about their capacity to cultivate black consciousness or dwell in a multiculturalist environment. But this is only half true, since black evangelicals in this country have also displayed a greater degree of cultural plasticity and capacity to incorporate established diacritics of Africanness into their lifestyle. Music is one of these fields. Artists like ‘brother Lázaro’, a founding member of Olodum, a famous African drumming group, have become born-again and have converted their ‘Afro’ musical genres into evangelical praise and worship songs. Burdick (2013) finds a similar phenomenon in southern Brazil concerning hip-hop and samba. Among my interlocutors, the female organization Cuxi sets a much stronger focus on African aesthetics than the mostly male MLK Jr. Collective. They even organize workshops on African wear, where they convey practical knowledge about ‘Afro’ hairstyles and African headbands, encouraging their sisters to follow their path. According to Ivone: We organize a workshop on African headbands here in church. I love to talk about how important it is to embrace your African ancestrality through your


Bruno Reinhardt

hair and your clothes. Do you know why I just interrupted our conversation to answer my cellphone? A friend just arrived from a work trip to Angola and brought a bunch of African fabrics. We’re already planning on who is taking what [laughter]. Since I’m tall and have a big body [corpão], I wear long African dresses. When people from the terreiros see me, they come over and compliment me, my clothes, my big hair, but when they find out I’m a born-again Christian, they run [laughter].

Ivone’s aesthetics works as a double provocation. On the one hand, by wearing clothes often associated with Candomblé terreiros in Salvador during church gatherings, she underlines how whiteness slips into evangelical self-presentation through Western skirts and suits, despite their own claim for non-ethnic universality. In this sense, rather than simply breaking away from Brazil’s culturalist grammar of race, Cuxi members also expand it to new venues, by dressing as black evangelicals. Additionally, their mix of evangelicalism and ‘Afropolitan’ aesthetics (de Witte 2014) lays bare for conventional black movement members the arbitrariness between ethnic blackness and religious adhesion, by embodying this very gap as a living exemplar.

Conclusion: Possible Futures and the Risks of Non-Ecumenical Pluralism Rather than a cultural identity or a set of them, I opted for examining the Black Atlantic in this chapter as a ‘problem space’, a series of ‘conceptual-ideological ensembles, discursive formations, or language games that are generative of objects, and therefore of questions’ (Scott 1999: 8). This position is certainly not essentialist or ahistorical, but neither is it anti-essentialist, an alternative that is eager to historicize answers, but not so much questions, rendering those who embrace it ‘unable to put away or suppress their own desire for mastery, for certainty, for the command of an essential meaning’ (ibid.: 4). By defining the Black Atlantic as an assemblage held together by ethico-political inquiry, Scott (ibid.: 106–28) helps us to understand how it grows through  – rather than despite  – ­scissiparity and mutual criticism. At a scholarly level, this process is reflected by a drive to pluralize Paul Gilroy’s original framework by qualifying the Black Atlantic as also ‘earth-colored’ (Almeida 2004), ‘Latin’ (Dixon and Burdick 2012), ‘trancenational’ (Routon 2006) or ‘prophetic’ (Sarró and Blanes 2009). The same logic of scissiparity affects politicized blackness in Brazil, where black movements have multiplied across the centuries by responding to changing configurations of blackness, whiteness and Brazilianess, and by

Emergent Atlantics


promoting multiple political chemistries between race and class, culture, gender, sexuality and religion. These arrangements have produced their own forms of inclusion and exclusion. Even within the Afro-Brazilian religion’s trend, there are continuous tensions in Salvador between ‘Bantu’ and ‘Yoruba’ affiliates, the former eventually accusing the latter of invisibilizing them through what they deem to be collaborationist ­alliances with white intellectuals and politicians (Capone 2010). Both the aggregating power and scissiparity of blackness as a political mobilizer testify to this category’s modern genealogy, recently revisited by Mbembe, whose origins point to strategies of capitalist accumulation and biopower related to slavery, colonialism and segregation, as well as to the project of embracing this notion affirmatively through various strategies and dispositions, from trauma and resentment to nostalgia, rupture and hope. By operating symbolically as ‘a hyphen, a suspension, a discontinuity’ (Mbembe 2017: 25), ‘Africa’ becomes an open signifier in diaspora, animated by encounters between ‘another’s other’ and ‘others of my kind’ (ibid.: 26). Blackness simultaneously embodies violence and desire for lost filiation and community, which, in my interlocutors’ case, is reflected in an attempt to overlap multiple siblinghoods: ‘in Christ’, ‘in diaspora’ and ‘in Africa’. As I underlined above, these domains of filiation should be taken neither as ‘identities’ nor as the breeding ground of ‘values’ that one can classify as monistic or pluralistic, paramount or supplemental (Robbins 2013). They are visceral differences in being, which can nevertheless dissolve each other, depending on their arrangements. Missionaries from Cuxi and the MLK Jr. Collective are certainly concerned with crafting ‘more multivalent and multidimensional responses that articulate the complexity and diversity of Black practices in the modern and postmodern world’ (West 1990: 105), but they are not exactly ‘black cultural workers’ (ibid.). Even when they embrace blackness through ‘Afro culture’ (cultura afro), their ultimate target is the mutual problematization of the very grammar of race recognition in Brazil, including ‘culture’ itself. I qualified the type of Black Atlantic subject they embody as emergent because it is inchoate, experimental, and intrinsically performative, but also because it addresses the evangelical ‘lost constituency’ of Brazil’s black movement both pragmatically, by providing them with concrete resources in order to emerge as such, and as a pregnant virtuality  – a possible future, a community yet to come, but whose necessity already impinges upon the present. This is important not only because their position counters the large zones of exclusion threatening the reification of blackness around traditional African religions in Brazil, but also because


Bruno Reinhardt

it counters the reification of evangelical spirituality around a political agenda that has increasingly looked less like the American civil rights movement and more like the American religious right. In this sense, as double-members and double-outsiders, my interlocutors use their evangelicalism as a vantage point to problematize the black movement as well as their blackness as a vantage point to problematize evangelicalism, but from within. The ‘from within’ matters greatly: first, because it confers to their criticism evangelical legitimacy, and second, because ‘the idea of interfaith equality might require not the bracketing of religious differences, but their very ethical thematization as a necessary risk’ (Mahmood 2015: 213). The risks embraced by these missionaries’ non-ecumenical pluralism stand out visibly when they thematize a distinct component of evangelical normativity: demonology. This was exemplified by a particular case, evoked during an MLK Jr. Collective meeting with black pastors in the neighbouring town of Simões Filho. One of the local pastors brought up the inter-religious tensions affecting his relationship with a local quilombo or maroon community as they attempted to collaborate on a social project. The community had many evangelical members, but was led by Dona Berna, a watchful Candomblé affiliate: She is even ironic. She’s always saying: ‘I’ll sue you, ok?’; ‘Be careful with what you say and do’; ‘I know you evangelicals are intolerant with black people’. As if I am not black. She always starts these libation prayers right after I arrive. She closes her eyes, and since I know she’s demon possessed, I’m always on guard to use the name of Jesus, because I know the spirits she’s invoking. How am I supposed to react to these things?

Pastor Leandro and Jocélio intervened in different ways. Leandro commented that he had met Berna before, since she is an important leader in Simões Filho, and he had been developing a social project with crack users in this town. There’s also her son, Binho. He’s a great guy. He listens to the Word. Until he started wearing his beads [initiation in Candomblé], he would even pray with us. We have to notice something. In our church services, we learned how to demonize only one group, their group. Alencar, the mayor of Simões Filho, is Kardecist [European spiritualism], you know? But because he is a figure of authority, and white, we would not bother if he closed his eyes and started praying. He is a spirit medium, but you’d not call him demon possessed. Some of the spirits he is dealing with can be exactly the same [as] Berna’s, but his religion was born in Europe. Berna’s position is about affirmation, because she has been discriminated a lot. Not only because she belongs to a terreiro, but because she is a black woman, you understand?

Emergent Atlantics


Jocélio opted for an alternative angle: So, you’re in a quilombo, right? You chose to go there, and they are doing their things. What is your role as a spiritual leader? To respect. This is living with difference, religious freedom. As Christians, we are not trained to be intolerant. We have to listen to them, although we know where the truth is and how demons operate. If you just watch and listen to her, ignore her provocations, you might change her mind-set about evangelicals and, in the end, you might even win a soul for Jesus.

Whereas Leandro addressed the racial sensibility underpinning evangelical demonology in practice, which explains their greater aversion to Candomblé than to Kardecism, Jocélio put demonology in perspective according to another normative component of their faith, the duty to evangelize, by calling attention to how a less reactive attitude can be ­strategic to persuade others about the gospel’s truth. None of these rhetorical strategies denied the reality of demons or abstracted their agency as simply a ‘symbolic’ expression of evil. They criticized evangelical demonology while retaining a robust notion of evangelical difference.4 Generally, my interlocutors’ reactions to demonology issues were aimed at fostering religious conviviality without reducing it to mere tolerance, or religious indifference. They were mostly about increasing evangelicals’ reflexivity about the racialized semiotics of their demonology, defining some sort of Christian decorum able to make encounters with other religions possible (violence being defined as ‘unchristian’, and aggressive evangelism as unproductive), and by emphasizing how holiness and spiritual empowerment can at least seal Christians from demonic attacks. All these critical procedures are immanent (Ahmad 2011; Reinhardt 2016) to evangelicalism, and are aimed at facilitating forms of social exchange with non-Christians that do not require the denial, abstraction or sublimation of demonic agency. These solutions are admittedly shaky and experimental. But I believe they address a question that will probably shape the future of Brazil as it goes through a paradigmatic change in race ideology amidst an evangelical revival: is it possible to foster a concrete space of conviviality where the common plight of black subjects, currently alienated from each other because of religious differences, can become a generative space for nurturing black siblinghood? By asking this question in public, their emergent project becomes a strategic one.


Bruno Reinhardt

Bruno Reinhardt is Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. He has conducted fieldwork in Brazil and Ghana among practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions and Pentecostal Christians. He is author of Espelho ante Espelho: a Troca e a Guerra entre o Neopentecostalismo e os Cultos Afro-Brasileiros em Salvador (Attar/Pronex, 2007), and has published articles in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Anthropological Theory, Journal of Religion in Africa and Social Analysis, among others.

Notes 1. See, last accessed on 15 May 2016. 2. Asad argues that the notion of religion as ‘belief’ is embedded in a secular missionary standpoint: ‘The missionary cannot re-form people unless they are persuaded that the formal ways they live their life are accidental to their being, channels for which other channels can be substituted without loss. And thus, from one religion to another, or from living religiously to living secularly’ (Asad 2001: 216–17). 3. See Reinhardt (2016) for a similar approach to the question of material religion among Ghanaian Pentecostals. 4. For similar modes of inter-religious interaction among evangelical acarajé traders in Salvador, see Reinhardt 2018.

References Ahmad, I. 2011. ‘Immanent Critique and Islam: Anthropological Reflections’, Anthropological Theory 11(1): 107–32. Almeida, M.V. 2004. An Earth-Colored Sea: ‘Race’, Culture and the Politics of Identity in the Post-Colonial Portuguese-Speaking World. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Amparo, J. 2018. The Anti-Black City: Police Terror and Black Urban Life in Brazil. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Asad, T. 1993. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ______. 2001. ‘Reading a Modern Classic: W.C. Smith’s “The Meaning and End of Religion”’, History of Religions 40(3): 205–22. Burdick, J. 1998. ‘The Lost Constituency of Brazil’s Black Movements’, Latin American Perspectives 25(1): 136–55. ______. 2005. ‘Why Is the Black Evangelical Movement Growing in Brazil?’, Journal of Latin American Studies 37(2): 311–32. ______. 2013. The Color of Sound: Race, Religion, and Music in Brazil. New York: NYU Press. Capone, S. 2010. Searching for Africa in Brazil: Power and Tradition in Candomblé. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Cesarino, L. 2017. ‘Anthropology and the South–South Encounter: On ‘Culture’ in Brazil–Africa Relations’, American Anthropologist 119: 333–41.

Emergent Atlantics


Chireau, Y., and N. Deutsch (eds). 2000. Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press. Collins, J. 2015. Revolt of the Saints: Memory and Redemption in the Twilight of Brazilian Racial Democracy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Covin, D. 2006.The Unified Black Movement in Brazil: 1978–2002. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. Dawson, A. 2014. In Light of Africa: Globalizing Blackness in Northeast Brazil. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Dixon, K., and J. Burdick (eds). 2012. Comparative Perspectives on Afro-Latin America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Foucault, M. 2011. The Courage of Truth. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Garriott, W., and K. O’Neill. 2008. ‘Who is a Christian?’, Anthropological Theory 8(4): 381–98. Goldenberg, D.M. 2017. Black and Slave: The Origins and History of the Curse of Ham. Berlin: De Gruyter. Hanchard, M. 1994. Orpheus and Power: The Movimento Negro of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil, 1945–1988. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Harding, S. 1994. ‘Imagining the Last Days: The Politics of Apocalyptic Language’, Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 48(3): 14–44. Hirsch, E, and C. Stewart. 2005. ‘Introduction: Ethnographies of Historicity’, History and Anthropology 16(3): 261–274. Hollywood, A. 2002. ‘Performativity, Citationality, Ritualization’, History of Religions 42(2): 93–115. Htun, M. 2004. ‘From “Racial Democracy” to Affirmative Action: Changing State Policy on Race in Brazil’, Latin American Research Review 39(1): 60–89. MacIntyre, A. 1977. ‘Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative, and the Philosophy of Science’, The Monist 60: 453–72. ______. 1984. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Maggie, Y. 1992. Medo de Feitiço: Relações entre Magia e Poder no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional. Mahmood, S. 2005. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ______. 2015. Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Matory, J.L. 2005. Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Mbembe, A. 2017. Critique of Black Reason. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Meyer, B. (ed.). 2009. Aesthetic Formations: Media, Religion, and the Senses. London: Palgrave. Nora, P. 1989. ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire’, Representations 26: 7–24. Obenga, T. 1973. L’Afrique dans l’Antiquité: Égypte Pharaonique, Afrique Noire. Paris: Présence Africaine. Palmié, S. 2013. The Cooking of History: How Not to Study Afro-Cuban Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Bruno Reinhardt

Parés, L.N. 2013. The Formation of Candomblé: Vodun History and Ritual in Brazil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Pinho, O. 1998. ‘A Bahia no Fundamental: Notas para uma Interpretação Do Discurso Ideológico Da Baianidade’, Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais 13(36): 109–20. Rancière, J. 2004. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. New York: Continuum. Reinhardt, B. 2007. Espelho ante Espelho: a Troca e a Guerra entre o Neopentecostalismo e os Cultos Afro-Brasileiros em Salvador. São Paulo: CNPq/ Pronex/Attar Editorial. ______. 2016. ‘“Don’t Make It a Doctrine”: Material Religion, Transcendence, Critique’, Anthropological Theory 16(1): 75–97. ______. 2018. ‘Intangible Heritage, Tangible Controversies: The Baiana and the Acarajé as Boundary-Objects in Contemporary Brazil’, in B. Meyer and M. Van de Port (eds), Sense and Essence: Religion, Heritage and the Politics of Authentication. New York: Berghahn Books, pp. 75–108. Robbins, J. 2007. ‘Continuity Thinking and the Problem of Christian Culture: Belief, Time, and the Anthropology of Christianity’, Current Anthropology 48(1): 5–38. _________. 2013. ‘Monism, Pluralism and the Structure of Value Relations: A Dumontian Contribution to the Contemporary Study of Value’, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3(1): 99–115. Routon, K. 2006. ‘Trance-Nationalism: Religious Imaginaries of Belonging in the Black Atlantic’, Identities 13(3): 483–502. Santos, S.A., and L. Hallewell. 2002. ‘Historical Roots of the “Whitening” of Brazil’, Latin American Perspectives 29(1): 61–82. Sansi, R. 2007. Fetishes and Monuments: Afro-Brazilian Art and Culture in the 20th Century. New York: Berghahn Books. Sansone, L. 2006. Blackness Without Ethnicity: Race and the Construction of Black Identity in Brazil. New York: Palgrave. Sarró, R., and R. Llera Blanes. 2009. ‘Prophetic Diasporas: Moving Religion across the Lusophone Atlantic’, African Diaspora 2: 52–72. Scott, D. 1999. Refashioning Futures: Criticism after Postcoloniality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Selka, S. 2005. ‘Ethnoreligious Identity Politics in Bahia, Brazil’, Latin American Perspectives 140: 72–94. Siqueira, M.L. 1989. ‘O Ser Negro do Candomblé’, Jornal Nacional do Movimento Negro Unificado 16: 9–11. Smith, D. 2000. Moral Geographies: Ethics in a World of Difference. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Van de Port, M. 2011. Ecstatic Encounters: Bahian Candomblé and the Quest for the Really Real. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Verger, P. 1976. Trade Relations between the Bight of Benin and Bahia from the 17th to 19th Century. Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press. West, C. 1990. ‘The New Cultural Politics of Difference’, October 53: 93–109. Witte, M. de. 2014. ‘Heritage, Blackness and Afro-Cool’, African Diaspora 7(2): 260–89.

Chapter 6

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Portugal Claudia Wolff Swatowiski The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) – the Brazilian neoPentecostal denomination that has invested in international expansion, particularly in Portuguese-speaking countries and those with Portuguese migrants – arrived in Portugal in 1989 to what it proudly called a ‘reverse colonization-evangelization’ (Freston 2000).1 Crossing the Atlantic from South to North, the Universal Church ambitiously aimed to recreate the missionary encounter on different terms, from below. But within a few years it faced barriers to its proselytizing and was forced to find ways to respond to its stigmatized and marginal status. Recognizing restrictions that were being imposed on its activity, the denomination invested in the construction of its legitimacy and attempted to redefine its social place. This chapter examines the institutional dynamics of the Universal Church in the Portuguese context, calling attention to efforts by the denomination to approximate itself to dominant values and the local imaginary – whether through the reformulation of its public presentation or through a remission to Catholic references and practices. To do so, I have chosen an analytical route that emphasizes the analysis of plays on language in the broad sense, considering the possibilities of a semiotic investigation of visual elements, linguistic practices and specific vocabularies in their sociocultural dimension (cf. Woolard 1998; Gal 1998). In this process, elements activated by the Universal Church and its religious agents, and by my interlocutors in particular contexts, are examined in their relationship with broader social dynamics. I will Notes for this chapter begin on page 125.


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

begin by briefly reviewing the process of the Universal Church’s insertion in Portugal. Founded in 1977, in Rio de Janeiro, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God inaugurated its first space for worship in Portugal on 18 December 1989, in Lisbon’s Benfica neighbourhood (Martins and Rosa 1996). At that time, the country had many historical Protestant churches, some Pentecostal evangelical churches, such as the Assembly of God, and other Christian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. After a period of repression of different types of worship, with the end of the New State in 1974, these minority religions began to give rise to new religious groups, including the Mormons, which came to Portugal. In the 1980s, the Maná Church [Igreja Maná] appeared, another neo-Pentecostal group that, like Universal, became involved in polemical issues. Upon establishing itself in Portugal, the UCKG soon invested in proselytism in the mass media. It first bought time on radio stations, then, in 1992, it established its own radio stations: Placard, in Porto; Miramar and Audisintra, in Lisbon (Martins and Rosa 1996). In that year, it purchased the former Império movie theatre, a luxurious space on a corner in Lisbon’s traditional Alameda neighbourhood (Farias 1999). This became the headquarters of the denomination in Portugal and provided the church with a magnificent architectural structure that was propitious to the gathering of a large number of people at a good location. The substitution of a traditional leisure space by a place of worship for a Brazilian evangelical church, and in particular for the UCKG, triggered comments, reactions and resistance to the denomination among the Portuguese. After its arrival in Portugal, news reverberated that questioned the Universal Church. Polemics in Brazil crossed the Atlantic and fed the Portuguese imaginary in relation to the Universal Church. The first impressions about the denomination were based on the wide circulation in the media of a variety of charges and accusations. Criticism became stronger when the UCKG reached the north of the country and tried to buy the Coliseum of Porto, in 1995.2 Protests arose against the sale of the location to the denomination, an act considered offensive, given the building’s national cultural importance. With strong support from public figures like artists and politicians, and the Portuguese media, an organized group was able to reverse the sale. A few months later, the UCKG faced opposition once again. The second episode highlighted in the media took place in a commercial centre in Matosinhos (on the outskirts of Porto), where the denomination once again used a former movie theatre as its place of worship. Members of the Universal Church were surrounded and verbally and physically assaulted (Mafra 2002).

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges


The episodes triggered a prolonged offensive against the Universal Church. From 1995 to 1997, many articles and reports questioned the activities and legitimacy of the Universal Church. The intense reaction to the presence of the UCKG in Portugal, an experience similar to that in Brazil, was responded to by the denomination in both countries with theories of persecution (Mafra 2002). According to these theories, the episodes of resistance, defamation and accusations were biblically foreseen ordeals. The UCKG confronted its adversities and continued to announce the opening of new temples, conducting mass events and broadcasting radio and television programmes, in addition to maintaining its own newspaper. In this way, the denomination sought to turn the visibility attained through scandals into positive repercussions. In addition, in this initial period, the UCKG also made strong criticisms of the Catholic Church, establishing a clear opposition to the Roman Catholic tradition. Through the mass media, it made accusations against the church and the clergy, which reverberated against itself. We can say that the first years of the Universal Church’s activities in Portugal were marked by tension and intense conflicts and disputes in public spaces. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that the presence of the Universal Church also created an impact on Portuguese society and triggered a debate about the ‘Catholic tradition’ and the recurring discriminatory treatment of other religions (Mafra 2002). In this sense, Mafra emphasized the social role of the UCKG in increasing the plurality of the Portuguese religious field, which culminated in the Law for Religious Liberty in 2001, a review of the Concordata in 2004, and the consequent expansion of groups that benefited by the new criteria for recognition and action of religious entities.3 However, as we will see below, after resistance from public opinion and increased pressure from local authorities, the Universal Church retreated and revised its position in Portugal. Before we examine this change, I will observe how this initial period of the Universal Church in Portugal left a strong mark on the imaginary of my interlocutors.

Recognizing Narratives The strategies used by the Universal Church upon its arrival in Portugal had some aspects of the denomination gain greater visibility and were marked in the memory of those who accompanied the process, whether closely or at a distance. Considering that all memory is a phenomenon that is constructed consciously or unconsciously, individually and collectively, and results from the organization of ideas, impressions and


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

interpretations, as well as a negotiation of values (Pollak 1992), it is significant that the remembrance of the episodes from twelve years before were very present in the narratives of many of the people I met in Portugal. At the same time, my interlocutor’s perception of the UCKG was strongly influenced by stereotypical portrayals in the media. Even since I began to study the country’s religious dynamics, without mentioning my interest in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, comments have arisen spontaneously in different contexts from people with various profiles and socio-economic contexts, but most of whom were economically active, middle-class, Portuguese-born Catholics, although generally not practising. The Universal Church appeared to be a mandatory subject in a conversation with a Brazilian anthropologist interested in studying religions. My national identity established a tie to the Universal Church and helped to trigger comments about the denomination. In the same way, the mark left by the Universal Church associated to the Brazilian identity was so strong that it clearly ‘contaminated’ other religious groups from Brazil, stimulating comparisons and a lack of trust towards them as well. This situation was not restricted to evangelical groups, but also to other segments – from charismatic groups (cf. Gabriel 2010) to the Messianic Church.4 People I spoke with frequently recollected news about the denomination that had been broadcast on television involving charges of enrichment by its leaders, and statements from people who felt they had been victims of extortion and fooled by the Universal Church. In different ­contexts, my interlocutors questioned two factors: the raising of money and the style of Pentecostal worship. We begin with the latter. The Pentecostal style of worship was highlighted in accusations against the Universal Church. There was perplexity not only in relation to the inflamed tone of voice, characteristic of Pentecostal evangelical preaching in general, but also to the mechanisms of the strong orations conducted in the Universal Church, with its intense participation by the believers. Corporal expressions that marked possession and exorcism reinforced this impression and sparked questioning of the credibility of the ritual, given that it broke with models of corporal practices associated with the dominant religiosity.5 The effervescence of the service is seen as a deviation, not only aesthetically, but also of the person, as it could be a sign of some sort of madness. I emphasize that my interlocutors often mentioned ‘shouting’ as one of the points of antipathy towards the Universal Church. The exaltation of the oration is perceived as an anomaly or deviation – a departure from the individual and sociocultural foundation – in a context where the exercise of religion is directly associated to silence and contained contemplation.

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges


I recall here my experience in Fátima, during the celebrations of the anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary. At that time, the silence practised by the multitude drew my attention. At various times, the silence strongly marked moments in the communication with the transcendent and was identified as a source of sacred experience. In the Catholic dimension, silence, as a sign of respect for the sacred, has important value. In the Sanctuary of Fátima, for example, there are signs that remind the public, in various languages: ‘You are entering a place of pilgrimage. Speak softly’; and ‘Silence. We are Praying’. In a certain way, within the Catholic logic, the sacred involves silence, or at least, an introverted expression of belief. By giving visibility to a style of worship in which vigorous prayers and exorcisms are routinely present in the rituals, the Universal Church is alienating itself from Portuguese society, which is accustomed to the routines of the Catholic Church. Even though there are Pentecostal churches in the country, the Portuguese appear not to be familiar with the style of worship in these denominations, given the description that they offer. In this context, the Universal Church draws attention by breaking this apparently homogenous situation,6 and presenting a style of worship that emphasizes the simultaneity of voices and, at times, an intensity of sounds.

Money Tithing is mandatory in the Universal Church, as it is in most Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal churches. It is God’s money, which the believer must return to him. To tithe also implies demonstrating trust in God. In addition to tithing, other amounts are offered to God with a specific goal. The ritual routine of the denomination includes dynamics in which the believer is encouraged to make his or her offerings at the altar, to achieve retribution proportional to the amount offered. These dynamics, within the logic of the denomination, can be considered opportunities given to the believer so that he or she can establish an advantageous relationship with God: to give what one has, and receive in return what one does not have. In this undertaking, faith  – active faith  – would be the certainty that moves the believer in his act of sacrifice and would guarantee the desired return. It is through ‘active faith’ that the believer is capable of moulding his future and transforming the desire into a consummated fact (Kramer 2001; Swatowiski 2007). According to Edir Macedo, the founder of the Universal Church, to activate faith is to activate the divine power that


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

is capable of destroying evil, promoting transformation in life itself and generating practical results. The exercise of faith is directly associated with action, because one who has faith must practise and demonstrate it. To exercise faith includes sacrifices, ‘a courageous attitude that shows your faith’ (Macedo 1999: 56). Within the perspective of prosperity, faith is the instrument of the believer, and sacrifice – whose most common materialization is the offering of money  – is the first condition for access to the blessings of God. Invested with ritual value, money is the form of sacrifice that places the believer in a cosmic challenge and qualifies him/her to obtain prosperity. In addition to the lack of knowledge of, or a critical interpretation of, the dimension of the ritual use of money, questions arise in relation to the purposes of the collection – suggesting that there is an institutional economic interest behind the ritual strategies. According to my interlocutors, once again, the media appears as the main source of information about the way of life of the representatives of the institution. The promotion – mainly through local television stations – of the abundance of consumer goods possessed by Edir Macedo and the bishops is frequently mentioned. The lack of transparency and the difficult access for researchers and the media to the Universal Church have allowed the accusations to gain strength, and they wind up reinforcing suspicions about the denomination. Some researchers emphasize the corporate structure of the Universal Church (Pierucci and Prandi 1996) and the ‘commercialization of the sacred’ (Oro 1996). Other authors point to an approximation between monetary offers and the logic of modern capitalism upon analysing the insertion of different Pentecostal groups in various contexts (cf. Martin 1995; Ukah 2005). Nevertheless, I agree with Bialecki, Haynes and Robbins (2008) when they write that we should not be limited to a unilateral perspective that emphasizes the presence of a modern capitalist logic among the new Christian groups. They call attention to an anti-modern dimension of Christianity,7 as it is the hierarchical relationship that the believer has with the transcendent, and his dependence on that authority. In the context of the campaigns of the Universal Church, money appears to be inserted in the logic of a gift, as understood by Mauss (1923). As Coleman (2006) indicated, in Pentecostal practices, money assumes the dimension of a present and not a commodity. The offer of money constitutes a practice of externalization of the self (as do words), and because it contains part of the spiritual essence of the donor, it presupposes a return – configuring a new object of universal sacrifice. In a Weberian interpretation, we can say that we live in a world where money and religion occupy differentiated and opposite spheres, as do work and

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges


sex, male and female. The approximation of polarities through events that bring them together is the cause of great estrangement. The delimitation and reification of both poles reinforces the dualism.

Efforts to Reconstruct the Stigmatized Image Since the episode of the Coliseum of Porto, in 1995, the Universal Church began to give signs that it had reconsidered its actions and strategies in Portugal. With its image strongly shaken and struck with a powerful stigma that became reinforced over time, the growth of the denomination was compromised. The Universal Church appeared to be forced to ­reconsider its position to be able to remain and grow in Portugal. In 1996, Portuguese newspapers prominently announced ‘the Universal Church’s new strategies’ (Leite 1996); ‘Universal Led by Portuguese Bishop’ (Azevedo, Rolim and Robalo 1996). The origin of Carlos Alberto Rodrigues, the son of Portuguese immigrants, born in Brazil, but with Portuguese nationality, was emphasized. Carlos Rodrigues came to Brazil to substitute Bishop João Luiz Urbaneja, who for two years had been responsible for Universal’s activities in Portugal.8 The newspaper Público announced that the new bishop ‘sought to introduce a new behaviour in relation to the exterior. In apparent contrast with his predecessor, Carlos Rodrigues displayed a greater tendency for dialogue, [in contrast with] the image of sharp arrogance of João Luís’ (Leite 1996: 2). ‘Appease and Discuss’ would be the grand objective of the new Universal leader in Portugal, who ‘has the sense that they are undergoing a delicate moment’ (Azevedo, Rolim and Robalo 1996). In recent years, significant investments in the reformulation of the image of the denomination have been obvious, as well as an effort to approximate with the universe of meanings and values found in the local context. Through studies conducted not only in Portugal but also in other countries, it is known that the Universal Church is attentive to local references and dynamics, and is disposed to undertake translations, and to a certain point, to incorporate particular symbolisms, as we will see below. Nevertheless, what I will try to emphasize here, through the Portuguese case, is the attention of the denomination to the remodelling of its image in the public sphere. In 2003, the various temples of the Universal Church in Portugal came to be called ‘Spiritual Help Centres’.9 It is interesting to note that the change to this name suggests an attempt to disassociate the image of the denomination from the pretension of being a church, and indicates it is a location for providing spiritual services. We can analyse the bridge that is


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

created with so-called ‘new age’ groups, which use the expression ‘spirituality’ in contrast to religion, which is understood as an institution that proposes doctrinaire adhesion. The new name for the Universal place of worship was also close to the new age context because it suggests a connection between therapy and ‘spirituality’.10 After that, a new change occurred, and since 2013 the word ‘spiritual’ has been removed from the facades, and temples have been renamed ‘Help Centres’, indicating a distancing from the religious dimension and an approximation with the therapeutic dimension, or even social. Nevertheless, the symbol of the Universal Church (a dove inside a red heart) and the slogan ‘Stop Suffering’ continue to be stamped on the signs of the Help Centres. The slogan indicates a direct contrast with Catholicism and other Christian denominations that theologically consider suffering to be an inevitable destiny of sinners. It indicates the possibility of overcoming the causes of different types of suffering, which take place through meetings dedicated to specific purposes. In parallel, the Universal Church chose to rename its services, substituting, for example, the expression ‘prosperity chain’ for ‘financial ­congress’, and more recently for ‘congress for success’. At the same time, the media used by the Universal Church emphasizes lay issues over r­ eligious ones, and the print media developed a new layout, replacing a tabloid graphics style with a more sophisticated look. The changes are significant and lead us to think the UCKG is attempting to distance itself from religious references established in Portugal and a greater approximation with the secular. Recognizing the contemporary trend towards secularization within religions (cf. Oro 1996; HervieuLéger 1999), the Universal Church appears to follow this direction. In addition, the Universal Church’s communication vehicles began to avoid direct attacks on the Catholic Church. In a country where Catholicism is considered a deeply rooted tradition  – although criticism of the church is increasingly present, mainly among the younger generations  – this retreat does not exactly indicate an end to tensions with the dominant religion, but a new posture in relation to the Catholic imaginary. Far from indicating that it has been intimidated by the established religion, it appears to be a new form of relating with the Catholic dimension. In this sense, contrasting references to the Catholic Church continue to be more subtly present in the Folha de Portugal newspaper and occasionally in the words of the pastors in the temples. In one service in the Templo Maior (Grand Temple), in Chelas, Lisbon, on a Sunday in December 2007, Bishop Alfredo Paulo, the leading representative in the hierarchy of the Universal Church in Portugal, spoke about the campaign

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges


to capture funds for the construction of a cathedral for the denomination in Porto. Upon presenting the fundraising goal  – seven million euros  – he compared the amount to the cost of building the Church of the Holy Trinity in Fátima, which cost ninety million euros. In his talk, the bishop made clear his displeasure with the privileges that the Catholic Church enjoyed from the government  – a constant complaint among minority religious groups in Portugal – and also drew a parallel between the plans of the denomination and the new church in Fátima, inaugurated in 2007 to receive thousands of pilgrims.11 The Universal Church’s initiative to build the cathedral in Porto should not only be seen as a necessity because of its expansion plans (given that it had found difficulty in buying new buildings in the larger Portuguese cities), but also as a reform of its strategy to occupy urban space. The project of the Spiritual Help Centre in Porto appears as a type of self-affirmation and consolidation through the insertion in the landscape of a large construction project and in a prominent location. Architecturally, the Spiritual Help Centre is very different from the cathedral built earlier by the Universal Church. It clearly adopted new references. The cathedral in Porto has a contemporary and formal design within a minimalist scope  – while the previous constructions, whether in Brazil or in other countries where the Universal Church had built ­temples – followed a standard that was ‘eclectic with neoclassical references’ (cf. Gomes 2011). When examined in parallel to the description of the activities for which the Spiritual Help Centre is destined, the new architectural references adopted for this project suggest a new presentation by the Universal Church in Portugal. The website ‘Conte Comigo’ (Count on Me), designed for promoting the project and raising funds, reads ‘Created to serve and help a variety of people and to solve their problems, this Centre will offer talks, group therapy, seminars and personal, professional, emotional and family counselling’. The project of the Spiritual Help Centre thus seems to ratify a new presentation and also a new position of the Universal Church, which is more discrete in its action, with fewer contrasts and less tension with the hegemonic, although more competitive. The renovation of strategies adopted by the denomination for insertion in public space in Portugal indicates a greater flexibility in the Universal Church’s form of presentation. It suggests an attempt at a definitive distancing from the traditional local Catholic reference, according to which the temple is a space for contemplation and devotion, by proposing the concept of an environment for worship as a place for services, therapies, counselling and self-help. While the shift is significant, it must be seen not only as a conceptual or


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

architectural option, but also as a possibility for a legal insertion in the gaps of Portuguese law. According to an article published by the weekly magazine Visão (Fillol and Loureiro 2009), which circulates widely in Portugal, the Spiritual Help Centre of Porto was approved by the Porto municipal government as a service building, and more specifically as a place for congresses. According to the article, the design was first presented by a real estate company. It was later purchased by Portuguese and Brazilian investors, who conceded the right to use the space to the Universal Church for nineteen years. Beyond the details of the transaction, the situation presented by the article suggested that the building was planned considering the restrictions imposed by local regulatory agencies. Knowing that Universal would encounter restrictions if it filed for permits under the religion category in Portugal, and therefore, to achieve legitimacy – whether legally or in the public sphere, dimensions that are completely intertwined – the reformulation of its presentation in public space must be seen as a result of the search for a solution.

Ambiguity of the Reconstruction We see that the Universal Church has invested in a renovation of its presentation in public space in Portugal. Nevertheless, the construction of a new image does not appear to find significant reverberation. On the one hand, the Universal Church tried to avoid the stigma that impeded its penetration in Portuguese society. On the other, the denomination maintains practices and systems in which the roots of this stigma are supported: the place of money in the cosmology of the Universal Church and the style of worship marked by moments of effervescence. By reformulating its presentation and maintaining its style of worship, cosmology, theology and ritual, the Universal Church has created an ambiguity. Given that style of worship and money are indispensable elements in the neo-Pentecostal dynamic, its effort to create a new presentation has its limits. Universal is not able to free itself of the stigma, which is related to aspects that are constitutive of the very proposal of the denomination. To eliminate them would mean to dissolve itself. In this context, it is important to examine other mechanisms used by the Universal Church in its attempt to facilitate adhesion to the denomination and its ritual practices. As we will see, the use of dominant ­references is important in this process.

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges


Ritual Proposals The Universal Church presents a standardized ritual structure that is organized by different thematic focuses on each day of the week and that is aligned through what it calls currents and campaigns. The currents correspond to uninterrupted participation in a sequence of worship services, on a specific day of the week, according to the intended proposal. The campaigns involve dynamics that transcend the weekly thematic organization. They are periods in which the daily practices gain force when facing specific goals, and in which greater emphasis is given to the notion of sacrifice. Having a theme as its guiding element, the campaigns are moments of greater intensity, when the believer is stimulated to intensify his efforts and his ‘active faith’ in pursuit of a specific conquest that makes the investment worthwhile. It is also in the campaigns that the elements that compose the ritual routine of the Universal Church are submitted to some flexibility as a means of sustaining the institutional structure. This characteristic of the denomination was indicated in a study by Clara Mafra (2002) and by researchers who studied the Universal Church in other countries, such as the Ivory Coast (Dozon 2003), Argentina (Seman 2003), France (Aubrée 2003), Mexico (Doran 2003) and South Africa (Corten 2003). It seems important to me, therefore, to verify in what way new elements are aggregated to the ritual structure of the denomination, what dimension they take on and what they indicate in relation to the ritual dynamics promoted by the Universal Church, specifically in the Portuguese context. During the period in which I accompanied the Universal Church in Portugal, I was impressed by the fact that long walks, such as hikes and climbs, were often part of the ritual agenda of the church. In an environment in which pilgrimage12 has a strong presence in the religious imaginary and where thousands of people conduct annual pilgrimages to Fátima, it is significant that the denomination incorporates in its programme of vigils, fasts and prayer  – which are already common ­practices – trajectories to be crossed by foot. As an indication of continuity and contrast, the term utilized by the Universal Church to refer to the long journeys on foot is ‘caminhada’, or walk. These walks are inserted in the context of the campaigns at moments when the intensity justifies this type of effort. As discussed above, to achieve the pragmatic results desired by the believers, sacrifice – which is expressed by a monetary offering – became necessary. Until the moment of making the sacrifice, through presentation of the offering during the service on a specific date, different


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

dynamics are promoted by the church. During the campaign period  – which is from when the faithful enter their spiritual battle until the realization of the offering  – various ritual elements, objects and practices could be added to this search, such as, in the case in Portugal, the journeys on foot. It is not by chance, that the walks  – which at times are actually climbs – are only taken by the leaders of the Universal Church. It is thus an exemplary sacrifice that winds up, among other things, ­motivating the believers. The Fogueira Santa  – which literally means Holy Fire, but is known as The Campaign of Israel in English  – is marked by the pilgrimage of pastors to Israel and is the Universal Church’s most highly promoted and important campaign. It is usually held twice a year, and its objective is to have the faithful focus on a large goal, which involves a big change in their lives. In the June 2008 trip, Bishop Alfredo Paulo proposed to climb the highest mountain in the country on seven consecutive weeks, ­accompanied by other pastors.13 The experiences of the walks are rationalized and gain equivalence to the efforts of the faithful who, during the same period, make an effort to accumulate the money to be offered. The reports emphasize the difficulty of the undertaking and the need for the exercise of faith to achieve a destiny, overcoming any obstacles on the way. The idea often emphasized is that it is necessary to struggle for the realization of dreams. That is, to reach a desired destiny, it is necessary to have determination, and to remain firm in the face of obstacles that may arise. Above all, it was in the mobilization for the construction of the cathedral in Porto, entitled ‘The Walk of Faith’, that the realization of a long journey gained importance and greater emphasis in the church’s routine. Bishops of the denomination active in Portugal left Lisbon (more precisely, from the Templo Maior in Chelas) and walked to Porto, where the construction was being planned, covering approximately 340 kilometres. During the final nine days of 2007, the small group undertook the walk, with a support car, and stopped at the Universal Church’s places of worship along the way. Here the walk represented sacrifice in support of the ‘concretization of a dream’. During the walk, the bishops prayed for those who had made commitments to support the project and for those who had sent them requests for prayers. The suffering experienced by the pastors and bishops who did the walks – whether climbing the mountain, or on the ‘Walk of Faith’ – were emphasized as a form of empowerment for these leaders. Statements from the religious agents emphasized pain, exhaustion, sore feet and difficulties walking. The experience in the face of obstacles and suffering was compared to the pain of Jesus. The completion of the route imbued

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges


the pastors with extra powers and, in the case of the Walk of Faith, was the reason for the realization of a series of events around the same theme, in which were recalled the power of the pastors as well their ­accomplishment and the purpose of the walk. Although their difficulty was emphasized and rationalized, the walks or climbs did not substitute the principal sacrifice: the monetary one. The faithful accompanied the temples through the narratives of the pastors, phone calls from the walkers that were broadcast during the services, and by Universal’s media. Thus, during their walk, the leaders were accompanied by cameras and by churchgoers. The Walk of Faith was conducted as part of daily activity, in the spiritual battle. The experience of the masses took place through meetings, in which the pastors who remained to conduct the services emphasized another dimension of the walk and sacrifice, to be practised by those present. This was the opportunity for ritual participation. The monetary sacrifice of the faithful became equivalent to the corporal sacrifice of their leaders. It is possible to establish a parallel with the pilgrimages to Fátima, which normally constitute a way to ‘pay back a promise’. In this case the faithful make a contract with Our Lady of Fátima in which a request is made in exchange for a sacrifice. In comparison with the pilgrimage, in which the request is made and after grace is conceded the counter gift is given through the walk, in the campaigns of the Universal Church the sacrifice comes before the concession. The walk or the climb is the result of a promise by the leaders of the denomination to the faithful, who, in turn, realize their contract with God in order to realize their dreams. It is generally to face significant problems that the sacrifice of the long journey by foot is justified, as indicated by Pedro Pereira (2003) in his study about the pilgrimages to Fátima. Promises to Our Lady of Fátima that call for the pilgrimage by foot as a retribution of a gift are generally made with the expectation of the solution of very important problems, which gives the people strong motivation. They pay, with pain, the pain that was impeded or stopped by the saint and the sacrifice that they propose to fulfil is proportional to the request. The counter gift is the demonstration to the world that the divine being is miraculous and the pilgrimage, therefore, winds up being a validation of this power. Analogously, in the Universal Church campaigns, it is the greater difficulties that should be placed in play. One pastor affirmed: ‘If you are one who says: I am at the point that only with God’s help … then for you, only the holy fire of Mt Sinai [The Campaign of Israel].’ If it is possible to trace approximations and to delineate contrasts between the walks conducted by the Universal Church and the pilgrimages to Fátima, it is more important to emphasize the role of these


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

practices in the proposal of the Universal Church. I would say that these approximations assume the role of mediation. They are not central as a ritual element, but they allow greater involvement of the practitioner with the campaigns. They collaborate to ‘awake the faith in people’. They are bridges that establish a connection between dominant local references and the proposal of the denomination.

Final Considerations The Universal Church’s recognition of the stigma that hangs over it implies that it is paying attention to the accusations and making an effort at a consequent repositioning in the public sphere. As in the Brazilian case (Gomes 2009), in Portugal the Universal Church abandoned an ‘agonistic strategy’ for recognition in public space based on a persecutory theory (Mafra 2002), and adopted a ‘strategy of conquest’, to use terms employed by Gomes. To do so, the occupation of the buildings purchased or built is an important element. They are buildings that stand out on the landscape because of their splendour and distinction. Within the search for visibility and credibility, the Universal Church in Portugal has sought – within its conventions and their broadening – elements that allow a positive recognition of the denomination. In the case studied, a revised presentation of the denomination itself is established by changing the name of its places of worship and the style of its printed material – elements that compose its public image. In this effort, the Universal Church opted to present, at least partially, a deinstitutionalized imaginary of religiosity and spirituality. At the same time, more ambiguously, it created bridges with various Catholic references. In this effort for a repositioning in the public sphere, the Universal Church sought to walk from the margin to the centre and to achieve legitimacy on a broader scale, which Goffman (1963) would call the manipulation of the deteriorated identity. At the same time, the Universal Church  – which maintains an institutional, centralized and authoritarian hierarchy (cf. Mafra 2002) and a standardized ritual structure – signals its intention to facilitate the assimilation of its project and adopt elements that create a bridge with the local context. Its practices appear to reveal a strategy of action that recognizes the existence of cultural resistance and a problem with the assimilation of the denomination and its message. Thus, the movement of approximation to new references, and the insertion in its campaigns of themes that are broadly shared by the Portuguese public, help to produce the desired mediation. Given the impossibility of juxtaposition, bridges are created. In this way, the Universal Church finds its strategies to face resistances, and

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges


establishes a network centralized in Brazil, but that spreads ­throughout the Atlantic and beyond. Claudia Wolff Swatowiski is professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Uberlândia, Brazil. She received her PhD in social sciences from the State University of Rio de Janeiro in 2010. Between 2007 and 2008, she was a visiting fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon. She has carried out fieldwork among Pentecostals in different urban contexts in Brazil, Portugal and Angola.

Notes This research was funded by CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Brazil) and FAPERJ (Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).  1. For a discussion about ‘reverse mission’, see Freston 2010.  2. In the same year, in Brazil, there was an episode that became known as the ‘chute na santa’, ‘the kick to the saint’ (Birman 2003). On 12 October 1995, the day of Our Lady Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil, a Universal pastor kicked the image of the saint on a nationally broadcast television programme on Rede Record, to show that the clay image had no sacred value. The scenes were shown repeatedly on Brazil’s leading television network, Rede Globo, and had great national repercussion, causing the denomination to withdrawal from this aggressive position.  3. Since 1940, when the Concordata between Portugal and the Vatican was signed, privileges to the Catholic Church, as the official religion, have been made official. In 2001, the Law for Religious Liberty was approved, which presupposed equal rights for all groups, although it established conditions for recognition of other religions. In 2004, a new Concordata was signed, which revised some factors, such as optional religious teaching in both public and private schools.  4. The Messianic Church, founded in Japan in 1935, reached Brazil in 1955, from where missionaries left for other Portuguese-speaking countries. It is characterized by millenarianism, and since 1977 has activities in Portugal. In 1991 it began work in Angola, and in 2000 reached Mozambique.  5. In a phenomenological approach to processes of cure among charismatics in the United States, Csordas (1994) called attention to the relationship between religious practices and corporal practices. In the case of possession, the author indicted that the manifestation of the devil is identified through specific corporal expressions of one who is possessed, in a performative dimension.  6. It is important to highlight that the apparent Catholic homogeneity is permeated by variations in practices and beliefs in the agency of the supernatural (Mafra 2000), which marks popular Portuguese Catholicism, as indicated by Sanchis (1979, 1983) in his study about pilgrimages.  7. Bialecki, Haynes and Robbins (2008) consider Christianity a heterogeneous analytic object behaving in divergent ways in different communities, both as a modern ­(individualist) and an anti-modern (collective and conservative) force.


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

 8. Carlos Alberto Rodrigues stayed in Portugal for less than one year. After fulfilling his role of calming the polemics over the Universal Church in the media and ending the attacks on the Catholic Church, he returned to Brazil and was substituted by Marcelo Breyner (Rodrigues and Ruuth 1999).  9. The Universal Church adopted this name for its places of worship in many European countries and even in Latin America, indicating a trend that goes beyond the Portuguese context. 10. See, for example, D’Andrea (2000), Hellas and Woodhead (2005), and Maluf (2007). 11. The sanctuary reports that the building, with an 8,600 seating capacity, is not only the largest church in Portugal but in all of Europe. 12. For Vilaça (2008: 55), ‘the pilgrimages have contributed both to the revitalization of the traditional religions and to the reproduction of practices of the faithful as to the expression of an individual and privatized religiosity.’ 13. On the front page of the Folha de Portugal of 8 June 2008, a photo of Pico was placed next to an image of Mt Sinai, indicating the parallel that is established. These climbs were not used to replace the trip to Mt Sinai, but were a form of preparation for a greater sacrifice, given that the trip by a representative of the denomination to Israel – taking with him the names of the believers  – constitutes a closing of the process of sacrifice.

References Azevedo, A., M. Rolim and M. Robalo. 1996. ‘IURD liderada por bispo português’, Expresso, 17 February. Aubrée, M. 2003. ‘Igreja Universal na França’, in A. Corten, J. Dozon and A. Oro (eds), A Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus: os novos conquistadores da fé. São Paulo: Paulinas, pp. 189–96. Bialecki, J., N. Haynes and J. Robbins. 2008. ‘The Anthropology of Christianity’, Religion Compass 2(6): 1139–58. Birman, P. 2003. ‘Imagens religiosas e projetos para o futuro’, in P. Birman (ed.), Religião e espaço público. Brasilia: Attar Editorial/CNPq-Pronex, pp. 235–54. Coleman, S. 2006. ‘Materializing the Self: Words and Gifts in the Construction of the Charismatic Protestant Identity’, in F. Cannell (ed.), The Anthropology of Christianity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 163–84. Corten, A. 2003. ‘A Igreja Universal na África do Sul’, in A. Corten, J. Dozon and A. Oro (eds), A Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus: os novos conquistadores da fé. São Paulo: Paulinas, pp. 137–45. Csordas, T. 1994. The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing. Berkeley: University of California Press. D’Andrea, A. 2000. O self perfeito e a Nova Era: individualismo e reflexividade em religiosidades pós-tradicionais. São Paulo: Edições Loyola. Doran, M.C. 2003. ‘A Igreja Universal no México’, in A. Corten, J. Dozon and A. Oro (eds), A Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus: os novos conquistadores da fé. São Paulo: Paulinas, pp. 93–99. Dozon, J. 2003. ‘A Igreja Universal na Costa do Marfim’, in A. Corten, J. Dozon and A. Oro (eds), A Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus: os novos conquistadores da fé. São Paulo: Paulinas, pp. 105–13.

Avoiding Stigmas and Building Bridges


Farias, M. 1999. ‘The Siege of Oporto’s Coliseum – Portuguese Media and New Religious Movements’. Retrieved 17 June 2019 from Fillol, J., and J. Loureiro. 2009. ‘IURD, o céu a seu dono?’, Visão, 13 August. Freston, P. 2000. ‘The Transnationalisation of Brazilian Pentecostalism: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God’, in A. Corten and R. Fratani (eds), Between Babel and Pentecost. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 196–215. ______. 2010. ‘Reverse Mission: A Discourse in Search of Reality?’, PentecoStudies 9(2): 153–74. Gabriel, E. 2010. ‘Catolicismo carismático brasileiro em Portugal’. PhD dissertation. University of São Paulo. Gal, S. 1998. ‘Multiplicity and Contention among Language Ideologies: A Commentary’, in B. Schieffelin, K. Woolard and P. Kroskrity (eds), Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3–47. Goffman, E. 1963. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Gomes, E. 2009. ‘Ser única e universal: materializando a autenticidade na cidade do Rio de Janeiro’, in C. Mafra and R. Almeida (eds), Religiões e Cidades: Rio de Janeiro e São Paulo. São Paulo: Editora Terceiro Nome. ______. 2011. A era das catedrais: a autenticidade em exibição: uma etnografia da Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus. Rio de Janeiro: Garamond. Hellas, P., and L. Woodhead. 2005. The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion is Giving Way to Spirituality? Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Hervieu-Léger, D. 1999. Le pèlerin et le converti. Paris: Flammarion. Kramer, E. 2001. ‘Possessing Faith: Commodification, Religious Subjectivity, and Collectivity in a Brazilian Neo-Pentecostal Church’. PhD dissertation. University of Chicago. Leite, A. 1996. ‘As novas estratégias da IURD’, Público, 23 February. Macedo, B. 1999. Os Mistérios da Fé. Rio de Janeiro: Universal. Mafra, C. 2000. ‘Relatos compartilhados: experiências de conversão ao pentecostalismo entre brasileiros e portugueses’, Mana 6(1): 57–86. ______. 2002. Na posse da palavra: religião, conversão e liberdade pessoal em dois contextos nacionais. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais. Maluf, S. 2007. ‘Peregrinos da Nova Era: Itinerários espirituais e terapêuticos no Brasil dos anos 90’, Antropologia em Primeira Mão 100: 5–29. Martin, B. 1995. ‘New Mutations of the Protestant Ethic among Latin American Pentecostals’, Religion 25: 101–17. Martins, J., and G. Rosa. 1996. Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus: Tentáculos de um Polvo Monstruoso para a Tomada do Poder. Lisbon: Hugin. Mauss, Marcel. 1923. ‘Essai sur le don forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques’. L’Année sociologique 1: 30–186. Oro, A. 1996. Avanço pentecostal e reação católica. Petrópolis: Vozes. Pereira, P. 2003. Peregrinos: um estudo antropológico das peregrinações a pé a Fátima. Lisbon: Piaget. Pierucci, A., and R. Prandi. 1996. A realidade social das religiões no Brasil. São Paulo: Hucitec. Pollack, M. 1992. ‘Memória e identidade social’, Estudos Históricos 5(10): 200–15.


Claudia Wolff Swatowiski

Rodrigues, D., and A. Ruuth. 1999. Deus, o demônio e o homem: O fenômeno Igreja Universal o Reino de Deus. Lisbon: Edições Colibri. Sanchis, P. 1979. ‘Festa e Religião Popular: As Romarias de Portugal’, Revista de Cultura Vozes LXXIII(4): 5–18. ______. 1983. Arraial, festa de um povo as romarias Portuguesas. Lisbon: Publicações Dom Quixote. Seman, P. 2003. ‘A Igreja Universal na Argentina’, in A. Corten, J. Dozon and A. Oro (eds), A Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus: os novos conquistadores da fé. São Paulo: Paulinas, pp. 69–78. Swatowiski, C. 2007. ‘Textos e contextos da fé: o discurso mediado de Edir Macedo’, Religião & Sociedade 27: 114–31. Ukah, A. 2005. ‘“Those Who Trade with God Never Lose”: The Economics of Pentecostal Activism in Nigeria”, in T. Falola (ed.), Christianity and Social Change in Africa: Essays in Honor of J.D.Y. Peel. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press. Vilaça, H. 2008. ‘Recomposições dos rituais contemporaneos: as peregrinações’, Sociologia: Revista da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto 17: 55–67. Woolard. K. 1998. ‘Introduction. Language Ideology as a Field of Inquiry’, in B. Schieffelin, K. Woolard and P. Kroskrity (eds), Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3–47.

Chapter 7

Our Lady of Fátima in Brazil and Iemanjá in Portugal Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic Clara Saraiva

Setting 1 São Paulo, Brazil, a neighbourhood about one-hour drive away from the city centre. On one of the walls of a vast room, the image of the virgin, Our Lady of Fátima, the most famous Portuguese saint, stands on top of a white cloud, her hands in a praying position, on the upper shelf of the ‘Portuguese altar’. At her feet and surrounding her, candles with the image of her apparition to the three little shepherds, as the story tells. To the sides are other icons of Portugal, such as the Barcelos rooster (portrayed in a ceramic image and on several mugs with the same icon), and an image of the student fado singer from Coimbra, dressed in the typical black cape. On the shelf below, yet another huge ceramic Barcelos rooster stands right below the Virgin’s feet, surrounded once again by some more Coimbra fado singers, little dolls dressed with the traditional costume of lavradeiras from Minho, and thus portraying the minhota women (from the north-western region of Portugal), and other dolls dressed as varinas from Nazaré, once again the female figures from a traditional fishing village in the central area of the Portuguese coast. This altar is part of a larger group of altars that cover the walls in this big room, which functions as a terreiro, a temple for the Afro-Brazilian religions, more precisely, an Umbanda temple. As such, other altars line up on the walls, filled with images of characters that personify the (real or Notes for this chapter begin on page 146.


Clara Saraiva

imagined) history of Brazil: the altar for the caboclos, which personify the mestiços and the native Indians; the altar for the pretos-velhos, the old black slaves; the altar for the sailors, who, for centuries, sailed the Atlantic; the altar for the crianças (children), spirits that are light and bring good vibrations to the temple. Other altars include the boiadeiros, the cattle herders from the dry interior outback, sertão, and the altar for the entities coming from the Orient, such as the Gypsies. We are in an Umbanda temple, one among many in the São Paulo area.

Setting 2 Braga, a city in the north-west region of Portugal, known to be the city with the largest number of Catholic churches and seminaries, placed in a region known for its high level of Catholicism. A large and geometric building, in modern-style architecture with straight, simple lines, painted in white, stands in the middle of an empty field on the outskirts of the city. Inside, at the top of a very large room, the images of Pai Oxalá, a very important Afro-Brazilian male god, and of Iemanjá, the Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea, look upon whoever enters the room. Behind this altar, a large window allows for the natural light to come through, showing a small winter garden covered with green plants. We are inside an Umbanda temple in Portugal, and this is the room where the weekly rituals take place.

Prologue The two settings above take us to the universe of the Afro-Brazilian religions on both sides of the Atlantic  – Brazil and Portugal. This text is concerned with such ‘Atlantic bridges’ and the ways in which they are developed and conceptualized by individuals on these two sides of the ocean. Expanding on the notions of transnational religions (Capone 2004a, 2004b) and of ‘orisha religions’ (Argyriadis and Capone 2011), I want to discuss the idea of ‘authenticity’ applied to Umbanda, and the tensions between what are considered general traits and specificities within this religion, and especially, what happens when the spirits at play in such religious scenarios move to different settings and become ‘transnational’. The two case studies I will draw upon, the temple in São Paulo, Brazil, and the one in Braga, Portugal, will allow me to analyse notions of time and space in the construction of this religion on both sides of the Atlantic that go beyond the notions of transnational religious networks. I chose Umbanda since it is the variety of Afro-Brazilian religions

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


present in Portugal that have more connections with Catholicism and where the notion of ‘Christian Atlantic’ can best be applied. The language (Portuguese) used in the cults,1 as well as the history and the colonial and postcolonial connections between Brazil and Portugal (as expressed in the history of this religion), are also important elements to add to the discussion. As set forth by the editors of this volume, the idea of ‘the Atlantic as an active agent … where Africa, Europe and South America appear as multiple and simultaneous agents of creativity and exchange’, especially in the religious aspects, is here taken to its full meaning. As we will see, Umbanda spirits roam the Atlantic, and their spiritual voyages bring Iemanjá (the goddess of the seas in the Afro-Brazilian religions) to Portugal, and Our Lady of Fátima (one of the most powerful symbols of the Catholic faith in Portugal) to São Paulo.

Across the Atlantic In fact, the Afro-Brazilian religions have a long history of voyages across the Atlantic. Having as its starting point the long centuries of slave trade from Africa to the Americas, and the migration of African religions to the New World,2 they developed in Brazil thanks to the black slave population, who went on worshiping their African gods. Seen by some as a resistance movement, and by others as a plain consequence of the fight to survive in a hegemonic white colonial society,3 the fact is that such practices continued as they grew into a mosaic of different varieties. These varieties  – Candomblé Queto, Candomblé Angola, Batuque, Tambor de Mina do Maranhão, Terecô, Xambá, Umbanda, etc.  – are related to the different origins of the black populations, the regions of Brazil where they were taken to, and the way they mixed with other religions. For instance, Candomblé Queto is known to be the most popular variety of the Afro-Brazilian religions, and is centred around the Salvador area, in the State of Bahia, in north-eastern Brazil. Famous for its direct connection with Yoruba people, it is thought of by its followers as the purest Afro-Brazilian religion  – the one that most closely kept the traits of its African origin.4 The varieties that exist in Brazil have, in the last twenty years, been exported elsewhere, to other American destinations  – United States, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay5 – but also across the Atlantic, to Europe. One of the European countries where this expansion is notorious is Portugal. It started after the 1974 revolution, which brought religious freedom to the country with the opening of the first temples (terreiro),6 directed by Portuguese women who had been immigrants in Brazil and


Clara Saraiva

who had become initiated over there (Pordeus Jr 2000, 2009). In the last twenty years, more than forty terreiros have opened all over the country, with the strongest concentration around the two major cities, Lisbon and Oporto (Saraiva 2010a, 2010b). The leaders of the Portuguese temples are either Portuguese with connections to Brazil (because they have been initiated there or because they have developed relationships with temples and cult leaders over there) or Brazilians who came to Portugal, often with the purpose of opening cult houses that in some cases became branches of major houses in Brazil. Although the role of Brazilian migration to Portugal cannot be ignored, the followers of such religions are mainly Portuguese.7 One of the varieties of the Afro-Brazilian religions that has most successfully been exported to Portugal is Umbanda. Although there are Candomblé groups,8 Umbanda largely outnumbers Candomblé. Most of the terreiros are Umbanda ones, or practice some variants that mix elements from Candomblé, such as Umbanda Omolocô. Such a situation is certainly not new, as it also happens in Brazil, where, even if Candomblé Queto (related to the Bahia region and the Nagô-Yoruba tradition from Benin and Nigeria) is often regarded as the ‘purest variant’, the variety of African-based expressions is enormous, and each terreiro follows the forms dictated by its mãe or pai de santo (Capone 2004a; 2004b). Umbanda, known to be a ‘truly Brazilian religion’, a synthesis of the Brazilian religious imaginary, seems to be a variant that appeals more to the Portuguese, acting as a ‘cognitive bridge’ (Frigerio 2004) between the traditional Catholicism and the more African variants, such as Candomblé, because their animal sacrifices and the manipulation of blood is less easily accepted (Saraiva 2013b). Created at the beginning of the twentieth century, Umbanda incorporates some elements from Candomblé, from Eastern religions and from various other philosophies, but Catholicism and Kardecist Spiritism play a major role (Brown 1985, 1999). The images of Pai Oxalá that generally top the Umbanda altar, and which are assimilated to the image of Jesus Christ, help to create the connection with Christianity. The principles of charity and helping others are also conceptualized by both cult leaders (named pai or mãe de santo, as in Candomblé) and followers, in Portugal as in Brazil, of truly Christian principles. Umbanda priests emphasize this connection, and thus enforce the idea that holiness is a continuum  – as Camargo (1961) noted – explaining that ‘it is the same God’, and most followers going to the terreiro on a Saturday will have no problem attending Catholic mass on the Sunday. Most importantly, Umbanda has a very practical side, visible in the way people interact with the gods and the spirits, both coming from ‘the

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


other world’. In Candomblé the gods (orixás) incorporate the mediums and enter into social intercourse with the followers through dance and music, but do not directly interact with them. In Umbanda, the entities – archetypes of the Brazilian society, such as old black slaves (pretos-velhos) or Indians (caboclos), for instance – incorporate the mediums and directly interact with the individuals, offering them help and assistance in the resolution of their problems, by means of consultations. With the expansion of Umbanda to Portugal, the Brazilian model is followed. The temples are full of baroque altars, where the images of the orixás are placed side by side with the images of the Catholic saints, thus honouring the syncretism (or bricolage?)9 that characterizes the Afro-Brazilian religions, and Umbanda in particular. And the Portuguese mediums incorporate Brazilian spirits, who speak Portuguese with a Brazilian accent. In my fieldwork in São Paulo I found an Umbanda temple where the symmetric inverse situation takes place, the Brazilian mediums receiving Portuguese spirits. I have already presented the setting of this temple, covered with the altars for the Brazilian entities, but also the ‘Portuguese altar’, full of icons representing Portugal. Let us now see what happens during the cult sessions on both sides of the Atlantic. What follows is an account of two Umbanda sessions, one in São Paulo and the other one in Braga.

Minhotas in São Paulo We are once again in the terreiro in São Paulo. The setting for the weekly gira (ritual) is ready. In the centre of the room a very long table is covered with red and green tablecloths, the colours of the Portuguese flag. On the table, what the people in the terreiro describe as ‘typical Portuguese foods’: pastéis de bacalhau (salty codfish cakes), bread, red wine and, for dessert, the very famous pastéis de nata (cream pastries). Several ceramics of the Barcelos rooster, an icon of a famous Portuguese popular legend, decorate the table. The gira opens with the smoking of the space, as in any other Umbanda gira. The voice of Amália Rodrigues, a famous Portuguese fado singer, fills the room, coming from a CD player hidden in a small storage room. The mediums line up and, in groups of two, fulfil the bater cabeça, the ritual salutation to the main altar and to the orixás. They lay flat on their stomachs on the floor, and their foreheads touch the ground thus saluting the orixás and all the spiritual entities present in the room. In the back part of the room, as is usual in Umbanda, a separate space is reserved for the public – that is, the people who come


Clara Saraiva

to consult the entities, who sit in chairs waiting for the moment when they will approach the table in order to consult them. In fact, as the music develops, the mediums start to incorporate, and several characters, all of them symbols of different Portuguese regions, enter the room  – ribatejanos, minhotos, transmontanos. The first to incorporate is the pai de santo, who receives a campino, a man from a region in Portugal named Ribatejo, famous for its swampy fields and breeding of bulls and horses for the Portuguese bullfights. The campino was the guardian of the bull herds, and is now a folkloric icon for that region. The traditional folk costume includes a long green and red cap, a white shirt, a black vest and a large red belt around the waist. The second entity that comes down is a minhota, who incorporates the mãe de santo, wearing the red and coloured headscarf, covered in floral designs. Other entities follow, specially the transmontanos, the natives from the north-easternmost region of Portugal. All these entities sit around the table or on small benches close to the table; and while they eat, and drink red wine, they start giving consultation and helping some clients in the development of their mediumship. They give the clients bread soaked in red wine that they are supposed to keep as an apotropaic element. They also give them red and green candles that have to be offered to the orixás in order to seek their help in solving life-crisis situations. The candles are then lit and placed on saucers filled with red wine in front of the main altar. At the end of the session, everyone – incorporated entities, mediums and temple members, as well as clients  – engages in a final dance, the corridinho,10 which through its cheerful musical tunes and movements, is supposed to cleanse away all the negative energies and bring good ­vibrations to everyone.

Caboclos in Braga The large room in the surroundings of Braga is full. In the front area two groups of mediums, all dressed in white, line up  – the women on the right, the men on the left. Beyond the fence that separates the holy space from the area where the clients sit, almost two hundred people wait for the cult to begin. Some of them came at four a.m. to make sure they would receive a ticket that allows them to go to the consultation with the entities. The session starts with the smoking of the room to purify everyone from the bad energies, and the greeting to Exú, the orixá that operates the connection between earth and the other worlds, and which must be honoured before any ritual starts. The Pai Nosso (Lord’s Prayer) is prayed collectively and the drums start beating. All the orixás are greeted,

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


and soon after the drums play the beat to call the caboclos. The drums are accompanied by the singing of the mediums, who sing the pontos cantados (songs) that talk about the deeds of these spirits, mestiços and native Brazilian Indians  – brave and vigorous entities that come down making gestures as if they were throwing arrows and hunting animals in the Brazilian landscape, and shouting onomatopoeic cries that sound like birds and other animals. The caboclos incorporate the mediums and, after greeting the other caboclos and everyone else in the room (mediums and clients) they start giving consultations, listening to the ailments that bring the individuals to the gira (cult session), counselling them, smoking them with their cigars, and giving passes (passing the hands on the body of the clients) to clear away the bad energies they may be carrying.

Umbanda’s History in Português de Portugal Although much more recent than Candomblé, Umbanda has a long and fascinating story, which has drawn the attention of many scholars, and especially anthropologists. Umbanda is part of the large cluster of what is generally named Afro-Brazilian religions. One of the main characteristics of this cluster is the fact that they are all religions in which different matrixes come together  – mainly, the African ones (brought by the different groups of black people brought as slaves from Africa to the New World in the centuries-long slave trade), the Catholic ones (brought by the white Portuguese colonialists) and the Amerindian ones (of the native Brazilians). The second common factor is that they are all religions in which trance and possession are central. Umbanda incorporates some elements from Candomblé  – such as African, Catholic and Ameridian elements – but has many particularities that set it apart from Candomblé. Umbanda seems to have developed in the large southern cities of Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo) at the turn of the nineteenth century, and the beginning of the twentieth century, adding yet another element – white Kardecist spiritist ideologies. If Kardecism had become popular in Europe at the time, especially among the upper classes, in Brazil it seems to have become suited to two different classes and atmospheres. On the one hand, the elite white upper classes, and on the other, the working class and mestiço population who came from the poorer areas of Brazil, such as the north-east and the interior areas. There are different ethnohistories of Umbanda, from Bastide to Ortiz to Brown, each one of them emphasizing certain aspects of the formation of this religion.11 One of the aspects that is discussed by all three authors is the question of


Clara Saraiva

authenticity and the tension between the tendencies to expurgate certain African traits from this new religion, such as the presence of African slave and Indian spirits, animal sacrifices and the use of blood in the ceremonies, and to move the fight towards a more ‘whitened’ Umbanda (Ortiz 1978; Brown 1999). The idea of a ‘whitened’ Umbanda, which meant getting rid of such ‘backward’ African traces, was certainly more evident in the appropriation of this new religion by white upper-class Brazilians. Umbanda appeared at a time when rationality, science and evolutionist theories were in fashion in Brazil, and its development seems to entirely fit such criteria (Ortiz 1978: 43). If the tendency to leave out African traits was certainly a strong issue in the beginning, the truth is that Umbanda, right from the outset, started adding other elements to its ‘religious package’. Besides Kardecism and Catholicism, Umbanda maintains that it also incorporates traces from Oriental religions and various other philosophies, from Hinduism to Buddhism (Birman 1985; Brown 1985, 1999). As far as the story of Umbanda told by its followers goes, Umbanda has a birth moment, at the hands of a middle-class mestiço in Rio de Janeiro, Zélio de Moraes. The story tells how Zélio, raised in a Catholic family and later a follower of the Kardecist religion, starts to incorporate his caboclo and thus proclaims the birth of this new religion. As in any other foundation myth, besides the action of a specific agent, there is a time and a place for the origin of Umbanda: 1908, Rio de Janeiro, the date when Zélio becomes sick and paralysed, searches for help at a Kardecist centre and receives his caboclo, proclaims the birth of a new religion and the foundation of what is believed by many to be the first Umbanda house in Brazil, the Tenda Espírita Nossa Senhora da Piedade. It is thought of as a truly Brazilian religion because the entities that incorporate the mediums are archetypes connected to the history of the country: the preto-velho personifies the old black slave, the caboclo the Indian or the mestiço, the marinheiro the sailors that sailed the Atlantic, the baiano the inhabitant of the Bahia region, and so on. In the Umbanda temples in Portugal such Brazilian entities come down, incorporate the mediums, and give consultations to the clients. As it is said in Umbanda, ‘they come down to work’, to help others and appease their suffering. As I have pointed out elsewhere (Saraiva 2009, 2010a, 2010b, 2016), this utilitarian aspect of Umbanda, and the fact that one can communicate directly with supernatural entities, is definitely a trait that attracts the Portuguese to these recently arrived religions: I was brought up a Catholic and only found Umbanda a few years ago. But the possibility of talking directly, face to face, with a caboclo or a preto-velho, a

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


supernatural entity that comes down to help us, and do good deeds, is truly wonderful. In the Catholic Church one never has that possibility. There is always the priest in between, and the saints do not talk back, even when we ask them questions. With the caboclos we enter a dialogue … I talk to them as I talk to friends or to the doctor, and they answer me, comfort me and tell me what I should do

The second aspect that fascinates the Portuguese is the possibility to enter trance. Umbanda presents new forms of exercising one’s mediumship capacities, within a religious framework that individuals conceptualize as offering more freedom and empowerment, as they are able to communicate directly with the divine: ‘It is wonderful to incorporate and have a direct relationship with the supernatural. The Catholic Church never allowed that, and we always had the priest saying that seeing spirits was something of the devil’.

Authenticity and the ‘Many Umbandas’ The question of authenticity in the Afro-American religions has been discussed widely, especially within Candomblé, and is a topic that permanently concerns scholars12 as well as practitioners of these religions. Many authors, and especially Capone (2004a) and Argyriadis and Capone (2011), prove that the so-called authenticity is in fact a product of constructions based on historical and cultural scenarios in which what is ‘authentic’ changes each time to suit specific interests and contexts. But such discussions are concerned mainly with the connection with Africa, and the return to the ‘African origins’ that Candomblé followers long for. In the case of Umbanda, as explained above, the discussion has been centred on whether Umbanda should accept certain African traits, or should do the opposite and be a totally ‘white’ religion, with more connections to Christian principles and practices than to African ones. Umbanda does not seem to raise arguments on authenticity and there is a common agreement that there are many different varieties within Umbanda. Besides the several histories of Umbanda, as told by Brown and Ortiz, there are also the stories that the cult leaders and the p ­ ractitioners tell on their perceptions of what Umbanda is. The two cases I have been expanding on, in São Paulo and Braga, give us good examples to further discuss certain details. The group in São Paulo follows the general organization of Umbanda temples, which is basically the same on both sides of the Atlantic: they have a weekly gira, and each week a group of entities comes down to give consultation: one week caboclos, the next one preto-velhos, followed by


Clara Saraiva

marinheiros, and so on. But the entities that enjoy the best reputation are the Portuguese: ‘The temple fills up when the Portuguese come. People love to come to their consultations, they love the atmosphere, the setting around the table’. In fact, this is a neighbourhood that used to be mainly composed of Portuguese immigrants. The story of the cult leader (pai de santo) is also directly related to Portugal, as he has Portuguese grandparents. Although he has never set foot in Portugal, he praises everything coming from there, is an enthusiastic admirer of fado, and brags about how well his sister can sing it. The mediums themselves and many of the clients have forefathers from Portugal. He says he knows the ‘Portuguese line’ in Umbanda from his mãe de santo. The characters that come down are part of an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson [1983] 1991): what Brazilians in Brazil think about Portugal and the Portuguese. In this particular and unique setting,13 the different spirits representing the different regions of Portugal not only dress as the ceramic images placed on the temple altars or as the members of folk dance groups in Portugal, but they also act and talk as the people from those different regions are supposed to act and talk. The transmontanos give the account of how they died of borracheira (drunkness) in a very poor village in north-east Portugal and how this was caused by a curse placed upon them by a known bruxa; the campino talks about his deeds with the bulls in the Ribatejo marshlands; the minhota explains her connections with the benzedeiras and how she helps people in São Paulo using the benzedeiras techniques. They all talk with a ‘Portuguese from Portugal’ accent, and praise both the qualities of their faraway homeland, and the difficult lives they led there. This discourse all makes sense when we think of the history of Portuguese migration to the large cities of Brazil (such as São Paulo) in the first half of the twentieth century, when Portuguese from poor, rural, non-industrialized areas (such as Minho or Trás-os-Montes) fled to Brazil to escape poverty, in search of work and a better social and economic life. Their spirituality is a Catholic-based one, blessed by the image of Our Lady of Fátima looking down upon them from the top of the ‘Portuguese altar’.14 A Portuguese religiosity where this Catholic icon mixes with the bruxas and benzedeiras they talk about, intermediates between the humans and the supernatural in Portuguese popular religiosity. Several authors (Oro 1995; Pordeus Jr. 2009; Saraiva 2010a; 2010b; 2016) see the possibility of entering trance and possession as important factors that attract the Portuguese towards the Afro-Brazilian religions. In fact, many of the traits of Umbanda, as the possibility to interact with the supernatural through trance, seem to continue former traditions of the southern Mediterranean

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


countries, where popular religiosity incorporated both manifestations of mediumship and recurrent communication between the world of the living and the world of the dead through spiritual mediators, such as the case of the sorcière in France (Favret-Saada 1977), and of the espírita or corpo aberto in Portugal and Spain. In the Portuguese case, these forms of mediumship took place in hiding during the dictatorship, and can nowadays be expressed freely. The bruxos acted in hiding, as separate and marginalized individuals (Montenegro 2005; Guillot 2011: 114); in contrast, individuals in an Umbanda terreiro are part of a community, and not only perform rituals as a collective ensemble but also spend much of their everyday lives together (Saraiva 2010a; 2010b).15 In the case of the terreiro in Portugal, the pai de santo grew up in São Paulo, was initiated in Umbanda there, and came to Portugal in 1995, where his three children were born. The two hundred individuals who fill the building on Saturdays, both mediums and clients, are almost exclusively Portuguese – the exceptions being the priest, his wife and her sister, all with specific roles within the religious community. The entities come down at the sound of the drums, and the singing of the pontos cantados, which tell the stories of the caboclos in the Brazilian forests, or of the pretos-velhos, who came from Africa in the negreiro ships, who endured hardships and therefore sympathize with other people’s pains. They incorporate the mediums, who thereafter speak with a Brazilian accent. The clients are people used to the Catholic Church, and mostly to the practices and beliefs that comprise ‘popular religiosity’, such as the strong relationships with the saints.16 Certainly, they are used to engage in symbolic interaction with the saints, and to enter relationships of exchange (faith, prayers and ex-votos in exchange for graces granted). But Catholic saints do not incorporate in individuals; and this is certainly an important appeal to the Portuguese, who praise the possibility of creating such a direct bond with the supernatural17 and thus become less human and more holy, through the experience of incorporation. Besides, the Portuguese consider that the Brazilian spirits are more powerful than any other spirits, and allow for a type of spirituality that is new to them, but very much appreciated: ‘The Brazilian spirits bring new things. And this Brazilian religion offers things we never had in centuries of Catholicism’. These spirits  – pretos-velhos, caboclos, marinheiros  – are part of a colonial past, filled with images of slaves and subordination of caboclos and sailors to the Portuguese authority. In spite of this negative scenario, this colonial past becomes idealized, the creator of a special relationship that unites Portugal and Brazil, which is, as many scholars have discussed, once again, an imagined ideal past, starting with Gilberto


Clara Saraiva

Freyre’s theories on Luso-tropicalism and what he considered the special Portuguese way to colonize Africa and Brazil.18 What goes on in the two terreiros in São Paulo and Braga is a reflection of this imagined ideal past, a transformed mirror of historical and colonial relations between Brazil and Portugal. Portugal has indeed had a long relationship with Brazil, starting with its role as a colonizer between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, when Lisbon was the metropolis. Brazil has always attracted the Portuguese, who emigrated to the New World in search of better life conditions, and Brazil was a favourite destination throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Even in the second half of the twentieth century, after the 1974 revolution in Portugal, many Portuguese sympathetic with the old regime fled to Brazil, along with Portuguese returning from the former colonies in Africa, some of which (Angola and Mozambique) had engaged in ferocious civil wars. It was only with the social and economic changes that Portugal underwent after the 1970s, and especially with its entry into the European community in the late 1980s, which coincided with a period of economic recession in Brazil, that the movement reversed and Brazilians started migrating to Portugal, along with many other migrants, coming from various continents.19 Brazilians have, for over fifteen years, been the largest group of migrants in Portugal, and account nowadays for over 20 per cent of the migrant population in the country.20 The complex changes that Portugal underwent in the 1970s and 1980s concerned the political, economic and social spheres, and this included also the religious one. Religious freedom came with the rights and liberalization brought along by the 25th of April revolution, and the country slowly opened up to new religions (Bastos 2001; Bastos and Bastos 1999; 2006; Vilaça 2001) and new forms of dealing with affliction, as I have analysed elsewhere (Saraiva 2010a, 2010b; see also Sarró 2009). It is in this historical scenario of flows of people across the Atlantic between the two countries that the flow of spirits that we are concerned with has to be analysed. Thinking of these two cases on both sides of the Atlantic, can we claim that one is more authentic than the other? To what extent do the imagined ideal relations and the stereotypes about Portugal and the Portuguese for Brazilian Umbanda followers in São Paulo and for Portuguese ones in Braga influence the way individuals shape their religious affiliations and what they believe capable of helping them? What goes on in the terreiro in Braga is the ‘authentic’ Umbanda situation, where the Brazilian entities come down. Umbanda has a very organized and hierarchical side to it: the universe is divided into seven lines,

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


each of which is headed by one orixá and is then divided into seven legions, and again into seven sub-legions, and so on. A well-reputed Umbanda terreiro should have a good organization of the weekly giras so that all entities have the possibility of ‘coming down to work’. But can we say that what goes on in São Paulo is not ‘authentic’? To answer such a question we have to look again at Umbanda’s ontologies. Besides the varieties of ethno-histories told by priests and followers, Umbanda is in itself a mixture of varieties – not only from its original formation (with Catholic, Kardecist and African elements from the Upanishads, etc.), but also as it transforms itself as it develops and expands throughout the world. Umbanda’s religious leaders are known for their personal ideas and ontologies,21 diffused through the many publications being constantly produced and sold in temples and esoteric shops, in Brazil as in Portugal,22 either in book form or as brochures to be handed out. Also, all the Umbanda associations and federations publish their newspapers or magazines, which are vehicles for the dissemination of their religious (and also often political) principles.23 Each cult leader and each temple directed by him/her thus creates its own reality, its own ‘invented community’. As Argyriadis and Capone (2011: 16) put it: ‘The imagined community is in fact constantly being worked on by local particularisms and by the opposition of different regimes of truth, the deviations of which are often minimal, but nevertheless exclusive’.24

Charity and Good Deeds The principles and doctrines of Umbanda are basically the same in Brazil as in Portugal. They rely on the Christian principle of charity, of helping the others, which is also related to the Spiritism idea that one’s spirit improves and becomes purer though the practice of good deeds. Most Umbanda houses have specific groups that are in charge of social programmes. These groups are often composed of young members, who collect food, clothes, blankets and other first need items, and at least once a week go out into the streets and distribute them to the homeless and the poor families of the area. Such groups often have names that use metaphors from the battlefield, such as ‘The army of Oxalá’, ‘Warriors of peace’ and ‘Sons of Aruanda’.25 Helping others in solving their life-crisis situations is the other way of practising charity. Besides the fact that consultations during the giras are overall directed at solving all sorts of life-crisis situations, many temples have specific ‘cure groups’  – sessions directly directed at curing both physical and mental ailments.


Clara Saraiva

The discourses of the two cult leaders in Brazil as in Portugal both deal with the topics that are usual for Umbanda leaders: on Umbanda’s (many) ontologies and on the main pillars of Umbanda, its main objective of practising charity and helping people. What I want to argue is that in their discourses, and, above all, in their religious practices, they (and their followers) constantly evoke those imagined communities of harmonic relations between Brazil and Portugal. Furthermore, it is only thanks to such ‘good relations’ that Portuguese spirits can act in Brazil and help the Brazilians, and the Brazilian spirits can do the same in Portugal, thus helping the Portuguese. It is also this flow of spiritual entities that gives authenticity and magical power to the rituals, and make them efficient. The discourses of the two pais de santo from Braga and São Paulo focus on those premises: I have my theory about the birth of Umbanda. For me, it all started in 1500, with the mixtures between the Indians, catechized by the Jesuits and the beginning of the flow of slaves coming from Africa, who brought the African religions with them … All that Zélio de Moraes did was give Umbanda its name and officializing it as a religion. What he did is very valid, because he gave seriousness to Umbanda; he made it become a respectable religion and he managed to make it grow throughout all of Brazil … But Umbanda transformed itself a lot and it mingled with other varieties of Afro-Brazilian religions, such as Xambá, catimbó, tambor de Mina … nowadays Umbanda is a result of all these mixtures … In Brazil, there are many Umbandas. For instance, in many terreiros the greeting when you come in is namaste, from India, and in other terreiros it can be moxumbá, from Congo, a greeting much used in Candomblé Angola. There are so many Umbandas that it also came here (to Portugal) and now we have Umbanda for the Portuguese … Umbanda is indeed the most Brazilian of all the Afro-Brazilian religions, because it has elements coming from all the different groups of people that colonized Brazil … In the beginning, there was the popular, indigenous Umbanda, and the Umbanda of the elites that studied the philosophies of other people that came to incorporate Umbanda. It is from such studies that we can nowadays have all sorts of Umbanda, with elements from Egypt to the Templars. But with all these influences the Catholicism brought by the Portuguese is the most important part. Umbanda is mainly Luso-Brazilian, of course. (Pai Cláudio, Braga)  What is most important in Umbanda is to help the other. We have solutions for every problem and for everyone. This is what Umbanda is about. And the Portuguese entities that come down in the gira de Portugueses do this. It is so interesting if we think that there are many Umbandas, and that in Portugal (as you tell me, since I have never been there) it is the Brazilian entities that help the Portuguese. It shows the special relation there is between Portugal and Brazil … people came here to Brazil all the time, in the past … like my grandfather. Many of the Brazilians have Portuguese blood in them. We are brothers and sisters. (Pai Carlos, São Paulo)

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


What Umbanda entities do is basically the same on the two sides of the ocean – they give consultations and help the others. But to do this, they rely on different ‘histories of empowerment’, which nevertheless complement each other, and function as symmetric mirrors of one another. In Brazil, the empowerment brought by poor, simple Portuguese s­pirits, who become powerful through the magic of trance and space distance. This empowerment comes from the connection with the ‘original grounds’, even if these were by no means ‘heaven on earth’ – the life in the slave trade and ships for the pretos-velhos, the harsh life working in the fields in northern Portugal for the transmontanos. This is done through the re-coding and embodiment of symbols26 connected to Umbanda’s history, to the histories of both countries, and to the stories of the characters that the spiritual entities represent. A very good example of this re-coding of symbols connecting the Portuguese and Brazilian universes is the music used in the cult sessions. In ‘normal’ Umbanda sessions the drums start beating to summon the entities. Each type of spirit has different pontos cantados, and different lyrics, which are meant to call upon the spirits and make them come down and incorporate the mediums. This is what happens in the house in Braga. In the case of the ‘Portuguese line’ in São Paulo, the drums are substituted by CDs playing the famous Portuguese fado singers, such as Amália Rodrigues. Fado is considered to be the national folk song; it talks about fate, saudade, and the good and bad things in life connected to one’s destiny. As an anthropologist working on the Afro-Brazilian religions in Portugal and Brazil for over five years, this was indeed the most awkward experience I had ever had: to see the mediums bater a cabeça to the orixás, and the smoke filling the room, to the sound of Amália. This was, for me, a somewhat surrealistic experience, which nevertheless seemed absolutely normal to the Brazilian mediums, getting ready to metaphorically cross the Atlantic and become Portuguese spirits for a few hours. The magic of Umbanda is exactly its capacity to mingle, to add elements to it that make it acceptable everywhere. The Brazilians in São Paulo think it is magic to be able to consult with Portuguese spirits from the terrinha,27 in the same way that the Portuguese in Braga think it is magic to be able to have Brazilian spiritual entities at their disposal, whom they can consult. Being a Portuguese spirit in Brazil or a Brazilian one in Portugal, and embodying the characteristics of a ‘real’ Portuguese or Brazilian, is a fundamental key to the ritual experience of the mediums and to their (and the spirits’) magical empowerment. As Diana Espírito Santo states, if the anthropologists think of Umbanda as a religious manifestation that is a social creation, the Umbandistas ‘credit the spirits; while the latter would understand Umbanda’s syncretism in the light


Clara Saraiva

of the cultural properties of the milieu in which it became manifest, the former would see this itself as the manifestation’ (Santo 2010: 15). As she also concludes, Eliade’s ideas that religion had to do with the search (or nostalgia) for the primordial, the beginning of things, seems to hold true in these two cases. In both of them, people – Portuguese and Brazilians – moved through historical and symbolic space and time, and so do the spirits. It is the search for the embodiment of the ‘primordial grounds’ that empowers both mediums and spirits, in São Paulo as in Braga. In both cases the ‘primordial grounds’ are based on frozen histories from the distant or recent past. In the case of the Afro-Brazilian entities in Portugal, it is Freyre’s notion of the characters that built Brazilian history based on mythical spaces and times – the romantic caboclo roaming the forests, the kind black slave healing others with his knowledge from another ‘pure land’, Africa. In the case of the Portuguese entities in Brazil, they are part of a wide Estado Novo construction of what the Portuguese were or should be. The idea was also pursued by an ‘anthropology of nation-building’, as Leal (2000, 2006) following Stocking, puts it, based on the affirmation of the direct relationship between popular culture and national identity. Such ideals were exploited to their full extent during the Salazar regime. The nation’s pillar should be popular culture and the regional folkloric images of the people who embodied such popular culture (Leal 2000; Medeiros 2006). It is these frozen archetypes of the regional characters that the Portuguese entities that come down on the São Paulo terreiro are based upon. Transported to Brazil at a time when Portuguese immigrants themselves relied on such folkloric images as a way to keep their bonds with their homeland, they remain there to this day, coming out at the sound of the Portuguese fado.

On the Construction of Different Shangri-Las In a text entitled ‘The Past is a Foreign Country?’, João Leal (2011) starts off by stating how the flows of people and cultural forms have become a highly visible feature of contemporary anthropology. Recognizing that cultural processes linked to globalization are not without precedent in the history of the discipline, he explains how German diffusionism and Boas’s acculturation theory dealt with such phenomena (ibid.: 314) and defends that the contributions these two theories made to the anthropological understanding of global flows of people and culture have often, with a few exceptions, been ignored. He then brings into the discussion Melville Herskovits and Roger Bastide  – Herskovits he calls ‘the most important author in the thematization of acculturation theory’, and Bastide’s

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


work he says is ‘characterized by wider range of theoretical influences (Peixoto 2000), from Gilberto Feyre’s theories of mestiçagem to French sociology and psychoanalytical theory’ (Leal 2011: 315). He argues that their ­theoretical insights can somehow prove useful to our contemporary engagements with globalization. Boas’s acculturation theory and the more recent authors of cultural globalization share many things: they are both interested in phenomena of movement and flow of people and cultural forms, and in both cases the focus is on encounters and fractures between ‘the West and the Rest’. Stressing how Herskovits viewed cultural contact in terms of acculturation, and globalists talk about hybridization, hybrids and hybridity, he notes how we are now supposed to be more attentive to the process of appropriation and the creative transformation of culture, and how our own current interest in flows, limits and hybrids can benefit from a dialogue with authors like Bastide and Herskovits. In fact, when Bastide states that ‘the process of Umbanda’s creation is a purely sociological process, obeying none other than social causes, explained in no other way but through the contact between civilizations’ (Bastide 1989: 449), the idea of acculturation is present. But can we indeed go back to acculturation theories when we think about the two cases at stance in this text? In an article focused on traditional healing in East Africa, Ole Rekdal (1999) argues that the idea that healers and ‘witch doctors’ in Africa are always part of a group within which they operate, and that it is their endogenous knowledge that makes ‘magic work’, is an erroneous one. On the contrary, he shows how often this is not the case. Often, the most successful healers and witches come from different ethnic groups, ­different geographical zones, and it is the fact itself of coming from elsewhere that empowers them and increases their reputation. Rekdal is thus talking about the very notion of ‘otherness’, and takes on a voyage of re-­ visitation of the classical bon sauvage and ‘unspoiled other’ theories. In the case of the Afro-Brazilian religions, and of Umbanda in particular, the magical other incorporates many different realities on each side of the ocean, connected, as we saw, to the power brought by those ‘different others’, who show to their followers a glimpse of a magical paradise, a perfect Shangri-La. Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by the British author James Hilton. In the book (which in 1937 became a Franz Capra film), ‘Shangri-La’ is a mystical, harmonious valley, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains, on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. It has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia  – a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. In the novel, the people who live in


Clara Saraiva

Shangri-La are almost immortal, living years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly aging in appearance. Evoking the imagery of many exoticisms, more or less accentuated, that the multiple entities bring to the scene, Umbanda is nowadays, on its expansionist voyage throughout the world, providing the Portuguese and the Brazilians with their very unique and multifaceted Shangri-Las. If we think of the two initial settings and performances on both sides of the Atlantic, São Paulo and Braga, the religious comfort and help people seek is supposed to come exactly from those ‘pure others’ and complex imaginary entities, constructed along centuries of history and interaction. Clara Saraiva is a social anthropologist, and senior researcher at the Centre for Comparative Studies in the University of Lisbon. She works on the anthropology of religion and ritual, in the relation with medical anthropology, and on religious transnationalism. She is the author of several contributions to books and journals on the transnationalization of Afro-Brazilian religions. She is the president of the Portuguese Anthropological Association (APA), and a board member of the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA).

Notes  1. This is different to what happens, for instance, with the Candomblé temples, where the Yoruba language tends to be used.  2. As the seminal works of Gilroy (1993), Mintz and Price (2003) and F. Ortiz (1995) , among others, have shown.  3. See the classical works of Roger Bastide and Pierre Verger or his Brazilian predecessors, such as Nina Rodrigues and Artur Ramos, for a general discussion on these issues.  4. The issue of the purity of Candomblé Queto/Nagõ has been much discussed in academia. In anthropology the most recent work has been done by Stefania Capone (2004a, 2004b), who discusses thoroughly the assumptions that lie behind those statements of purity, and explains how the notion of ‘African purity’ is invented and manipulated by the temples and the religious leaders.  5. As the work of Frigerio (2004), Oro (1995) and others has shown.  6. Terreiro means both the physical place where cults take place, and the community of worshippers.  7. Brazilians are still now the largest group of migrants in Portugal, accounting for over 20 per cent of the migrant population in the country, according to the 2017 data from the Service de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF 2017: 12–13). In spite of these numbers, Brazilians in Portugal tend to go to Pentecostal churches, and we can say that, on average, 90 per cent of the people in the terreiros are Portuguese.  8. There is even a Jurema and Xangô temple, directed by a pai de santo (Holy Father) from Pernambuco (Saraiva 2010a, 2010b; Pordeus 2009).

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


 9. On the discussion of religious syncretism in African and Afro-American religions, see Mary (1999). 10. A Portuguese folk dance from the Algarve, the southernmost region in the country. 11. Bastide (1989) focuses on the breakdown of the black collective memory and of African religious traditions caused by urbanization, which have led to the expansion of Umbanda. He sees the creation of Umbanda as a historical and sociological process, as Diana Espírito Santo puts it, which was ‘born out of fundamental social tensions in Brazilian society transposed to the spiritual sphere’ (Santo 2010: 4). Renato Ortiz follows the same line of thought, and sees Umbanda as a result of the integration of Afro-Brazilian religions into modern Brazilian society (Ortiz 1978: 12). For him, both the movement of whitening the Afro-Brazilian religions and its opposite, of blackening Umbanda, contributes to constitute what Umbanda is nowadays. Diana Brown (1985) focuses on the struggle for power fought by white Umbandists, and clearly defends the fact that it was the work of the upper middle classes that achieved this ‘whitening’; but, in later works (Brown 1999), she deals with the opposite more recent movement of accepting and praising African traits. 12. Among others, see Capone (2004a), and Argyriadis and Capone (2011) on the search for African authenticity and African models in Candomblé in Brazil and the role of the COMTOC – world conferences on the tradition and culture of the orisha – and see Matory (2005) for a general discussion on the historical and transatlantic connections between Brazil and West Africa. 13. As far as I have been researching in the last 5 years, this is the only terreiro in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro which has an organized ‘Portuguese Line’. 14. On the historical and contemporary role of this important Catholic symbol, see Dix (2010). 15. The família de santo, the group of worshippers and followers under the authority of a priest/priestess in charge of a terreiro. 16. A relationship that helps in maintaining a strong connection with the homeland for Portuguese emigrants abroad, as Sanchis (1983) defends, and is instrumental in the creation of such relations. 17. From the 1990s on, the Afro-Brazilian religions have been but one of the new religious possibilities offered to the Portuguese. Other beliefs and practices such as oriental philosophies, and therapeutic procedures such as reiki, feng-shui, gemotherapy as well as New Age beliefs, Wicca, Celtic religions, etc., have become part of Portuguese life (Dix 2009; Saraiva 2010b,), a true ‘religious supermarket’, to use York’s (1999) expression. For a similar case in France and the way such practices interact with Umbanda, see Teisenhoffer (2007). 18. Gilberto Freyre, a well-known Brazilian sociologist, wrote, among others, the book Casa Grande e Senzala, in which he expressed his idea that Brazil had been constructed as a nation with contributions from the Portuguese, the Africans and the native Indians. Furthermore, it was the Portuguese who had been responsible for a special kind of colonialism that promoted miscigenation and harmony among these three ‘races’. Also, it was the Portuguese adaptability to the tropics that prompted this idealized situation. Much discussed and criticized over the years (see, among others, Castelo 1998; Almeida 2000; Feldman-Bianco 2001; Bastos, Almeida and Feldman-Bianco 2002; I. Machado 2002; Padilla 2006), Freyre’s ideas continue to promote intense debate. 19. For an accurate overview of the dimension of immigration to Portugal from the 1980s on, see, among others, Vala (1999), F. Machado (2002) and Barreto (2005). 20. According to the 2017 data from the Portuguese Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF 2017). 21. A good example of this is Diana Espírito Santo’s (2010) analysis of some of Umbanda’s different ontologies as presented by several religious leaders.


Clara Saraiva

22. Just to mention four such cases of well-known Umbanda priests in São Paulo: Rubens Sarraceni, who has published over twenty books where he expands on his notions of esoteric Umbanda and the magic of crystals, herbs, spiritual beings, etc.; Rivas Neto and his cosmic Umbanda, a follower of W.W. da Matta e Silva’s theories taught in the Faculty of Umbanda Theology, owned and directed by Rivas himself; Jamil Rachid, a veteran of Umbanda, president of an important federation, the União de Tendas, practising rituals much closer to Candomblé; and Pai Carlos Buby, with his Guaracy Temple, who practises an Umbanda very close to shamanism and indigenous pajelança, the traditional religious practices of many of the Brazilian Ameridian groups, and has terreiros in the United States and Europe. An example of texts directed at clear political and social orientations is Diana Brown’s note on the importance of the first texts produced by the Umbanda leaders, where the emphasis was placed on the ethics and morals of charity, and the mission of Umbanda of rescuing the subordinate classes (Brown 1985: 12). 23. This role is also nowadays fulfilled by the terreiros sites on the internet or through social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter. 24. ‘La communauté imaginée est en effet constamment travaillé par les particularismes locaux et par l’opposition de différents regimes de verité don’t les écarts sont souvent minimes, mais néanmoins exclusifs’ (my translation). 25. Oxalá is the father of all orixás and Aruanda is a mythical land, a city full of divine light inhabited by spirits whose purpose is to do good deeds and help others, and therefore come down during the rituals for this purpose. 26. The examples of embodiment are plenty – for instance, the body postures and the way the spirits dress: with the scarfs, shirts and dresses meant to ‘be Portuguese’ in São Paulo, and holding the cigars and cachaça bottles meant ‘to be Brazilian’ in Braga. 27. An amorous nickname for the original Portuguese homegrounds.

References Almeida, M.V. 2000. Um mar da cor da terra: Raça, Cultura e Política de Identidade. Oeiras: Celta. Anderson, B. (1983) 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. Argyriadis, K., and S. Capone. 2011. La Religion des Orisha: Un Champ Social Transnational en Pleine Recomposition. Paris: Hermann Éditions. Barreto, A. (ed.). 2005. Globalização e Migrações. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais.Bastide, R. 1989. As Religiões Africanas no Brasil. São Paulo: Livraria Pioneira. Bastos, C. 2001. ‘Omulu em Lisboa: etnografias para uma teoria da globalização’, Etnográfica V(2): 303–24. Bastos, C., M.V. Almeida and B. Feldman-Bianco. 2002. Trânsitos Coloniais. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais. Bastos, J.P., and S.P. Bastos. 1999. Portugal Multicultural: Situação e Identificação das Minorias Étnicas. Lisbon: Fim de Século. ______. 2006. Filhos Diferentes de Deuses Diferentes. Lisbon: ACIME. Birman, P. 1985. O que é Umbanda. São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense. Brown, D. 1985. ‘Uma história da Umbanda no Rio’, Umbanda & Política, Cadernos do ISER nº 18, Rio de Janeiro, Marco Zero.

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


______. 1999. ‘Power, Invention, and the Politics of Race: Umbanda Past and Future’, in L. Crook and R. Johnson (eds), Black Brazil: Culture, Identity and Social Mobilization. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Studies Center, pp. 213–36. Camargo, C.P. 1961. Kardecismo e Umbanda. São Paulo: Ed. Pioneira. Capone, S. 2004a. A Busca de África no Candomblé: Tradição e Poder no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Pallas Editora. ______. (ed.). 2004b. ‘A propos des notions de globalisation et de transnationalisation’, Civilisations: Revue Internationale d’Anthropologie et de Sciences Humaines – Religions Transnationales 51(1): 9–22. Castelo, C. 1998. ‘O Modo Português de Estar no Mundo’: O Luso-Tropicalismo e a Ideologia Colonial Portuguesa (1933–1961). Lisbon: Afrontamento. Dix, S. 2009. ‘Religious Plurality within a Catholic Tradition: A Study of the Portuguese Capital, Lisbon, and a Brief Comparison with Mainland Portugal’, Religion 39(2): 182–93. ______. 2010. ‘As esferas seculares e religiosas na sociedade Portuguesa’, Análise Social XLV(194): 5–17. Favret-Saada, J. 1977. Les mots, la mort, les sorts. Paris: Gallimard. Feldman-Bianco, B. 2001. ‘Brazilians in Portugal, Portuguese in Brazil: Construction of Sameness and Difference’, Identities 8(4): 607–50. Frigerio, A. 2004. ‘Re-africanization in Secondary Religious Diasporas: Constructing a World Religion’, Civilisations: Revue Internationale d’Anthropologie et de Sciences Humaines – Religions Transnationales 51(1): 39–60. Gilroy, P. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Guillot, M. 2011. ‘Bruxaria, catholicisme populaire et religions afro-brésiliennes: réflexions sur l’adaptation du candomblé et de l’umbanda au champ religieux portugais’, in K. Argyriadis and S. Capone (eds), La Religion des Orisha: Un Champ Social Transnational en Pleine Recomposition. Paris: Hermann Éditions. Leal, J. 2000. Etnografias Portuguesas: Cultura Popular e Identidade Nacional. Lisbon: Dom Quixote. ______. 2006. Antropologia em Portugal: Mestres, Percursos, Transições. Lisboa: Livros Horizonte. ______. 2011. ‘The Past is a Foreign Country?’ Acculturation Theory and the Anthropology of Globalization’, Etnográfica, Revista do Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia 15(2): 313–36. Machado, F. 2002. Contrastes e Continuidades: Migração, Etnicidade e Integração dos Guineenses em Portugal. Oeiras: Celta Editora. Machado, I. 2002. ‘Cárcere Público: os Estereótipos como Prisão para os Imigrantes Brasileiros no Porto, Portugal’. Temáticas, Campinas: UNICAMP 10(19/20): 120–52. Mary, A. 1999. Le Défi du Syncrétisme: Le Travail Symbolique de la Religion d’Eboga (Gabon). Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Matory, J.L. 2005. Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Clara Saraiva

Medeiros, A. 2006. Dois Lados de um Rio: Nacionalismo e Etnografias na Galiza e em Portugal. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais. Mintz, S., and R. Price. (1992) 2003. O Nascimento da Cultura Afro-Americana: Uma Perspectiva Antropológica. Rio de Janeiro: Pallas – Centro de Estudos Afro-Brasileiros. Montenegro, M. 2005. Les bruxos: des thérapeutes traditionnels et leur clientèle au Portugal. Paris: L’Harmattan. Oro, A.P. 1995. ‘A desterritorialização das religiões Afro-Americanas’, Horizontes Antropológicos 3: 69–79. Ortiz, F. (1906) 1995. Los negros brujos. La Havane: Éditorial de Ciencias Sociales. Ortiz, R. 1978. A Morte Branca do Feiticeiro Negro: Umbanda e Sociedade Brasileira. São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense. Padilla, B. 2006. ‘Integration of Brazilian New-comers in Portuguese Society’, in Igor Machado (ed.), Um Mar de Identidades: A Imigração Brasileira em Portugal, São Carlos: EdUFSCor, pp. 19–42. Peixoto, F. 2000. Diálogos Brasileiros: Uma Análise da Obra de Roger Bastide. São Paulo: Edusp-Fapesp. Pordeus Jr., I. 2000. Uma Casa Luso-Afro-Portuguesa Com Certeza: Emigrações e Metamorfoses da Umbanda em Portugal. São Paulo: Terceira Margem. ______. 2009. Portugal em Transe. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais. Rekdal, O. 1999. ‘Cross-cultural Healing in East African Ethnography’, Medical Anthropology Quaterly 13(4): 458–82. Sanchis, P. 1983. Arraial: festa de um povo. Lisbon: Dom Quixote. Santo, D.E. 2010. ‘Umbanda Has No History: Timelessness, Origin Myths and Spiritual Identity among Orthodox Umbanda Mediums in Rio de Janeiro’. Paper presented at the CIEA7, Lisbon, September 2010. Saraiva, C. 2009. ‘Closer to Africa or to Rome? Syncretism and Religious Practice in Portuguese Umbanda and Candomblé’, in U. Wolf-Knuts and K. Grant (eds), Proceedings from the 2008 SIEF Congress ‘Rethinking the Sacred’, Religionsvetenskapliga skrifter. Abo: Åbo Akademi University, pp. 37–51. ______. 2010a. ‘Filhas de santo: rituais, terapias e diálogos afro-brasileiros em Portugal’, in P. Havik, C. Saraiva and J. Tavim (eds), Caminhos Cruzados em História e Antropologia: Estudos de Homenagem a Jill Dias. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, pp. 341–65. ______. 2010b. ‘Afro-Brazilian Religions in Portugal: Bruxos, priests and pais de santo’, Etnográfica: Revista do Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia 14(2): 265–88. ______. 2013a. ‘Pretos-velhos across the Atlantic: Afro-Brazilian Cults in Portugal’, in M. Vasquez and C. Rocha (eds), The Diaspora of Brazilian Religions. London: Brill, pp. 197–222. ______. 2013b. ‘Blood, Sacrifices and Religious Freedom: Afro-Brazilian Associations in Portugal’, in R. Llera Blanes and J. Mapril (eds), Sites and Politics of Religious Diversity in Southern Europe: The Best of all Gods. International Studies in Religion and Society series. Leiden: Brill, pp. 129–54. ______. 2016. ‘Orixás across the Atlantic: The Diaspora of Afro-Brazilian Religions in Europe’, in B. Schmidt and S. Engler (eds), The Handbook of Contemporary Brazilian Religions in Brazil. London: Brill, pp. 320–32.

Afro-Brazilian Religions across the Atlantic


Sarró, R. 2009. ‘O sofrimento como modelo cultural: uma reflexão antropológica sobre a memória religiosa na diáspora africana’, in L. Pereira and C. Pussetti (eds), Os Saberes da Cura: Antropologia da Doença e Práticas Terapêuticas. Lisbon: ISPA, pp. 33–51. SEF. 2017. Relatório de Imigração, Fronteiras e Asilo: 2017. Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras. Retrieved 18 February 2019 from Rifa2017.pdf Teisenhoffer, V. 2007. ‘Umbanda, New Age et psychothérapie: aspects de l’implantation de l’umbanda à Paris’, Ateliers de Anthropologie, LESC 31, Religions afro-américaines: nouveaux terrains, noveaux enjeux. https://journals., last accessed 14 May 2019. Vala, J. 1999. Novos Racismos: Perspectivas Comparativas. Oeiras: Celta. Vilaça, H. 2001. ‘Identidades, práticas e crenças religiosas’, in J.M. Pais, M.V. Cabral and J. Vala (eds), Atitudes Sociais dos Portugueses: Religião e Bioética. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, pp. 75–128. York, M. 1999. ‘Le supermarché religieux: ancrages locaux du Nouvel Age au sein du réseau mondial’, Social Compass, 46(2): 173–179.

Chapter 8

Eight Movements and a Coda on the Baroque Atlantic Mattijs van de Port

‘The earth is Classical and the sea is Baroque.’ When I read a line like that, I am immediately enthused. Keen to envisage the Baroque in maritime images, I find myself blending curls and waves, foam and lace, shells and ro-coquilles, breezes and folds. Eager to learn from the equation, I try to connect the unstoppable heaving and swirling of the ocean with the sensations evoked by baroque church interiors in Bahia  – sensations of engulfment, of immersion, and of drowning. Thinking of the Baroque as having sea-like qualities, I seek to open up a space for the dim expectation that, any moment now, a majestic vessel, with billowing sails and flapping vanes, might enter the picture on the next page, and pass the pews of the church of Nossa Senhora da Conçeição da Praia. I found this phrase about the sea-as-baroque in a chapter of the Cuban scholar José Lezama Lima. Actually, Lima brings it up to ridicule and reject this kind of equation. He attributes the phrase to an unnamed author, whom he criticizes for ‘outdoing himself in the art of generalization’ (Lezama Lima, in Zamora and Kaup 2010: 212). If we start likening the Baroque to the sea, Lima purports, then anything goes. I often encountered this concern in academic studies of the Baroque. Authors point out that decades of scholarly debate about this aesthetic have stretched its meaning to the point of becoming meaningless. Such critiques are usually followed by attempts to arrive at a more limited definition of the Baroque: weeding out all the excessive meanings that cling to it; focusing on what is constant in its sensibilities and aesthetic impulses; pointing out the principle that holds the term together; or a time frame

Eight Movements and a Coda


Figure 8.1 Pews in Nossa Senhora da Conçeição da Praia, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Video still by the author.

within which we can speak about the Baroque (Hansen 2006; Verran and Winthereik 2016). Scholars who follow such procedures to arrive at the ‘essential’ Baroque seek the firmness of the earth, our unnamed author would say. I do not disagree. These authors try to subjugate this aesthetic to the kind of categorical thinking that reigns academia. Caging the wild variety of aesthetic impulses that have been assembled under the term ‘Baroque’ in a clear-cut definition, their attempt is to replace these impulses with a passive and obedient category of thought – the Baroque – that can be put to work to stabilize their narrations of the world. No clearer illustration of what becomes of this baroque is the list of one hundred terms describing and qualifying this aesthetic, which I collected from a volume on ‘Baroque New Worlds’ (Zamora and Kaup 2010): it is relegated to play the role of academia’s other – indeed, it constitutes academia as the realm of reason, order and control. Clearly, procedures to narrow down definitions of the Baroque, or enlist its qualities in rigid columns, silence its modes of expression. The Baroque is not allowed to speak about itself, in its own language, let alone move against academic modes of world-making. Yet a number of scholars have sought to think the Baroque differently. They have argued that ‘baroque’ is an aesthetic impulse that can be found in many epochs and places (during the counter-reformation, obviously, but also in the Hellenistic period in antiquity, for example). Omar Calabrese (1992) thus understands the Baroque as a trans-historical ‘category of the spirit’,


Mattijs van de Port

Figure 8.2 One hundred terms describing the Baroque. Created by the author.

which sets itself up against the spirit of the classic. The Dutch art historian Frank Reijnders, in a wonderful little book called Metamorphose van de Barok (1991), has shown how the spirit of the baroque lived on in the realm of fine arts as the anti-art, whose impulses kept (and keep) undermining romantic notions of art’s totalizing visions of the sublime. Time and again, Reijnders states, the baroque impulse sets out to show the falsity of the promise that the artwork enables the beholder to partake in the mysteries of the world. In cultural studies and the social sciences, the Baroque is now regularly invoked as John Law recently phrased it, ‘as a set of procedures and sensibilities that refuse representation and seeks to know, appreciate, trouble, and/or redeem the world allegorically through the fractured and endlessly recombined play of separating and joining’ (Law 2011). The continued relevance of baroque forms of worldmaking is also evidenced in the many postmodernist thinkers who have discussed and/or picked up the style, the ethos and the sensibilities it expresses (Chiampi 1998; Day 1999; Ndalianis 2004). Inspired by these thinkers, this chapter is an attempt to set the term ‘baroque’ adrift on the ocean’s waves. Celebrating the plasticity of the concept, I will explore what it affords to thought when we mobilize its abundance of possible associations. As a scholar of Afro-Brazilian religion, I have always been struck how a baroque spirit is at work in the aesthetic practices of Bahian Candomblé. In the scholarly literature on Candomblé this aesthetic has been thoroughly silenced. Researchers tend to highlight the African origin of the cult of the orixá spirits, and often ignore how Candomblé was affected by its centuries-long insertion in the aesthetics of colonial Brazil. The tendency is to address the drumming, the Yorùbá titles of temple dignitaries, and the calabashes used in ceremonies; not the hoop skirts, crinolines, tied silk ribbons and golden crowns that make up the ceremonial garments of the spirit mediums. Although I initially played with the idea of drawing attention to the colonial heritage in Candomblé aesthetics by coining the

Eight Movements and a Coda


term ‘Afro-Baroque’, I soon rejected it. ‘Afro-Baroque’ would keep me in the language game of singling out elements that can be labelled as such – as in ‘here we have it!’ What I have tried instead is to register the Baroque as a sediment of ongoing movements across the Atlantic  – to pick up echoes, hints, reverberations, sensibilities, inclinations, resonances and possibilities of baroque impulses. The genre of the photo essay is well suited for this kind of endeavour. As many visual anthropologists have observed, photographic images are never exhausted by the meaning we attribute to them. They are always in excess of the role we design for them. In the presence of photographic images, textual arguments ‘constantly drift toward the actual complexity and indeterminacy of the experienced world’ (MacDougall 2006: 41). Using the photo essay as a form to practise what John Law might call a ‘technique of deliberate imprecision’ (Law 2004: 4), I will offer eight ­movements in which baroque and black currents in the Atlantic meet.

First Movement: Lace There is a rather stunning painting by Anthony van Dyck from 1637, known as The Palatine Princes. It is a portrait of two young English noblemen, dressed in shining black armour: a veritable second skin, hammered out of iron. The one detail that really struck me was the way these young men had combined their impenetrable armour with a most delicate lace collar. It is as fragile and porous as crêpe paper. I keep wondering what calibrations of the impenetrable and the penetrable were sought to be maintained in this odd sartorial ensemble. The year 1637 also happens to be the year of the First Battle of Salvador, which was fought during the Dutch–Portuguese War in Brazil. It must have been during some such violent movements that the practice of lacemaking came to Brazilian shores. Today, scattered along the Brazilian coast, there are still places where lace is being made: renda de bilro, which is made with bobbins; renda richelieu, made by cutting intricate figures in textile; and renda irlandesa, made with a needle. Dona Lindaura, who is seventy-five, lives on the Ilha de Maré, an island off the coast of Salvador. She has been making renda de bilro all of her life. The bobbins are made of small nuts, placed on a stick. They make a delicious soft sound as Dona Lindaura throws them up and down, from left to right, and right to left, with incredible agility and speed. ‘My lace is as regular as the industrial one’, she says with pride. She learned the craft from her long-deceased mother, who was initiated in Candomblé. Lace


Mattijs van de Port

fabrics are in high demand in Candomblé, as spirit mediums have to seek delicate calibrations of keeping their bodies both penetrable (so as to be open to receive spirits) and impenetrable (so as to avoid being vulnerable for all the harmful energies that might enter the body as well). Thus, to close their bodies, they might say the prayer of São Jorge: Eu estou vestido I am dressed com as roupas e as armas de Jorge with the clothes and arms of Saint  George Para que meus inimigos tendo pés, So that my enemies, having feet, não me alcancem won’t reach me Para que meus inimigos tendo mãos, So that my enemies, having hands, não me peguem, não me toquem won’t catch me, won’t touch me Para que meus inimigos tendo olhos So that my enemies, having eyes, e não me vejam won’t see me Nem mesmo em pensamentos Not even in thoughts possam me fazer mal will they do harm to me Armas de fogo o meu corpo não Firearms won’t reach my body  alcançarão Facas, espadas se quebrem, Knives and swords will break sem o meu corpo tocar without touching my body Cordas, correntes se arrebentem, Cords and chains will break sem o meu corpo amarrar without tying my body Pois eu estou vestido Because I am dressed com as roupas e as armas de Jorge. with the clothes and arms of Saint  George.

Figure 8.3 Dona Lindaura makes lace, Ilha de Maré, Bahia. Video still by the author.

Eight Movements and a Coda


But then they dress in lace. Many years ago, Dona Lindaura broke with Candomblé. Like so many Bahians, she converted to protestant Pentecostalism, which has no interest in lace fabrics. It is a textile that is too much associated with the cult of the Orixás, and it is considered too sexy for a Christian woman to wear. Dona Lindaura, however, has not given up making lace. ‘I just love the soft ticking sound of the bilros’, she says.

Second Movement: O Grande Comedor de Caracol – The Big Snail Eater In Candomblé cosmology, the Yoruba word orun refers to the parallel world, the realm of the supernatural, the beyond. Aye is the material, concrete world. Juana Elbein dos Santos, in her classic study on the cosmology of Candomblé, warns her readers not to fall into the trap of translating these concepts as ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ (Santos 1998: 53), which are Christian concepts and therefore ‘foreign’ to the Yoruba religion. Yet this is exactly how the concepts were explained to me in Pai Ró’s temple in Santo Amaro da Purificação: orun is heaven, aye is the earth. Many other adepts from Candomblé talked about it the same way  – if they talked about it at all, I might add, for such explanations only came when solicited by me. Orun and aye do not really figure in the conversations that go on in Pai Ró’s temple. The issue of whether or not they are adequately translated as ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ does not raise much excitement. Most worshippers are far too busy making ends meet to preoccupy themselves with theological hair-splitting. Fathoming the spirits  – what to expect from them, how to please them, how to engage them in one’s pursuits, how to avoid their wrath – that is an altogether different issue, because spirits might help to make one’s life easier by ‘opening the roads’, as the people from Candomblé say: removing the obstacles towards health and prosperity. Heaven and earth. Orun and aye. I imagine Pai Ró, sitting in the pews of the old Igreja Matriz, looking up. I imagine his forefathers – most likely sugarcane workers of African descent – sitting in those pews, looking up. I think of their exhaustion. I think of the long hours sitting still. I think of Mass being read in Latin. I imagine how tromp l’oeuil ceilings offered up an irresistible spectacle for eyes to wander. I imagine how convoluted ornaments triggered memories of old tales about Oxalá, the orixá that reigns the skies:


Mattijs van de Port

Figure 8.4 Trompe l’oeuil ceiling, Igreja do Carmo, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. Video still by the author. Obatalá Obatarixá Grande comedor de caracol Faz o vivo virar vários Verso e reverso do universo

Obatalá Obatarixá Big snail eater Turns all that lives into a manifold Inside and outside of the universe

I imagine Juana Elbein dos Santos telling me I fell into a trap. Whereas she is probably the one being entrapped. I am free-floating.

Third Movement: Tam-Tam Somewhere in the first pages of his Imagens do Nordeste Místico em Branco e Prêto (1945), we find the French anthropologist Roger Bastide sitting in one of Salvador’s many churches. He writes: When one visits churches and Candomblés, an analogy imposes itself, even against one’s will, between two modes of ecstasy. Down there, in the intensely green valley, amidst coconut palms, banana trees, and a thick undergrowth of plants, many of which carry the names of saints and orixás ‒ Bush-of-Ogum, Saints-wood, Carpet-of-Oxalá, Wounds-of-Saint-Sebastian ‒ the tam-tam of the Negroes penetrates one’s being through the ears, through the nose, through the mouth, hitting one in the stomach, imposing its rhythms on one’s body and mind. Here where I sit it is the tam-tam of the golden ornamentation that penetrates us, not through our ears but through our eyes. As with the other tam-tam, that of the sanctuary of the spirits, it is inescapable. Attempts to escape from the golden profusion by closing one’s eyes are in vain. It is as

Eight Movements and a Coda


Figure 8.5 Alabé drummers during a ceremony for Ogum, Santo Amaro da Purificação. Video still by the author. when one has been looking into the sun for too long: luminous stains, a whirling of reds and yellows going through one’s brain. Opening one’s eyes again, there is no way to put one’s spirit to rest. The light plays over the low columns, it nestles in a black vine, in a green leaf, a sacred bird, an angel’s smile, and then leads us to yet another sparkling spot, with the effect that everything seems to be dancing and whirling, a spinning sensation that soon captures our own heads. Here, all that is profane in us has left us. Here, it is impossible to link two ideas, or to coordinate a thought: we find ourselves turned over to the most terrible of adventures. (Bastide 1945: 27–28)

Bastide had arrived in São Paulo in 1938, replacing Claude Levi-Strauss at the university there. In those days, Brazilian intellectuals were discussing the Baroque, which they felt had qualities akin to the rebellious spirit of surrealism, and might contribute to the alternative modernism they were looking for. Bastide joined the conversations, and published a number of articles on the Baroque. It was only in 1944, however, that he first visited Bahia, where his writings obtained the kind of lyrical quality that the citation above displays. What Bahia did to his gaze is well exemplified in an article on the architecture of Baroque portals in Salvador, where he draws attention to a single baroque column, at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios da Bahia, in Salvador’s historical centre. A special mention should be made of the portal to the Lyceum of Arts and Crafts of Bahia, not only because of its ornamental excess, which is rare in Brazil, nor because of the two statues leaning against the pillars that guard the


Mattijs van de Port

Figure 8.6 Column, Liceu de Artes e Ofícios da Bahia, Salvador. Photograph by the author. door, but because of this column, or more precisely, its base, which suggests the metamorphosis of the column in a caryatid. The work in relief on the stone sketches the female bust, the bulging of the belly, while the curved lines from the top draw the head of who knows what pre-Columbian god. The foils, like

Eight Movements and a Coda


veils, hide the nakedness of the column-woman. Little by little, the graceful succeeds the majestic and the sumptuous. We feel the Rococo approaching, with its cornucopias, its bouquets of flowers, its lovely play of curved lines, its rib knots and its shells, that allude to the birth of Venus. (Bastide 2006: 134)

I like Bastide best when he surfs the waves of his being engulfed, trying to reach the ecstasy of the other. In his later writings, the Baroque all but disappears. Gone is the near-delirious revelling in the world he had encountered in Bahia. Focusing on Candomblé, his gaze is increasingly turned towards ‘Africanisms’ – a more heavy-handed mode of categorical thinking, concerned with purity and authenticity.

Fourth Movement: Horror Vacui? I had promised Pai Ró to make a ‘royal portrait’ of him. What I had in mind were the portraits I had seen in the Candomblé temples of the Bahian capital, Salvador: super-sized prints of priests or priestesses in full regalia, neatly framed and prominently displayed in the ceremonial hall of the terreiro. Pai Ró was all in for it. As it turned out, his wardrobe contained an amazing number of turbans and skullcaps, lace blouses, embroidered African kaftans with matching pants, Senegalese grand boubou robes, shawls and various necklaces, representing the colours of the Orixás. Of the many ensembles he tried on for the photo shoot, this was the one he liked best: a kaftan made out of a soft green fabric, the colour associated with the spirit called Oxóssi, who is the ‘master of his head’. Pai Ró’s re-enactment of an ‘Africa’ hardly needs pointing out. Yet the portrait also exemplifies an aesthetic that is frequently encountered in Bahia, whereby ornamentation shifts into ‘decorative overdrive’. In studies of the Baroque, the heaping up of evermore decorative elements has often been discussed in terms of the horror vacui, the fear of empty spaces (Fuentes 1992). Fear, however, is not the underlying sentiment of the aesthetic practices I encountered in Santo Amaro. I would say they are driven by the joyful celebration of abundance. If I were to invent an alternative name for this aesthetic impulse, it would be ‘cornucopia aesthetics’. The cornucopia, the horn of plenty, is a horn-shaped container, overflowing with fruits and other edibles. From antiquity onwards, the motif has been used again and again. It also appears in a certain composition of still life, where the arrangement of fruits and flowers is suggestive of a pile that is no longer containable, and where any moment one expects the fruits to start rolling. When, in Pai Ró’s, temple the altar is being prepared with lavish offerings for the gods,


Mattijs van de Port

Figure 8.7 Pai Ró, priest of Terreiro Oxossi Matalambo, Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia. Photograph by the author.

it is again the cornucopia that comes to mind. The altar is flooded with all kinds of tropical fruits, some of them cut in half, artfully jagged so as to resemble flowers; dozens of cut-off chicken feet, skilfully arranged, evoke deep-sea corals; plates with heaped up corn and manioc; sprinklings of banknotes and coins; a great many bottles containing liquors and wines; peacock and chicken feathers; buckets of dark beer; flowers and palm leaves; and in the midst of it, literally drowning in the overall abundancia, are the statues of the saints. Cornucopia aesthetics seeks to produce a sensation of wealth, of things being too-much, of spilling. Once attuned to it, one finds it in garments and ornamental decorations. Even the complicated patterns of the syncopated drumming and the timing of ceremonies, which last for hours and hours on end, and are, quite literally, exhausting, contribute to an experience of plenty. Meanwhile, my eyes keep drifting to the ramshackle door on the right side of the ‘royal portrait’, suggestive of the kind of lifeworld that lies beyond this frame. Fear of empty spaces? Fear of empty plates, I would say.

Fifth Movement: Making Curls I feel I owe Edmilson a text. I have been frequenting the Ladeira da Conceição da Praia in Salvador for many years, hanging out with its blacksmiths and marble-workers. It is a deeply atmospheric place,

Eight Movements and a Coda


Figure 8.8 Cornucopia aesthetics: the altar for the Green Feather Spirit. Video still by the author.

with its centuries-old arched workshops, its stunning views of the All Saints’ Bay, its crackling fires and a non-stop concerto of hammering and sawing. So pretty is it, that the city government is now threatening to throw out the blacksmiths, and turn the workshops into ateliers for artists in residence. I had started frequenting the Ladeira because I was filming Zé Diabo, a blacksmith who makes ferramentas de santo, iron objects that are used in Candomblé, and statues of the orixás. Zé is quite a celebrity. His customers come from far and wide, and his statues are on display in museums abroad. Having engaged myself with the struggle of the people of the Ladeira against the city government, I also got to know the other blacksmiths, Edmilson being one of them. He is in his sixties, and has been working on the Ladeira all his life. He makes iron fences, and occasionally repairs ships in the nearby harbour, but most of the time I find him sharpening huge metal drills, the ones that are used in serious demolition work. He is the sweetest person one can think of, has no interest in Candomblé and his craft does not really speak to my aesthetic sensibilities. His fences are simple, functional fences – affordable fences, with straight grids to keep burglars out, and no frills. I think Edmilson was somewhat hurt by my lukewarm interest in his work. I may have been talking too sweepingly about art, beauty, candomblé. I may have been too obviously passing by his workshop with my camera and tripod, or only entering for a chat, never to film.


Mattijs van de Port

Figure 8.9 Edmilson demonstrating how to turn iron into a curl. Video still by the author.

One day he showed me some old metal moulds that are used to make the curly shapes for wrought iron fence work. ‘I will show you how those curls are made’, he said. Using the mould was the easy way, I learned. The hard way was by heating bars of iron in the fire and then hammering and beating the red-hot metal tip until it turned into a most delicate spiralling shape. I was impressed by the sheer violence that was needed to produce the convoluting fences, screens, railings and gates that give Salvador its beguiling air of effortless elegance. ‘Aqui está tudo na base da porrada’, is what the people on the Ladeira say: ‘Here it is all on the basis of a good beating’.

Sixth Movement: Two Pillories Just uphill from the Pelourinho, the square in old Salvador where slaves were punished, is the Igreja da Terçeira Ordem de São Francisco. The church, famous for its plateresque facade, has a so-called Casa de Santos, a room with some thirty alcoves, each of which contains a life-sized statue of a saint or a Christ-figure. One of them is this Cristo na Coluna, ‘Christ Tied to the Column’. When I asked the caretaker how the room was used, he told me that this was a place where visitors could contemplate the exemplary lives of these holy figures. Exemplary punishments in the square, exemplary

Eight Movements and a Coda


Figure 8.10 ‘Christ Tied to the Column’. Igreja da Terceira Ordem de São Francisco, Salvador. Video still by the author.

figures in the Casa de Santos; one wonders, how were these experiential worlds connected, if at all? How did the screams in the square below break the silence in this room, if at all? What was a wound, a pillory, a human face in anguish, there and here? About nine or ten each morning, a police escort led the slaves to be ‘corrected’ two by two to the public squares with pelourinhos (pillories). While one was stripped from the waist down and bound hand and foot to the iron rings of the post, the others watched him receive the prescribed number of lashes on the backside with a four- or five-tailed whip. Each one was handled in a similar manner, and then the group was returned to the Calabouço for a painful washing of their wounds with vinegar and pepper. Luccock reported that the public whippings were so severe that humane masters did not order them for their slaves. Even Weech regarded it as ‘cruel’ punishment, since the man who wielded the whip, usually a black criminal, whistled loudly before each blow so that the victim felt the pain doubly. (Karasch 1987: 122)

These two pillories might actually speak about the dangers of celebrating a baroque Bahia on one’s writings, where an overall fluidity – a tropical geléia geral – facilitates the meltdown of categories, promotes the mixture of everything with everything, allows for endless metamorphoses, and the softening of every boundary. Keeping these two pillories apart requires a rigid grid, a compartmentalization that keeps things, people and experiences separated and marked as other. That does not undo the boundary-breaking work of a baroque aesthetic, but it forces


Mattijs van de Port

one to consider baroque presences as unevenly distributed spatially, and fluctuating in intensity. In some corners of this world, the splashing of the ocean’s waves might well be more of a sloshing.

Seventh Movement: Lucas’ Afro-Baroque I called Lucas last night, a young artist from Salvador. I told him that I am writing about the Afro-Baroque. I did not go into the details of it, such as my consideration that an ‘Afro-Baroque’ should always come under the sign of a question mark. Anthropological fine tuning tends to give Lucas these glazed eyes, which make me unpleasantly aware of how far-off the spirals in my thinking may end up going. I also told him that I was thinking of including an example of his artwork. ‘Otimo’, he said. ‘Excellent. Which one?’ Lucas makes drawings and paintings that have a delicacy to them that is hard to match with the fact that he grew up in one of Salvador’s most notoriously violent neighbourhoods. He draws pink roses proliferating in a bird cage, masked birds, buildings with panicked faces, angel-like figures – most of it executed with fine traces. And he designs prints, contemporary Afro prints, which reject clichés like female figures carrying calabashes on their heads, and masks and spears; but ones that resonate with the urban surroundings of Afro-Brazil: iron fences, baseball caps, electrical posts and radio masts.

Figure 8.11 Lucas at work in his atelier, finishing a painting called ‘sob o tempo’ (‘under time’). Video still by the author.

Eight Movements and a Coda


Figure 8.12 Passéio Público in Salvador. Video still by the author.

Lucas recently moved to São Paulo, hoping to make a living out of his art – which is quite a challenge, to put it mildly. I figured that mentioning his work, even in a medium that probably does not intersect with the market he seeks to enter, would not hurt. ‘You do realize that when I include your artwork in this chapter, I would be framing it as “Afro-Baroque”? Would you mind?’ ‘Not at all’, he said.

Eighth Movement: A Papaya Left to Rot in the Passeio Público Someone, some time ago, wanted to freeze the movement of a breaking wave in stone. It may have been in 1810, when the Passéio Público in the Bahian capital Salvador was constructed. Or during the reforms of 1925 or 1990. This breaking wave is part of a medium height, ornamental wall. It is the kind of wall that offers its sun-warmed surface for those strollers who want to lean on it, rest their head in the bowl of their hands, and contemplate the vast, moving expanses of the Atlantic in the distance. Giving this picture a closer look, I started wondering how many more white washings this wave would be able to handle. When will the curvature that is still discernible dissolve in new layers of chalk? The workers from the Superintendência de Parques e Jardins, the city organ responsible for the maintenance of Salvador’s public parks, probably just wanted


Mattijs van de Port

to get their work done and go home. The traces of the brush, still visible in the paint, reveal a job hastily executed: ‘Never mind the movement of the wave. You want it white? We’ll make it white. That’s all the service we offer for this kind of salary’. I am aware that in the movements I have presented here, I keep contrasting my musings over possible baroques in Afro-Brazilian lifeworlds with ‘the real life concerns’ of the people that figure in my texts, as if to tell myself: the Baroque is your concern, they couldn’t care less about it. So there was Dona Lindaura, who just wanted her lace to look like the industrial lace she knew from the markets in Salvador; Pai Ró, for whom a clear-cut translation of orun and aye to heaven and earth was good enough, and whose altars first and foremost celebrated full plates; Edmilson, who sold iron fences without frills; the real anguish of slaves, as against the representation of anguish in the Christ figure; Lucas wanting to sell his work, indifferent as to what label I attached to it; and now these painters white-washing the walls of the Passéio Público. Black working-class people living real lives, having real issues to deal with, and an anthropologist wandering off in his thoughts. I did not contemplate this contrast beforehand, it ‘surfaced’ in the movements. And now I wonder what to make of it, not really sure where this insight might lead. But here is one elaboration. It is noteworthy that in all these scholarly debates about the Baroque, decadence was (and still is) a recurrent qualifier of this aesthetic. The Baroque was over the top, an empty gesturing, lacking purpose and true conviction. Dismissing the Baroque as decadent, academics could think of themselves as levelheaded people engaged in purposeful action, and underscore the urgency of their endeavours. Yet those tables can easily be turned. Thorstein Veblen’s theory of the leisure class emphatically included academic work in what he called ‘conspicuous consumption’, the investment of time and energy in goods and activities that produce prestige value, but not use value. So, who is being decadent, one might ask? Oh. And that cone-shaped object is a papaya, left to rot. They are called mamão in Bahia – big tit.

Coda In Ecstatic Encounters: Bahian Candomblé and the Quest for the Really Real and other publications (van de Port 2011, 2013, 2016), I discussed the Baroque as an aesthetics that articulates the impossibility of reaching symbolic closure. Its impulses do not offer the comforting, reassuring sensation that things are what they are because they could not have

Eight Movements and a Coda


been otherwise. Its theatricality, its mannerisms, its over-the-topness, its flaunting artificiality, its inclination to put a bleeding Christ figure in a baby-blue alcove, painted with golden, curly Rococo motives  – all of this draws attention to the fact that our understandings of the world are contingent fabrications, which never fully coincide with reality. I also pointed out that this highlighting of a fundamental lack at the heart of human sense-making efforts helps to explain the Baroque’s penchant for ecstasy and high drama. As Lacanian thinkers have convincingly argued, it is this lack that produces desire: a yearning for the rents and fissures in man-made worlds to be mended, so as to experience a blissful state of harmony. This take on Baroque impulses also made sense historically. One of its avatars emerged in the experiential worlds of late sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe, where religious schisms, explorations of ­ hitherto unknown worlds, and emergent understandings of a natural order of things, the logic of which should be studied scientifically, had produced shifts in the existing worldview of seismic proportions. The Baroque of the Counter-Reformation expressed the disintegration of the sacred canopy, and sought to counter it by fuelling the desire for divine intervention; it registered God’s receding from the world of men, and sought to stop this from happening. Not once, however, did I link the Baroque with the sea. Because … Well, because the sea is just not normally considered to be a relevant

Figure 8.13 Detail from an altar for the sea goddess Iemanjá, Santo Amaro, Bahia. The darker fabric has a turquoise colour. Video still by the author.


Mattijs van de Port

realm of experience in academia, I guess. Baroque and history? Definitely. Baroque and the politics of religion? Sure. Baroque and psychoanalysis? Well, why not? But the sea? The sea is … pointless. It was not until I ran into an anonymous scholar, in a text by José Lezama Lima, who stated that the sea is Baroque, that I started thinking of what it must have been like, in the age of discoveries. Living for months on end at sea, where everything is always in motion; where the expanses of water are infinite; where the panorama of the world is reduced to the curves of waves and the bright white foam they produce as they break; where one may encounter strange creatures, half-visible in the deep waters, their shapes refracted by the water; where strong winds break the clouds, to reveal that there is still a sun. How could those experiences not go into the Baroque, I wondered? How could we ignore that the sea is Baroque? Mattijs van de Port works as an anthropologist at the University of Amsterdam and VU University. Publications include Ecstatic Encounters: Bahian Candomblé and the Quest for the Really Real (Amsterdam University Press, 2011), and Sense and Essence: Heritage and the Cultural Production of the Real (with Birgit Meyer, Berghahn Books 2018). He is also director of two anthropological essay films, The Possibility of Spirits (2016) and Knots and Holes (2018).

References Bastide, R. 1945. Imagens do Nordeste místico em branco e preto. Rio de Janeiro: O Cruzeiro. ______. (1951) 2006. ‘Variações sobre a porta barroca’, Novos Estudos 75: 129–37. Calabrese, O. 1992. Neo-Baroque: A Sign of the Times. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Chiampi, I. 1998. Barroco e Modernidade: Ensaios sobre Literatura Latino-Americana. São Paulo: Editora Perspectiva. Day, G. 1999. ‘Allegory: Between Deconstruction and Dialectics’, Oxford Art Journal 22(1): 105–18. Fuentes, C. 1992. ‘The Baroque Culture of the New World’, in The Burried Mirror: Reflections on Spain and the New World. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 195–213. Hansen, J.A. 2006. ‘Barroco, Neobarroco e outras ruínas’, Floema Especial 2: 15–84. Karasch, M. 1987. Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Law, J. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge.

Eight Movements and a Coda


______. 2011. ‘Introduction’, The Baroque as Empirical Sensibility: An International Workshop in the Social Life of Method, Manchester, 13–15 June 2011. Open University. MacDougall, D. 2006. The Corporal Image: Film, Ethnography and the Senses. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Ndalianis, A. 2004. Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Reijnders, F. 1991. Metamorfose van de Barok. Amsterdam: Duizend & Een. Santos, J. Elbein dos. 1998. Os Nagô e a Morte. Petrópolis: Vozes. Van de Port, M. 2011. Ecstatic Encounters: Bahian Candomblé and the Quest for the Really Real. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. ______. 2013. ‘Golden Storm: The Ecstacy of the Igreja de São Francisco, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil’ in O. Verkaaik (ed.), Religious Architecture: Anthropological Perspectives. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 63–83. ______. 2016. ‘Baroque as Tension: Introducing Turmoil and Turbulence in the Academic Text’, in J. Law and E. Ruppert (eds), Modes of Knowing: Resources from the Baroque. London: Mattering Press, pp. 165–97. Verran, H., and B.R. Winthereik. 2016. ‘Innovation with Words and Visuals: A Baroque Sensiblity’, in J. Law and E. Ruppert (eds), Modes of Knowing: Resources from the Baroque. London: Mattering Press, pp. 197–224. Zamora, L., and M. Kaup. 2010. Baroque New Worlds: Representation, Transculturation, Counterconquest. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Chapter 9

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans

Community Healing through Commemoration Roos Dorsman

In this chapter I focus on faith, heritage, music and the fabrication of temporality in relation to Afro-Caribbean spirituality in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is particularly relevant as a site for exploration within the Atlantic perspectives because of the historical connections and circulations between Africa and the Caribbean, from which New Orleans emerged as an important port city. My research has been on contemporary voodoo cultures in New Orleans, and I will specifically focus on ceremonies that contribute to a form of healing for the community that has to deal with the violent past of slave trade and slavery as well as with the more recent past of hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. As the locus for this chapter I have chosen Congo Square,1 as historically it has had such a prominent position in the transatlantic community of New Orleans. It is a place where people from African and Caribbean diasporas still come together on a regular basis for activities such as drum circles, Sunday gatherings and healing ceremonies. My research has focused on contemporary voodoo in New Orleans, and Congo Square is a vital part of the dialogues surrounding these cultures in the city, being a unique site for New Orleans’s African and Caribbean diasporic connections. The cover term ‘voodoo’2 refers of a set of practices and beliefs in which there is one God (Bondye/Bon Dieu) who can be reached via divinities (both spirits, Lwa, and ancestors, vodun) either by the practitioner him/herself or through the mediation of a priest (oungan) or priestess Notes for this chapter begin on page 192.

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans

Figure 9.1 Bamboula 2000 on Congo Square. Photograph by the author.



Roos Dorsman

(mambo) (McCarthy Brown 2001; Richman 2005; Rey and Stepick 2013). There is a vital connection between the human and the divine one could even call interdependence (Dayan 2000). The mutual interdependence between the visible world of the living and the invisible world of the spirits requires communication via sacrifice, prayer, possession and divination (Bay 2008). People depend on the mediation of the spirits for healing and the spirits likewise depend on humans to ‘feed’ them, hence the expression ‘serving the spirits’ (Richman 2005; Bay 2008). Although some practices remain hidden from the outside world, an example of a public and inclusive gathering that contained rituals for the ancestors was the Maafa commemoration in Congo Square on 4 July 2015.

Internal Diversity in New Orleans’s Contemporary Voodooscape Although the specific sites of our respective fieldworks are different, there are many elements Ulf Hannerz (1969) describes in his work on the ghetto in Washington DC that I encountered in New Orleans in a similar vein. An element of his book Soulside that relates to my research is the reference to the internal diversity of the research population. Hannerz elaborates on how his first fieldwork experience brought him to a view of culture as ‘processual’ – ‘based in interactions, anchored in structures of relationships, capable of including diversity and conflict, not divorced from power, and not necessarily clearly bounded’ (ibid.: 216). As I observed above, New Orleans voodoo, or the ‘voodooscape’ as I named it, is not necessarily clearly bounded either. Even more so, it consists of unbounded practices. This is in line with Ulf Hannerz’ argument, based on Anthony Wallace’s statement that culture can be as much ‘an organization of diversity’ as a ‘replication of uniformity’. Hannerz explains: In part, ghetto culture precisely involved the habitual ways of managing the coexistence of lifestyles. I could add here that one of the useful aspects of the ghetto concept, at least in its original form, is that it draws attention to an enforced, unidimensional ethnic/racial exclusion that may entail a diversity, in the shared space, along any number of other dimensions. (Hannerz 1969: 215)

Which brings Hannerz to the observation that behind the signs of homogeneity in the ghetto, which are ‘blackness and at least relative poverty’, there is much heterogeneity. If there is such a thing as a ‘ghetto way of life’ it consists of ‘a web of intertwining but different individual and group lifestyles’ (ibid.: 212). Similarly, the social arena of contemporary voodoo

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


in New Orleans consists of a web of intertwining but different individual and group lifestyles, ranging from individual practices at home to group ceremonies held in a temple. Therefore, I examine the complexity of contemporary voodoo cultures in New Orleans using the notion of ‘scapes’. Arjun Appadurai introduces the suffix ‘–scapes’ to refer to the fluid and irregular shapes of landscapes such as ‘ethnoscapes’ (Appadurai 1996: 33), which indicates that these relations are not objectively given, but rather are constructs that depend on perspective. According to Appadurai, the perspectives are informed by ‘the historical, linguistic, and political “situatedness” of different sorts of actors: nation-states, multinationals, diasporic communities, as well as subnational groupings and movements (whether religious, political or economic), and even intimate face-to-face groups, such as villages, neighborhoods and families’ (ibid.: 33). Within my research on the voodooscape, the actors involved are the city and its tourism industry, diasporic communities, subnational, but also supra-, trans- and international religious movements and face-to-face groups such as voodoo ‘houses’ or congregations. Furthermore, some people practise voodoo individually from their homes, having various religions and belief systems represented in their families. Appadurai maintains that the individual actor is influenced by these perspectival landscapes that are in turn navigated by agents who both experience and constitute larger formations, in part from their own sense of what these landscapes offer. Appadurai (1988) extends Benedict Anderson’s notion of ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson 1983) by the notion of ‘imagined worlds’  – that is, the multiple worlds that are constituted by the historically situated imaginations of people and groups spread around the globe. This concept of imagined worlds applies to the context of voodoo in New Orleans, as the voodooscape is not geographically fixed, but lies somewhere between Africa, the Caribbean and New Orleans, and even between different neighbourhoods and ‘houses’ within the city. Thus, geographical historical imagination, though based in a certain continuity, is not fixed either, but is ever moving. Based on my fieldwork, I have found that the voodooscape in New Orleans consists of a variety of voodoo cultures that entail five elements: first or all, there are practitioners who base their practice on their African ancestors’ heritage and traditions; secondly, there are cultural retentions that consist of certain elements of voodoo cultures, amongst others second-line parades and Mardi Gras Indian masking; thirdly, there is New Orleans voodoo, or New World voodoo; fourthly, there is a thriving economy of tourist fantasies of voodoo; and fifthly, there are practitioners from Haiti who continue their practices in New Orleans. Before I turn to an ethnographic fragment, I give a brief overview of the history of New

Roos Dorsman


Figure 9.2 ‘Ancestor meditations’ sign next to an old oak tree in Congo Square. Photograph by the author.

Orleans and the development of the local voodooscape. Then I give an overview of the current aspects to the voodooscape, after which I turn to a description of the Maafa commemoration to illustrate the interconnectedness of the various influences.

History of New Orleans and the Development of the Voodooscape The city of New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, leader of the French Mississippi Company. The city was named after Phillip the Second, Duke of Orléans, and the Regent of the Kingdom of France at the time. The conditions of slavery in the French colonies and the restricted activities of enslaved and free people of colour were defined by a decree named the Code Noir or Black Code, which was signed by King Louis XIV of France in 1685. The code forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism and forbade the enslaved to own any kind of property, to conduct any kind of trade on their own account, to gather in large groups, to hunt or to sell

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


goods without written permission. However, it also expressly forbade the enslaved to do any kind of work on Sundays or holy days. Article five of the Black Code discharged the enslaved from forced labour on Sundays and religious holidays. On these ‘free days’ enslaved people began to hire themselves out for wages or to take their surplus products into town to sell them, much as local Indians had been doing since the city was founded (Usner 1981). After decades of French rule, Louisiana became a Spanish colony in 1766. An era during which Governor Miró applied the Proclamation of Good Government, which prohibited labour on Sundays, ordered shops and businesses to close during the hours of the Mass, forbade the tango (not the Argentinian version we know today, but music with a similar rhythm, later known as habanera) or any other ‘negro dance’ to occur before the end of Sunday evening services (Sublette 2008: 122–23). Still under Spanish rule in 1789, the Real Cedula were presented: a code with fourteen articles aimed at giving the enslaved the ‘benefits’ of living under a Spanish and Catholic regime. In the first article, it was forbidden for ‘slaves’ to work on Sundays (McGowan 1971). In Louisiana this turned out to be unworkable because of the pressing food situation. Whereas sitting governor Esteban Miró simply delayed implementation, his successor, Governor Baron de Carondelet, issued a slave code of his own in July 1792, expressly recognizing the enslaved’s rights to have Sundays as free days (Carondelet’s Code 1792). In this code it was proclaimed that Sundays belonged exclusively to the enslaved, who should not be compelled to work for their master unless they were paid. In 1803, New Orleans briefly came under French rule again, until the Louisiana Purchase of 30 April, in which the United States purchased Louisiana from France. Nine years later, on 30 April 1812, Louisiana gained statehood. Only between 1861 and 1862 was New Orleans part of the Confederate States of America: a confederation of seven ‘slave states’ in the Lower South region of the United States (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas). Their economy depended to a great extent upon the plantation system and thus the labour of enslaved African Americans. Since 1862, Louisiana has been one of the fifty United States of America (Roach 1996). Since its founding, New Orleans has had to deal with the impacts of its recurrent floods and hurricanes.3 In 1947, a hurricane and the waves it caused overtopped the lakefront levees (this was before hurricanes were named) and damaged the suburbs in Orleans and Jefferson parishes.4 In 1965, hurricane Betsy destroyed 27,000 houses and more than 300,000 people were displaced in its aftermath. Since then, there have been improvements in the levee system, but as history has proved, the


Roos Dorsman

Figure 9.3 House in the Lower Ninth Ward, ten years after Katrina. Photograph by the author.

protection was not enough for the force of hurricane Katrina in 2005. The city’s estimated pre-Katrina population of 437,186 (Frey and Singer 2006) lived in a bowl, half of it located below sea level, between the natural levees of the Mississippi River and the built levees (pierced by canals) along Lake Pontchartrain. In the four years preceding Katrina, there were repeated warnings from both scientists and the media that the ‘big one’ would eventually hit the city. These included specific concerns for the evacuation of an estimated 130,000 residents without vehicles, homebound, or in hospitals and care facilities. In 2005, ‘The Big One’ hit the city on 29 August: hurricane Katrina. But more than just a hurricane, it was a series of events consisting of both a natural disaster and a human failure in decision making with regards to evacuation and dealing with the aftermath. New Orleans is also known as ‘the City that Care Forgot’, something that was experienced before Katrina, but that became visible in the aftermath. People who sought shelter in the Superdome or the Convention Center (the official evacuation locations) were without food, clean drinking water and sanitary facilities for days. People died in the heat while waiting for buses to evacuate them. It was not until Friday 2 September that a convoy of US National Guard troops and supply trucks arrived in New Orleans and distributed food and water to residents stranded at the Superdome and the Convention Center. It lies beyond the scope of this chapter to give all the details, but the hit of Katrina and its aftermath have left a deep trauma in the city. People are still rebuilding their lives and

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


homes, more than thirteen years later. A place where some of the city’s inhabitants find comfort and healing is Congo Square.

The History of Congo Square Congo Square, once an open field just outside of the city walls of New Orleans, is nowadays a part of Louis Armstrong Park. Throughout the history of the city, Congo Square has been holy ground to certain groups of people. Initially, Native Americans celebrated their corn feasts in the vicinity of Congo Square (Evans 2011). With the arrival of enslaved people from Africa, the place became a site for remembering slavery and the African spirit world (Turner 2009: 46). Both enslaved and free people of colour gathered at the square on their Sunday afternoons ‘off’ to trade, drum, dance and worship the spirits. Robert Ferris Thompson explains: In this circum-Atlantic context, the concept of the Kongo crossroads was transported across the Atlantic Ocean to Haiti and New Orleans where it was re-created in music, dance, and material art performances that consecrated special locations as sites for remembering slavery and the African spirit world. (Quoted in Turner 2009: 46)

Figure 9.4 Maafa commemoration in Congo Square. Photograph by the author.


Roos Dorsman

Congo Square is such a site, and a key factor in the establishment of New Orleans as the ‘voodoo capital’ of the United States. The various backgrounds of the African Americans present at the square required what Stefania Capone names ‘ritual pan-Africanism’, in which the focus lies in similarities between the ‘ritual practices of different African belief systems, such as Yoruba, Kongo, Ewe/Fon and Akan religions’ (Capone 2007: 361). The focus, thereby, comes to lie in the ‘genetic ancestry’, as well as West African divinities that ‘run in the blood’ of African Americans (ibid.). The scope of the circum-Atlantic interculture may be recognized most vividly by means of the performances, performance traditions, and the representations of performance that it engendered (Roach 1996). Those who receive a tradition receive that ‘bodily, by re-enacting it’ (Connerton 2011: 105). This is because performances carry memory of history. An example of this is the (recreations of) traditions that take place in Congo Square, which were originally by-products of the square’s market function (Johnson 1991: 121). In short, the performances at the square can been seen as ‘multidimensional life-affirming resistance traditions’ from the nineteenth century that allowed the participants a form of ‘reconnection with a host of social, familial, and spiritual networks that had been ­severed as a result of the slave trade’ (Walker 2004: ix).

Figure 9.5 Maafa commemoration through the French Quarter. Photograph by the author.

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


The former market’s physical relation to the city changed in 1760, when military engineers moved the city’s defences for the French and Indian war. The city walls now included the place later named Congo Square, as described in the New Orleans City Guide (Tallant 1952). The current place referred to as Congo Square is not the full size of the field that lay outside the city walls in the early days of the city’s existence. In fact, it is a relatively recent construction by the local city planning department. Before the Louis Armstrong Park was built, the space was part of the Tremé neighbourhood, one of the first African American neighbourhoods in the city (Powell 2013: 348–49). Its inhabitants have been frequent visitors to the square and therefore important for the development of jazz. In 1956 the city began to demolish sections of the Tremé neighbourhood adjacent to the square with plans to create a Cultural Center. It was not until 1973 that the city completed the demolition of a nine-block section of the Tremé neighbourhood, while there were no definite plans for its development. With the support of the mayor, in 1974 the city council authorized funds to develop the 31-acre property which included the Municipal Auditorium, the Theatre of Performing Arts, Congo Square, and sections of the demolished Tremé neighbourhood into the Louis Armstrong Park Complex in honour of the native jazz musician Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, who died aged seventy on 6 July 1971. It is important to note that people in the community think it is ironic that a historic part of the city, with an important role in the development of jazz and home to great musicians, was torn down to make place for a park that was meant to honour that history, but that is closed at night and thus not open for improvisations in the evenings. Resilient as New Orleanians are, however, they found a way to make the best of it and reclaim the site. An organization concerned with the continuation of the above-mentioned Sunday traditions is the Congo Square Preservation Society, that since its incorporation by co-founders Luther Gray and Jamilah-Peters Muhammad in 1990, has been working on the resurrection and continuation of activities, and the preservation of Congo Square. In 1993, Congo Square was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, the site is in use not only as a public park, but also as a place for prayer and contemplation. Therefore, it is a key site where many aspects of the New Orleans voodooscape are practised.


Roos Dorsman

Internal Diversity of the Contemporary Voodooscape and Its Interconnectedness The research question that I took to the field was: ‘What does the social arena of contemporary voodoo in New Orleans look like?’ My fieldwork was focused on mapping that field by giving an inventory of people involved in New Orleans voodoo today, and of mapping what elements of the voodoo cultures are still in use. I encountered a social arena that is very fragmented but interconnected at the same time, so the focus of my research came to lie on what happens when these rich influences reach each other. The interconnectedness that I refer to can be between various subcultures as well as within one and the same person. As a relative newcomer and an outsider to the voodooscape, I asked all the people I spoke with in relation to my research to describe what voodoo meant to them and where they would draw the boundaries between voodoo and other cultures present around the city, such as Cuban Lukumi (Santeria) and Brazilian Candomblé. Two things came up in all the answers: first, the person would refer me to someone else they thought of as an authority in the field, implying that the other had more knowledge. And second, although they thought there are many differences, people concluded that there are similarities and shared elements. In this chapter I advocate a pragmatic5 approach to voodoo, which is a tradition that is ever changing. Whereas anthropologists in the past have tried to define whether or not the practices under study were ‘authentic’, I, instead, would like to focus on what it means for the practitioners, and see how locals use the very notion of authenticity. As Luther, drummer and co-founder of the Congo Square Preservation Society, put it when I explained to him that I found it hard to focus on one aspect of contemporary voodoo culture because all forms seem to be interconnected, he replied: ‘Right. That’s why we say about voodoo that it is a spiritual belief system. Whatever you choose to believe, it starts to connect you to those resources – the French, Spanish, African and Indian. All of that is coming together, there’s something about this place, maybe it is inherited’ (Interview 21 May 2015). Indeed, the voodooscape is closely related, and despite internal diversity there is a strong overlap in practitioners of different traditions. This is why in this work I take ‘voodoo’ as a broad term. However, one should be cautious about how to use the term, as it quickly becomes too generalizing. Bill, a drummer and Lukumi initiate, told me how it bothered him that voodoo in New Orleans was often used as a generic term: ‘It’s like cornflakes. People here are very loose with the term voodoo to the point

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


where it is abusive. There is a fast food chain named Voodoo Barbecue, a Voodoo football team, Voodoo Fest [a music festival], and so on. They can’t do that. If I would go up and say I’m going to have Jesus Fest I would have a problem’ (Interview 27 October 2015). This experience of a lack of respect for the culture contributes to the culture of secrecy surrounding it. The popularized and stigmatizing way the term is used by outsiders also influences whether practitioners themselves use the term. Some say they should claim ‘voodoo’ back and not be ashamed of it, while others say it is just everyday life and to name it voodoo is offensive. In that case the offence lies in the simplification of the religion by outsiders, such as Hollywood depictions. Even though today in Louisiana practitioners experience more freedom in the everyday practice of their cultures than they used to historically, they still have to deal with fear and stereotypes from outsiders. Sources such as Hollywood productions and books in the horror and thriller genre reinforce contemporary prejudice against the voodooscape. Often in these sources, voodoo is paired up with zombies and vampires, whereas those cultures are relatively more recent and generally unrelated. Nonetheless there is a growing group of tourists who romanticize this ‘horror’ image. In response to this development, entrepreneurs, such as shop and museum owners, come up with the creation of tourist fantasies of voodoo. I interpret this process as a characteristic of voodoo culture that has enabled it to survive for centuries, despite decades of oppression. However, commercialism and commodification are elements of adaptation to current times that are contested, as are claims about authenticity.

Emergent Authenticity Erik Cohen (1988) puts this development in a broader perspective in his work on tourism and commodification. With the term ‘commodification’ Cohen refers to a process by which things and activities come to be evaluated primarily in terms of their exchange value. In this context of trade, they become goods and services. In relation to tourism, Cohen raises the question of what happens to other than economic meanings such as religious, cultural and social meanings of things and activities once they become commodified. He focuses particularly on the impact of tourism, and proposes a new approach to authenticity. Cohen refers to Greenwood’s (1982: 27) remark that all viable cultures are in the process of ‘making themselves up’ all the time, and calls this process ‘emergent authenticity’. For Cohen, emergent authenticity is a process that stresses one aspect or refers to one manifestation of the wider


Roos Dorsman

phenomenon of ‘invention of tradition’, examples of which can be found around the world – from soapstone carvings of the Inuit to the emergence of Disneyland as an authentic American experience (Cohen 1988: 383). I see aspects of the voodooscape as emergent authenticity; new traditions are inspired by old ones, and slowly become ‘real’. Ruy Llera Blanes and Diana Espírito Santo suggest that rather than search for ‘truthfulness’ of religious notions and beings (such as spirits), ‘it is more valid and productive as anthropologists of “intanglible” phenomena to begin with the premises of their influence, extension, or multiplication in the world than from substantive ontological predefinitions’ (Blanes and Santo 2014: 7). They propose to trace the effects of the intangible within the texture of social life (ibid.: 30). As Stephan Palmié argues in relation to syncretism, where statues of Catholic saints are used to represent the spirits, the question is not ‘whether objects identifiable to the symbolic repertoires of “other religions” grace the altars of priests of regla de ocha, but what their owners themselves think they represent’ (Palmié 2013: 132, emphasis in original). I maintain that there is not ‘one original voodoo’, and that the New Orleans contemporary voodooscape is always in the making. In the same line of thought, Mattijs van de Port proposes an approach that treats Candomblé as forever in the making by taking the absence of an ‘ultimate’ or ‘essential’ Candomblé as a starting point for investigation (van de Port 2005: 6–7). Palmié too, argues that ‘the behaviour of such constructs (“original” and “syncretism”) is therefore also neither stable across time nor foreseeable in its impact on future iterations of concrete practice’ (Palmié 2013: 114). Voodoo, Candomblé and Lukumi are often referred to as ‘syncretism’. In their work on voodoo in Miami, Terry Rey and Alex Stepick describe the process as follows: Religious syncretism happened when enslaved Africans identified Catholic saints as new manifestations of African spirits, and adopted crosses, holy water, and rosaries as powerful religious trinkets to be used in conjunction with the amulets that they reconstructed from African religious memory. The Catholic ‘pantheon’ – with its single high creator God, Virgin Mary, and hosts of dead individuals (the saints) who intervene in the world of the living  – lent itself to assimilation with the traditional African community of spiritual beings, which likewise has a single distant creator God (called Bondyè in Vodou) and numerous spirits and ancestors, who, much like the Catholic saints, are perceived of as accessible and with whom the greatest amount of human/divine collaborations and commerce transpires. (Rey and Stepick 2013: 117)

However, the notion needs to be used with caution, because using the terms ‘retention’ and ‘survival’ too often presumes the existence of ‘pure’

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


African religions. Jason Young suggests, in line with Andrew Apter and others who have criticized Melville Herkovits6 for being too essentialist (Apter 2005), that descriptions of African religion often render it ‘unchanging and ahistorical (if not anti-historical)’ (Young 2012). In his work on diaspora, Paul C. Johnson demonstrates that diaspora religions, as part of ‘diasporic culture’, do not ‘merely reproduce homeland religion but transform it in response to constraints and opportunities posed by the host society’ (Johnson 2007: 41). A key work in the debates surrounding syncretism is written by Stephan Palmié. In his renowned paper ‘Against Syncretism’, Palmié argues that, despite the concept’s merits as a descriptive concept, ‘in relation to its purported empirical referent – certain processes and/or results of religious change  – remain notoriously obscure’ (Palmié 2003: 73). Palmié shows some consequences of the instrumentalization of notions about ‘syncretism’ by religious practitioners that imply opposing notions such as ‘purity’. He characterizes how the ongoing interaction between several heterogeneous strains of discourse about the nature and history of these religions generated a discourse that implied linkage between an authentic African body of ‘tradition’, and its reproduction in partly contradictory New World practices (ibid.: 74).

Syncretism and the Search for Authenticity As Sidney Mintz put it: ‘When we speak of Afro-American cultures, we are speaking of disturbed pasts’ (Mintz 1989: 14). But we are also speaking of self-conscious attempts to invest such pasts with continuity and moral significance (Palmié 2003: 93). Cultural pasts – as well as futures – are never just a given, but must be ‘produced, modified, contested and defended in line with the options and constraints perceived within a ­ historically constituted present that needs to be ‘chartered’ (ibid.: 94). The countless studies over the respective ‘syncretic’ religions in Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean, as well as in New Orleans and Brazil, have not gone unnoticed by the practitioners. In these studies, there is often an assumption of ‘real tradition’ and the risk of losing it. Palmié observes that, partly because of ethnographic literature on ‘Yoruba-ness’, there is a very real sense in which Santeros7 feel the threat of cultural loss. This fear relates to complex notions about la tradición as an original body of sacred knowledge (conocimientos) ‘that was once transferred to Cuba in toto, but has since been subject to erosion through amnesia and deliberate deviation’ (Palmié 2003: 86). Santeros are aware of the ‘economy


Roos Dorsman

of information’ (Barth 1969) with respect to their religion: knowledge is hard to share and only shared with new initiated by the initiated elders. When these refuse at times to share their knowledge, important knowledge has been lost, like chants, rhythms and ways of preparing sacred offerings (Palmié 2003: 86).

Maafa Commemoration A special occasion that I would like to discuss here is the annual Maafa commemoration. Maafa is a Swahili word that means ‘great tragedy’, and refers to the period called the Transatlantic Slave Trade or Middle Passage, during which Africans were kidnapped in Africa and transported to the Americas in great numbers (up until mid nineteenth ­century). African American scholar Marimba Ani first introduced the term in the context of commemoration (Ani 1980). New Orleans-born reverend Johnnie Ray Youngblood of the St. Paul Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, organized an annual series of activities in remembrance of the Maafa. His work inspired the founders of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center to organize the first Maafa commemoration in New Orleans in the year 2000, and it has since become an annual event. In 2015, I attended the 15th annual edition. As stated on the invite, it is organized to remember the millions of captives from Africa who were brought to the Americas where they were used as a labour force. It is meant to offer an opportunity for the community to reflect on this great wrongdoing against humanity, and to distance oneself ‘from that transgression, its legacy and the evolved practice of racism in our civic, social, spiritual and personal lives’ (Facebook 2015). In 2015, the commemoration is organized on the 4th of July, a US national holiday for Independence Day, when Americans celebrate the adoption of the declaration of independence from the British Empire in 1776. However, Native Americans and others perceive it as a sad day, on which one should commemorate the atrocities committed against the original inhabitants of the country and against the people forcefully brought there. To have the Maafa commemoration on this specific day gives it extra impact, as the city centre is filled with people dressed in their national flag colours of red, white and blue – a strong contrast with the people dressed in white outfits on a commemorative march. The Maafa commemoration is made up of two parts; it starts at 7 a.m. with healing ceremonies, and continues with a procession until around 2 p.m. First, people gather at Congo Square, and then there is a march through the historic city centre, popularly known as ‘the French Quarter’, that ends at the Mississippi riverside.

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


Around 7 a.m. that morning, less than a hundred people have gathered at Congo Square. Large tables with white cloths are positioned under a century-old oak tree that has seen much of the history that is commemorated that day. At the middle of the table there is a small ‘shrine’ of three steps and a sort of crown on top. On the steps are small vases with white flowers that will later be carried through the city and dedicated to the river to honour the ancestors. Facing these tables and the shrine are about fifty chairs occupied by people who have great authority in the community, such as religious leaders from various backgrounds, Mardi Gras Indians Maskers and community elders. Most people present, however, are standing in the square to the right of or behind the chairs, facing the big oak tree. The focus of the meeting is on healing, an essential part of voodoo, and speakers from many backgrounds are invited to speak, representing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, African religions, activists and musicians. The inclusiveness of the gathering illustrates the inner diversity and flexibility of the healing traditions being performed that day, welcoming the many non-initiates present. Here I would like to focus on the African influences to be found, for example, in the Maafa song that was written for this occasion by one of the regular drummers of the Sunday drum circles. While he drums and tells the story of the Middle Passage, two female spiritual healers join him to sing. The women are both members of the band Zion Trinity, who are initiated in Yoruba tradition and concerned with the continuation of Yoruba religion. The band’s front woman, Janet ‘Sula Spirit’ Evans, has taken it upon herself to make a book and CD with a selection of songs for the spirits/orishas. For the project, she worked together with her band, master drummers, and a translator who translated the Yoruba lyrics for her. After singing the Maafa song, the women start singing a song from their repertoire. Suddenly, Sula stops and starts to pour libations of water on the ground, saying: ‘I can’t keep the spirit from coming’. She starts moving quickly, changing her usually calm appearance. ‘We need to find the ancestors in the ground to come and help us’, she says while pouring libations on the ground in the four directions of the wind. ‘We greet the ancestors of the north, south, east and west. We ask you to come, great ancestors of the native nation’, she says as she pours water in front of the feet of ‘Big Chief War Horse’ who is representing the Choctow Nation of Native Americans at this gathering. Sula thanks all the ancestors and acknowledges the suffering they have been through. While addressing the ancestors, the people gathered in the square (several hundred by this time) confirm all she is saying with ‘Ashé’, a term that refers to life power and strengthens the message that has just been said. After the libations


Roos Dorsman

Figure 9.6 Victor Harris of the Fi Yi Yi Mardi Gras Indian Tribe at the 15th annual Maafa commemoration in Congo Square (4 July 2015). Photograph by the author.

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


the three musicians start singing songs for several spirits, starting with Ellegua, the gatekeeper who is often compared to St Peter in Catholicism and Legba in Voodoo. Then they sing for Ogún, the warrior spirit, whose song evolves into the song for Obatala, the father of all orishas (spirits in Lukumí). While the music continues, Victor Harris, chief of the Fi Yi Yi Mardi Gras Indian tribe,8 appears in full suit. He has been masking for almost fifty years, and his craftsmanship shows in the handmade suit and mask he wears representing Ogun, the warrior spirit. By calling on Ogun, the participants want to demonstrate the resilience of New Orleans people. Names of ancestors are called out loud, and bystanders encourage Victor Harris to dance and lead the way for the second part of the commemoration.

Towards the Mississippi Riverside The way to the Mississippi leads through the French Quarter. Several stops are made at historic sites in the quarter. The first stop is at St Augustine Church in the Tremé neighbourhood; established in 1841, it

Figure 9.7 Tomb of the Unknown Slave next to St Augustine Church in the Tremé neighbourhood. Photograph by the author.


Roos Dorsman

Figure 9.8 Maafa commemoration through the French Quarter. Photograph by the author.

has been welcoming enslaved and free people of colour as its worshippers ever since. Right outside the church is the tomb of the Unknown Slave; an outdoor altar that honours the unknown number of hastily buried dead slaves. During this stop in the procession through the city, Victor Harris stands next to the cross, made out of metal chains, and his cries bring many of those standing around to tears. A large band, which consists of many drummers that frequent the Congo Square Sunday drum circles and trumpeters, accompanies the procession. People carrying cowbells and tambourines keep the beat and join these musicians. The procession stops at several sites in the city centre where enslaved Africans used to be sold at auctions. After this, the procession reaches the riverside of the French Quarter. Participants form a ‘portal’ on the sides of the steps leading over the levee towards the Mississippi River, and the musicians walk up them, followed by the other participants. Walking towards the river people start singing ‘I lay my burden, down by the riverside’, and soon most people present sing along while they walk towards the Mississippi. This is an example of the interconnectedness of the different religions as it was historically a ‘Negro Spiritual’ that became a gospel song, containing references that can be interpreted either literally as baptism, or more covertly as an escape from slavery. Once at

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


Figure 9.9 ‘Down by the Riverside’: the end of the Maafa commemoration on the banks of the Mississippi. Photograph by the author.

the riverside, participants find a place facing the river. As they stand next to the railing, they throw white flowers into the river in remembrance of their ancestors. In addition to the healing and cleansing ceremonies performed during the commemoration, this get together as a whole functions as a healing ceremony for the community, and is a marker of an important moment in the city’s history. Congo Square is a space where communitas (Turner 1969) is built in an otherwise diverse group consisting of voodoo practitioners, musicians, tourists and researchers, creating a place for religious enchantment for some, an interesting day trip for others. This can be observed in the weekly healing and drum circles, but even more clearly in the special themed events such as the one just described.

Conclusion In this chapter I have illustrated that voodoo is an organic unbounded practice with multiple voices. Like the ‘ghetto way of life’ (Hannerz 1969), the social arena of contemporary voodoo in New Orleans consists of a web of intertwining but different individual and group lifestyles. The landscape of voodoo cultures is fragmented, and ranges from individual


Roos Dorsman

practices at home to group ceremonies held in a temple. I explored the question of what happens when this richness of influences reach each other. To take the complexity of the voodoo cultures that I encountered in New Orleans together, I borrow the notion of ‘-scapes’ from Arjun Appadurai (1996) to create the term ‘voodooscape’. Based on my fieldwork, I have found that the voodooscape in New Orleans consists of a variety of voodoo cultures that entail the following elements: practices based on their ancestors’ African heritage and traditions; cultural retentions that continue certain elements of the voodooscape through masking and parading; new practices created in New Orleans; the economy of tourist fantasies of voodoo; and practices based on a continuation of traditions from Haiti. I have made an attempt to show how these influences are interconnected in the Atlantic context. I maintain that there is not one original voodoo, and that New Orleans’ contemporary voodooscape is always in the making. I endorse Mattijs van de Port’s conclusion on Candomblé in Brazil that ‘the boundaries between Candomblé and society at large are highly permeable’ (van de Port 2005: 6). In New Orleans voodoo too, society at large finds access to voodoo houses, as voodoo is a way to deal with everyday life. I have presented the Maafa commemoration as an inclusive event that brings several historic influences of the voodooscape together into one healing ceremony for the community. This illustrates my argument that ceremonies held in the city of New Orleans contribute to a form of healing for the community, facilitating mourning (Connerton 2011), thereby enabling the community to deal with the violent past of the slave trade and of slavery, as well as with the more recent past of hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Roos Dorsman is a cultural anthropologist from the Netherlands, currently finalizing her PhD at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. Her research topics of interest include: memory, migration, transnationalism, commodification of culture, gender, cultural heritage, construction of identity, violence, Suriname, the Caribbean and Louisiana, USA.

Notes 1. Situated on Rampart Street, it lies north of the famous French Quarter and near to one of the city’s famous cemeteries – St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. 2. The word ‘voodoo’ originally comes from the word vodun (ancestors) in the language of the Fon people in Benin. The way it is spelt tells something about the region one is referring too: Vodun in Africa, Vodou in Haiti and Voodoo in the United States.

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


As explained on the website of Anthropology News, in October 2012 the Library of Congress announced that it had changed its subject heading for the Haitian religion from ‘voodooism’ to Vodou. However, in New Orleans it is still generally referred to as ‘voodoo’. Practitioners I have met during my stay, as well as host of websites and Facebook pages concerned with the religion, also use this spelling. I am aware of the negative connotations that might come with the way I write it, which is why I add the suffix ‘–scape’ to refer to its dynamic and unbound character. 3. New Orleans has had twenty-seven major river or hurricane-induced disasters, and at a rate of one about every eleven years  – US Army Corps of Engineers  (1972),  History of Hurricane Occurrences along Coastal Louisiana  (New Orleans district; and 1986–1997 Update); and D.O. Elliott (1932), The Improvement of the Lower Mississippi River for Flood Control and Navigation (US Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS). 4. Districts. 5. With ‘pragmatic approach’ I do not refer to the philosophical school of pragmatics, but to the approach I have towards the concept of voodoo, which is to mainly focus on the effects and execution of voodoo practices rather than on authentication of these practices by me as a scholar. The New Orleans voodooscape is so internally diverse that it is hard to draw the line for me as a researcher as well as for the people who practise one or several of the aspects of voodoo. 6. Melville J. Herskovits (1895–1963) was an American anthropologist and a student of Franz Boas. Herskovits applied a humanistic and relativist approach to his studies. He advocated for cultural relativism as opposed to European colonial attitudes and ethnocentrism. 7. Practitioners of the Lukumí belief system from Cuba. 8. In short, Mardi Gras Indians are ‘Black Indians’ who ‘suit up’ or ‘mask’ as stylized Native Americans. They take to the streets in ‘tribes’ or ‘gangs’ wearing handmade suits of beads, feathers and sequins. In 1883, Chief Becate Batiste was the first at ‘masking Indian’ with the 7th Ward Creole Wild West Indian gang. There are various explanations about the origin of the tradition. The anecdotal history has it that runaway enslaved often found shelter among Native American tribes, and the men amongst them often found love among Native American women. The masking tradition can be seen as a tribute to that heritage.

References Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. Ani, Marimba. 1980. Let the Circle be Unbroken. New York: The Author. Appadurai, Arjun. 1988. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ______. 1996. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Apter, Andrew. 2005. ‘Herkovits’ Heritage: Rethinking Syncretism in the African Diaspora’, in Anita M. Leopld and Jeppe S. Jensen (eds), Syncretism in Religion: A Reader. New York: Routledge, pp. 160–184. Barth, Fredrik. 1969. Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference. Oslo: Universitets Forlaget. Bay, Edna G. 2008. Asen, Ancestors, and Vodun: Tracing Change in African Art. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.


Roos Dorsman

Blanes, Ruy Llera, and Diana Espirito Santo. 2014. ‘Introduction: On the Agency of Intangibles’, in Ruy Llera Blanes and Diana Espirito Santo (eds), The Social Life of Spirits. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 1–32. Brown, Karen McCarthy. 2001. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn (updated and expanded ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. Capone, Stefania. 2007. ‘Transatlantic Dialogue: Roger Bastide and the African American Religions’, Journal of Religion in Africa 37(3): 336–70. Carondelet’s Code. 1792. Transcript of documents in the Archives of the Indies relating to Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Library. Cohen, Erik. 1988. ‘Authenticity and Commoditization in Tourism’, Annals of Tourism Research 15(3): 371–386. Connerton, Paul. 2011. The Spirit of Mourning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dayan, Joan. 2000. ‘Vodoun, or the Voice of the Gods’, in M.A. Fernandez Olmos and L. Paravisini-Gebert (eds), Sacred Possessions: Vodou, Santeria, Obeah and the Caribbean. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Elliott, D.O. 1932. The Improvement of the Lower Mississippi River for Flood Control and Navigation: U.S. Waterways Experiment Station, vol. 1–3. Vicksburg, MS. Evans, Freddie Williams. 2011. Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans. Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press. Facebook. 2015. Ashe Cultural Arts Center ‘Annual Maafa Commemoration’., last accessed 4 July 2015. Frey, E.H., and A. Singer. 2006. ‘Katrina and Rita Impacts on Gulf Populations: First Census. Findings Brooking Instution’. uploads/2016/06/20060607_hurricanes.pdf, last accessed 27 June 2019. Greenwood, Davydd J. 1982. ‘Cultural ‘Authenticity!’, Cultural Survival Quarterly 3(6): 27–28. Hannerz, Ulf. 1969. Soulside: Inquiries into Ghetto Culture and Community. New York: Columbia University Press. Johnson, Jerah. 1991. ‘New Orleans’s Congo Square: An Urban Setting for Early Afro-American Culture Formation’, Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana History Association 32(2), pp. 117–57. Johnson, Paul Christopher. 2007. Diaspora Conversation: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. McGowan, James T. 1971. ‘Planters Without Slaves: Origins of a New World Labour System’, Southern Studies XVI: pp. 5–26. Mintz, Sidney W. 1989. Caribbean Transformatuons. New York: Columbia University Press. Palmié, Stephan. 2003. ‘Chapter 4: Against Syncretism: “Africanizing” and “Cubanizing” Discourses in North American òrìsà Worship’, in Richard Fardon (ed.), Counterworks: Managing the Diversity of Knowledge. London: Routledge. ______. 2013. The Cooking of History: How Not to Study Afro-Cuban Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The Spirit(s) of New Orleans


Port, Mattijs van de. 2005. ‘Candomblé in Pink, Green and Black: Re-scripting the Afro-Brazilian Religious Heritage in the Public Sphere of Salvador, Bahia’, Social Anthropology 1(13): 3–26. Powell, Lawrence N. 2013. The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (paperback edition). Ramsey, Kate. 2012. ‘From “Voodooism” to “Vodou”: Changing a US Library of Congress Subject Heading’. Journal of Haitian Studies 18(2): 14–25. Rey, Terry, and Alex Stepick. 2013. Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith: Haitian Religion in Miami. New York: New York University Press. Richman, Karen E. 2005. Migration and Vodou. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Roach, Joseph R. 1996. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York: Columbia University Press. Sublette, Ned. 2008. The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books (distributed by Independent Publisher Group). Tallant, Robert. 1952. New Orleans City Guide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Turner, Richard Brent. 2009. Jazz Religion, the Second Line, and Black New Orleans. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Turner, Victor. 1969. ‘Liminality and Communitas’, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. New York: Taylor & Francis. US Army Corps of Engineers. 1972. History of Hurricane Occurrences along Coastal Louisiana New Orleans District. HistoryofHurricaneOccurrencesalongCoastalLA1972.pdf, last accessed 27 June 2019. Usner, Daniel H. 1981. ‘Frontier Exchange in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Race Relations and Economic Life in Colonial Louisiana, 1699–1783’. PhD dissertation. Durham, NC: Duke University. Walker, Daniel E. 2004. No More, No More : Slavery and Cultural Resistance in Havana and New Orleans. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Young, Jason. 2012. ‘African Religions in the Early South’, Journal of Southern Religion 14:, last accessed 9 July 2019.

Chapter 10

Imaging the African Diaspora

Cultural Heritage, Religion and Belonging in the Netherlands Markus Balkenhol

Commemoration of Slavery What does the African diaspora look like? Amid rising nationalist sentiment, this question has become an urgent one for people of African descent in the Netherlands today (de Witte 2014). At a time when volkscultuur (folk culture) such as Delftware, Volendam folk costumes, Dutch Passion Plays and the Saint Nicholas celebration have come to stand once more for true Dutchness (Roodenburg 2012; van den Hemel 2014), the place of people of African descent in the national imagination has become precarious indeed. What the African diaspora looks like is not a simple question. People of African descent have responded to the challenge of resurgent nationalist sentiment by resorting to their own version of cultural authenticity, which they find in their ‘African’ origins (cf. Gilroy 1993). Many young people of African descent have revitalized the pan-African notion of ‘Africa’ as a cultural home, which they express by wearing Kente cloth, or learning African dance. This timeless ‘African culture’, however, remains elusive. As Marleen de Witte has shown, ‘African culture’ is not something that self-evidently exists in and of itself, but instead is the product of reinvention and reimagination. It is ‘booming as a reservoir of materials with which young people shape their lifestyles and identities’ (de Witte 2014). Notes for this chapter begin on page 213.

Imaging the African Diaspora


Inevitably these claims to an unspoiled, primordial cultural home must face questions of authenticity. Racial authenticity and the right to embody and represent it have been, as Paul Gilroy has shown in the case of music, at stake more broadly in the cultural expressions hailing from the Black Atlantic: ‘The fragmentation and subdivision of black music into an everincreasing proliferation of styles and genres … has also contributed to a situation in which authenticity emerges among the music makers as a highly charged and bitterly contested issue’ (Gilroy 1993: 96). A focus on performance and style, as de Witte continues, certainly ‘raises questions about the theoretical nexus of identity and authenticity’. However, the issue is not so much to pass value judgements on the authenticity of cultural expressions, but rather to investigate ‘how self-constructed identities come to be experienced as authentic or primordial – that is, as anything but self-made’ (de Witte 2014: 264). These cultural expressions may be invented, imagined and constructed, but the question here is how, despite their almost fictional character, self-styled cultural forms are authorized through a ‘politics of authentication’ (de Witte 2014; Meyer and van de Port and Meyer 2018). In this chapter I approach the question of what the African diaspora looks like, how it appears (Mirzoeff 2017), and how its appearance acquires persuasive power in the Netherlands through the lens of visual culture. How is visual culture employed to render an African diasporic community visible and palpable? Given this simultaneous urgency and elusiveness, visual culture, and in particular photography (Campt 2012), has long held the promise of capturing and materializing the African diaspora.1 In this chapter I look at a case in which an Afro-Surinamese Winti priestess and a Dutch artist use 3D photography to make visible, or to image, the African diaspora by creating a ‘contemporary’ ancestor mask. By imaging, I refer to the realm of images, but as this case will underline, the visual is a realm that is not restricted to the optical in a narrow sense. A photograph, as Elizabeth Edwards has argued, ‘is a three-dimensional thing, not only a two-dimensional image’ (Edwards and Hart 2004: 1). Edwards and Hart argue against a prevailing tendency of privileging the photograph as image, and thus neglects the photograph as object. Instead of privileging the image, they want to ‘break, conceptually, the dominance of image content and look at the physical attributes of the photograph that influence content in the arrangement and projection of visual information’ (Edwards and Hart 2004: 2). If image content is privileged in conventional viewing practices, 3D technology turns these conventions on its head. Here, the physical shape of the ‘printed’ object is at the centre of attention. As I will show, it is precisely this materiality of


Markus Balkenhol

the three-dimensional print that produces a ‘miraculous’ presence. This material presence, I will argue, is central to diasporic projects of redressing a catastrophic history. The haptic experience of being able not only to see, but to touch, produces a sense of bridging geographic and temporal gaps, and of redressing historical loss. This emphasis on the material constitutes a departure from the rationalist focus of debates about colonial history and transatlantic slavery. The dominant paradigm in these debates is that historical knowledge will change people’s awareness of the colonial past, and ultimately lead to emancipation and a more responsible historical practice. What has become clear, however, is that people do not necessarily live by facts, historical or otherwise. Better put, what people experience as factual is often based on hunches, intuition, senses, emotions. This is not to say that people are unreasonable, but that they do not know the world through reason alone. Knowledge of the world is generated through our relationship with things. As Pierre Bourdieu, in his Outline of a Theory of Practice, has argued, objects have the power to implicitly condition human actors. In other words, the way we furnish the material world is central to our socialization and to the normalization of social relations (Bourdieu 1977; Miller 2005: 6). As I will show, the mask project departs from the idea that the past can be redressed, and that an alternative future can be built, by reliance on historical education alone. Historical ‘facts’ matter to the extent that they can be felt to be true as much as that they can be supported by historical evidence. While this reliance on materiality is a broader, some argue anthropological (Miller 2005), phenomenon, the particular history of objectification and dehumanization wrought by slavery makes such an engagement particularly urgent in the case of the African diaspora. In particular in the current political climate, where cultural roots and national history have come to play such a crucial role in politics of citizenship and belonging, a material approach to visual culture can help to elucidate the high emotional investments made with regard to historical ‘facts’. Let me now turn to an ethnography of the mask project. I have chosen to reproduce to a large extent a presentation given by Boris van Berkum on the occasion of a new series of scans at the Dortyard artists residence in Dordrecht on 14 July 2017. After a brief introduction I reproduce verbatim a transcription of a tape recording of van Berkum’s presentation, because the precise way in which the masks are framed is central to the argument about materiality and knowledge production that I want to develop.

Imaging the African Diaspora


The Kabra Mask The Netherlands has been part of the Atlantic world since the seventeenth century, but a broader awareness of this historical entanglement only emerged in the Netherlands when Suriname, a former colony, gained independence in 1975. Fearing political and economic instability in the wake of this event, more than 300,000 people moved from Suriname to the Netherlands. As subjects of the kingdom, they could settle in the Netherlands without formal restrictions, but upon arrival they were confronted with different forms of racist exclusion. While formally regular Dutch citizens, those Surinamese of African descent in particular were denied equal access to housing, labour and education. Although faced with difficulties of making the Netherlands their home, a return to Suriname was becoming less and less likely: following the military coup d’état in 1980, the political and economic conditions in Suriname ­deteriorated rapidly and ultimately led to civil war. As return was no longer an option, people looked for ways to settle in a country where they faced exclusion from large areas of social and political life. The shared yet unequal colonial history of Suriname and the Netherlands played a vital part in this. By mobilizing slavery, black grass-roots organizations successfully appealed to a sense of historical responsibility among Dutch politicians and Dutch society at large. As a result of this political work there are now a number of slavery memorials across the country, and the colonial past and slavery have become recurrent themes in politics of belonging and citizenship in the Netherlands today. For people of African descent, this recourse to the past held the promise of a shared experience of past suffering which, it was hoped, would become a unifying force as a political symbol. A new identity emerged in this context of the ‘descendants of the enslaved’: those Surinamese Dutch of African descent whose forebears had been made slaves on the Surinamese plantations by Dutch merchants in the ­seventeenth, e­ ighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This identity is highly contested. Although it was mobilized successfully in various local and national political arenas, it is not shared by all in the same way, nor accepted across Dutch society at large (Balkenhol 2014). Regardless of these contestations, the focus on descent did move to the centre of attention a new entity in the Dutch political landscape: the ancestors. Of course, everybody descends from somebody, and this self-evidence seems to make the ancestors a straightforward link with the past. Yet when scrutinized more closely, this firm biological and therefore seemingly natural existential grounding becomes more complex. The


Markus Balkenhol

ancestors are an extremely complex and indeed complicated entity who potentially cause confusion more than clarity. Most importantly, AfroSurinamese ancestors are both historical individuals and spiritual entities. Upon a person’s death, elaborate rituals ensure the soul’s safe passage from this world into the hereafter (van der Pijl 2007). If conducted correctly, these rituals turn people into ancestors who become part of the Afro-Surinamese Winti pantheon. The ancestors continue to interfere with people’s daily lives. They can be consulted in matters of love, health and business, but they also need to be appeased on a regular basis so as not to wreak havoc. This means that ancestors are both referred to as historical individuals and as spirits who are ‘alive’ in the present. To complicate matters further, there are ancestors associated with known historical individuals who even have names, but ‘the ancestors’ can also be used as a container term referring to ‘those who came before us’ in general. In other words, the ancestors are much more elusive than the suggestion of straightforward biological descent might suggest. This elusiveness becomes an especially urgent matter when the ancestors are turned into political symbols that need to appeal to a larger constituency. The question is, how to give these ancestors a face that people can rally around? Marian Markelo is a 62-year-old woman of Afro-Surinamese descent. Over the past decade she has also become the most prominent priestess of the Afro-Surinamese Winti religion in the Netherlands. In 1998, the year that the petition for a national slavery memorial was submitted to the Dutch Parliament, Marian Markelo received a message from her ancestors while she was on one of her many visits to Ghana. In this revelation (see Sansi, this volume), Markelo reports, the ancestors told her to ‘bring back’ art into the Afro-Surinamese Winti religion. The African ancestors’ art, they argued, had been lost during the Middle Passage, and it was now time to return what had been lost or stolen. Thirteen years later, in 2011, Markelo met Boris van Berkum, a Dutch artist based in Rotterdam. Van Berkum and Markelo embarked on a project they called an ‘African Renaissance’ in the Winti religion. The project consists of three-dimensional scans of West African masks from different museum collections in the Netherlands. These scans were milled in polyurethane foam, and van Berkum then turned them into what they call ‘contemporary ancestor masks’. This project is rather successful today  – so successful, in fact, that Markelo recently burst into tears because she was overwhelmed by how big the project had become. In June 2017, the priestess and the artist presented a new round of scans, which will produce a new ‘collection’ of Winti masks. For the purpose of the argument about transfiguration, let me now focus on the

Imaging the African Diaspora


way van Berkum presented these new scans by narrating the history of the project. My name is Boris van Berkum, I am an artist. I serve Marian Markelo and her – and really also my – quest to introduce art in the Winti culture. [My presentation] is a story about a miraculous African Renaissance that is taking place here in the Netherlands. With high-tech techniques we are able to breathe new life into ancestral art. This is what this story is about.… And when Marian Markelo asked me and gave me this task to provide a stimulus to art in the Winti culture, I only had to ponder very, very briefly. She asked me to introduce art in the Winti culture so as to breathe new life into the forgotten tradition of the African ancestors. We know that it once existed, but it is not there. Not directly visible.

Van Berkum initially made ceramic sculptures of the Winti goddess mama Aisa, one of the most important spirits in the Winti pantheon, and popular among many Winti practitioners. When van Berkum shows images of these, as he calls them, ‘African-inspired’ sculptures during his presentation, someone in the audience exclaims: ‘Beautiful!’ In fact, the sculptures were an immediate success in 2012: ‘[W]e put them on display everywhere. Here you can see us proudly in museum Booijmans van Beuningen. That was an awesome, awesome presentation. And on the wonderful, wonderful Brienenoordeiland we did a Goddess weekend’. In other words, the sculptures seemed to be an immediate success, and in fact one of them is now sitting proudly on Markelo’s private altar (Balkenhol 2015). But then a different development took place that would influence the further course of the project. As van Berkum continued his presentation: It looks like a wonderful fairy tale, but the fairy tale also has a villain. And that is this man, Stanley Bremer. Stanley Bremer was the director … of the World Museum. The guardian of the ancestral art. He [dramatic pause] had conceived the unholy (onzalig) plan to sell the entire Africa collection. ‘For sale: unique Africa collection [Bremer implied]!’ And he had found a buyer. Someone in Abu Dhabi was interested. Seventy-one million euros it was supposed to fetch.2 A marvellous collection, a trade collection. So the Rotterdam traders who maintained relations with West Africa, they brought the ancestral art first to the residence of Prins Hendrik, and later this became the ethnographic museum. This is a very special collection, because early on touristic objects were made. Already in the nineteenth century, things were made because the Africans realized that these sculptures and masks were in demand with people who came to their shores. And this collection is very early, so we know for a fact that these sculptures, fantastic sculptures, were really intended for the ritual, for the power, for the exorcism of evil, and for medicine.


Markus Balkenhol

Figure 10.1 Ceramic sculpture, 2013. © Boris van Berkum.  Ok. Marian and I also took the initiative ‘I am not for sale’, Mi no de fu bai [Surinamese Creole]. Am I pronouncing it right? [to the audience of mainly African Surinamese Dutch]. I’m still learning you know. Within a week we had collected twelve hundred signatures, and later Olphaerd den Otter3 took over with his public action – credits where credits are due. He took care that the ancestral art remains in the museum. Stanley Bremer has retired, sort of,

Imaging the African Diaspora


but in any case, he can no longer do any harm. The Africa collection has been saved – it stays in Rotterdam. And do go and see it, because it is our collection!

At this point, the two narratives of the project converged. The plan to reintroduce religious art in the Winti worship merged with the goal of safeguarding the ‘cultural heritage of the African ancestors’ in the Netherlands. Van Berkum was still looking for ways to perfect his sculptures. For despite this rather successful first attempt, the sculptures seemed to be lacking something. They were ‘not yet perfect’, van Berkum recalled to me in an interview. This is how he explained this convergence of religious innovation and safeguarding cultural heritage during his presentation: Despite his madness, Stanley Bremer has also inspired me as an artist. Because he showed me what that African art can mean in our lives. So basically, I’m almost grateful to him, believe it or not. And what Marian said [also inspired me]: if I see an Africa collection, I see a graveyard [in English]. I see a graveyard [now in Dutch, kerkof]. Empty skins, empty shells that have lost their power. We look at them as Westerners. Neatly in a showcase. Of course, we enjoy their aesthetics, but their power really is in the ritual. But how can we involve this, well, this fragile art in ritual again? And I thought, well, now in this society we simply have this incredible technique, that is 3D technology. So, in fact,

Figure 10.2 A Yoruba mask being scanned. © Boris van Berkum.


Markus Balkenhol

and here [Figure 10.2] you see a scan product is being produced of a Yoruba ancestor mask. Here [Figure 10.3] you see the point cloud.… Basically, a lot of really tiny photographs are being made of an object. Then you see the render here. Then here you see the milled model, made of polyurethane foam [Figure 10.4]. Just a little bit taller, so we went from round about 25 centimetre to 66. I will explain later why. And then finally [Figure 10.5] varnished with really fine varnish, some brass powder, sanded off, and plastered with cloth, which many of you in the audience will immediately recognize as pers. And that means ancestral cloth, which you will wear when you honour the ancestors. And … this is how the kabra mask was born. And this was the first piece in this miraculous introduction of art and of masks and of sculpture in the Winti culture.

Let me pause for a moment to look at this techno-miracle. Miraculous here is not only the ‘introduction of art and of masks and of sculpture’, but the technologically mediated presence of the ancestors. The appeal of 3D technology lies in its ability to create an impression of exactitude. The three-dimensional reproduction of the mask highlights the indexical quality of photography. That is, the photography not only symbolically refers to the object depicted, but by the photographic process of creating a physical imprint of the light emitted by the object the photograph retains a physical trace of the object itself. As many have reiterated since Roland Barthes’s famous essay (Barthes 2000), this transaction creates a sense

Figure 10.3 The raw data being rendered. © Boris van Berkum.

Imaging the African Diaspora


Figure 10.4 The mask being milled in polyurethane foam. © Boris van Berkum.

of lifelikeness: the viewer has the impression of being able to physically touch a person or an object that is not present. Of course, as van Berkum is well aware, like photography 3D reproductions are only ‘exact’ to a certain extent. How exact a reproduction is depends on the resolution of the photographs taken of the original,


Markus Balkenhol

Figure 10.5 Kabra ancestor dance-mask. Boris van Berkum, 2013. Lacquered polyurethane foam, textile, wood (66 × 40 × 40 cm). Collection Amsterdam Museum. Photo Erik Hesmerg.

Imaging the African Diaspora


as well as the precision and resolution of the 3D printer or mill. For example, objects or surface structures smaller than 0.5 millimetres are not picked up by the scanner used for the kabra mask. ‘Exactitude’ therefore refers to the accuracy of the reproduction of the proportions and shape of the original. This ‘exact’ shape, in van Berkum’s view, provides a direct, literal, indeed material link to the original on which the ancestors work. It is, as it were, in the words of Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, a ‘historical sensation’ through which the ancestors are magically made present. Technology here merges with ‘magic’: touching the ancestors (and being touched by them) is something of a physical impossibility, but it is magically made possible by 3D technology, which becomes what Jeremy Stolow has called a ‘deus in machina’, a spiritual entity that becomes manifest in the machine. The magical appearance of an ancestral face is here linked intrinsically with a photographic technology that establishes an indexical relation with the ancestors. Although Markelo and van Berkum call the mask a symbol that ‘stands for’ the ancestors (and in fact the object is not animated), their strong emphasis on technology suggests that the relation is more than merely symbolic. For example, van Berkum’s initial design of ‘African-inspired’ sculptures did not generate the kind of ‘presence’ they were looking for (Balkenhol 2015). Van Berkum highlighted on several occasions the fact that he was ‘collaborating with the ancestors’, because ‘they provided the form, he provided the finish’ (ibid.). As he emphasizes in this presentation, ‘you see that the African form is in the new mask’. I argue that, unlike the initial sculptures, what does now achieve ‘presence’ here is the indexical quality of photography, which, as Elizabeth Edwards has argued, is often understood to provide access to an otherwise unattainable reality (Edwards and Hart 2004). Even more than conventional photographs, the kabra mask is what Tina Campt (2012) has called a haptic image. Photographs, Campt argues, have proved an important instrument in claiming subjectivity. Portraits and family pictures in particular provided people of African descent in Europe and elsewhere with a means to portray themselves as people with a biography, and as political subjects, as black Europeans: ‘[P]hotography offers individuals in those communities a medium through which to create a vision of themselves that does not always square with how they are popularly perceived or with what we associate with those contexts in the present’ (ibid.: 5). The value of these photographs, Campt continues, lies not only in their power of representation, but also in their material presence: they can be held, caressed, and, through the magic of chemically transmitting the light emitted from one physical object onto another physical object, they promise a physical connection with the object depicted. Hence,


Markus Balkenhol

Haptic images are objects whose effects are structured by a tripartite sense of touch – an indexical touch, a physical touch, and an affective touch. It is a touch that suffuses both the composition of the image and our responses or relation to it. They are images touched by the subjects they capture, touched by those who view or encounter them, yet objects also that touch those who view them as well. They are objects that ‘move’ us both through our physical contact with them and through the affective investments with which we imbue them. (Campt 2012: 43)

Campt here follows Elizabeth Edwards, who argued that photography is not only a visual medium, but one of touch. Our engagement with photographs, whether printed or on a screen, is eminently corporeal, involving sight, but also touch, or even smell and taste. As Edwards argues: From its earliest days, the relationship with photographs has demanded a physical engagement  – photo-objects exist in relationship to the human body, making photographs as objects intrinsically active in that they are handled, touched, caressed.… the describing of content is accompanied by what would appear to be an almost insuperable desire to touch, even stroke the image.… [Here] the viewer is brought into bodily contact with the trace of the remembered.

In a sense, all photographs are tactile objects, but haptic objects ‘solicit a relay of social transactions that evoke sensate, embodied and affective engagements. These engagements triangulate, imbricate and implicate their viewers, these subjects, and their makers through the multisensory forms of optical, tactile and emotive interactions that constitute the act of viewing a domestic photograph (Campt 2012: 44). In other words, haptic objects have a ‘social life’ (Appadurai 1988), because their embodied and affective appeal has the power to create a sense of community. What I want to highlight here is not only the haptic quality of the mask, but the way in which its materiality is implicated in knowledge production. As I have indicated in the introduction, historical knowledge, although preoccupied with factuality and evidence, becomes persuasive when it merges with hunches, intuitions and feelings. As van Berkum continues, the mask, although it is a completely new object in the Winti tradition, appears to be a perfect fit with existing Winti traditions: ‘And this is really quite according to custom, because when you do a ritual, a Winti Prey, a dance ritual for Gods and Goddesses, you always begin with the ancestors [shows image of original and kabra mask]’. The mask’s design also refers to elements of ancestor rituals immediately recognizable to Winti practitioners, being dressed in a garment of white and blue, the colours of the ancestors. The mask is sprinkled with brass powder, a reference to the Winti spirit Mama Aisa, the ‘mother goddess’.

Imaging the African Diaspora


By incorporating familiar elements into the new mask, the makers aim to incorporate the mask into existing religious practice and cosmology. Moreover, beyond the context of Winti, the mask as a genre ties in with broader narratives about ‘Africa’ (de Witte 2014). As van Berkum introduces the scans for a new series of masks in the Wereldmuseum, he portrays ‘Africa’ as a pre-Lapsarian Eden in which the ancestors lived harmoniously: We’ll move on to 2016 now, because it tastes like more.… We are now in the depot of the World Museum, where Marian, accompanied by [her assistant] Rolina, is pouring a Pleng libation for the ancestors, but also for the makers of the art that we’ll be 3D scanning. Thus, we asked permission, and also reassured them that what we are going to do with their beautiful forms, which they once created, two centuries ago, in the safe and beautiful Africa, that we have good intentions with this, and that we will basically involve their forms in the ritual.

The image of a ‘safe and beautiful Africa’ certainly caters to an audience of mainly African Surinamese women and men of around fifty or sixty years of age, most of whom are regular guests at slavery commemorations (Balkenhol 2014). This image of Africa is of course part of a broader black Atlantic imagination, critiqued by Gilroy as a form of cultural nationalism (Gilroy 1993). It is an ideological image that is contradicted by most historical research (Thornton 1998), but even so, what requires explanation is its persisting appeal. Why do people believe in a pre-lapsarian Africa in spite of all historical evidence to the contrary? It is my argument that the investment in physical presence is a way not only of fantasizing about the past, but is an intervention into the world of things, and therefore an act of world-making in the present. This is underlined in the new scans, where a Yoruba sculpture is grafted onto Markelo’s body. The image shows Markelo’s body from the neck down, sitting on a chair. Her head has been replaced with that of the sculpture. As van Berkum puts it, the result is ‘a priestess in the present and a priestess from the past, namely this priestess from Congo, nineteenth century’ [Figure 10.6]. The aim is not so much to return to a lost Eden and escape into a fantasy world, but to articulate black subjectivity in the present as a composite of an African sculpture and Markelo’s body. The re-assembly of African sculpture and a living body is an attempt to restore the integrity of the black body so as to articulate black subjectivity in the present. It is not surprising, then, that the mask appears as a symbol in current memory politics in the Netherlands. As I have outlined in the introduction, the question of how to commemorate slavery has become deeply entangled with broader debates about Dutchness and cultural diversity


Markus Balkenhol

Figure 10.6 Mama Aisa sculpture. © Boris van Berkum, 2019.

in the Netherlands. In this context, cultural heritage has become a prominent marker of Dutchness, but also a way for minorities to claim political subjectivity. The annual commemoration of abolition in Amsterdam has become an important platform for Surinamese of African descent to engage in

Imaging the African Diaspora


these negotiations. This event, which has been organized every year since 2002, is now broadcast live on national television. Next to the official commemorative ceremony, usually attended by upwards of five hundred guests including high-ranking local and national government representatives, there is a festival that attracts twenty thousand people or more. In 2013, the event marked the 150th jubilee of abolition, a historic date. As usual, Marian Markelo opened the ceremony with a Pleng libation to the ancestors. But this year, she was accompanied by the kabra mask – a historical first. In the audience was Annemarie de Wildt, curator at the Amsterdam Museum. Immediately taken by the appearance of the mask, she resolved to acquire it for the museum’s collection. As she argued, the mask not only symbolically refers to the history of the city, but by making its appearance at this historic occasion, as an object it has now become part of the city’s cultural heritage. After lengthy negotiations with the museum, the mask was indeed acquired and now constitutes part of the museum’s permanent collection. Here the materiality of the mask and its political significance merge. Slavery often poses a curatorial challenge because the very nature of the institution of slavery means there are very few objects that the enslaved were able to leave behind. This presents museum exhibitions, which hinge on the ability to display objects, with a challenge that is not just curatorial, but also political. In particular, museums like the Amsterdam Museum, who are facing mounting pressure from activist groups to diversify their exhibitions, are looking for ways to include colonial history and slavery in their permanent exhibitions. For example, the Rijksmuseum is planning a large exhibition about slavery in 2020, and the Tropenmuseum has recently opened a temporary exhibition entitled ‘Afterlives of Slavery’, and is planning to open a permanent exhibition about slavery in 2021. The Amsterdam Museum has added alternative descriptions to their exhibition about the Dutch Golden Age that highlight the colonial context of the exhibits.4 Recently, a consortium has been awarded funds to draw up a plan for a slavery museum. In other words, the material afterlife of slavery is inextricably connected with questions of political belonging that are playing out in postcolonial Dutch society. I see the mask project as an explicit intervention in this context. Van Berkum and Markelo understand the mask as a ‘liberation’ of African art from what they frame as a caged existence in museum collections. African heritage in the Netherlands, they argue, is valuable only to the extent that it can be used in rituals. This is how van Berkum explains it in his presentation:


Markus Balkenhol

In 2014, Annemarie [de Wildt], I think she is here in the room, hello, thank you for being here. Annemarie, on behalf of the Amsterdam Museum, has been incredibly committed to acquiring the kabra mask. But we had one condition. We did not want to make the same mistake as in the World Museum who is doing ethnographic collections. We want the kabra mask to be an active component in the Winti culture. And so this is the first dancing museum piece in the Netherlands, and maybe even in the whole wide world. Ok. And a beautiful statement recently in her Pleng libation in the Africa Museum in 2017: ‘the Kabra mask is a symbol for the millions of African people who died anonymously and who worked for free to make Europe great during the Golden Age’.

Conclusion With this intimate connection of materiality and the political, the story of the mask now comes full circle. I started this chapter with the question: What does the African diaspora look like? A different way of putting it would be to ask how the African diaspora is imagined as a community. This has become a pressing question in the context of a social and political climate that is dominated by a desire for social, cultural and historical closure. Dutch society is increasingly seen in terms of a ‘people’ that possesses a clearly bounded ‘culture’. History should not be a matter of debate, but a means to solidify and glorify ‘culture’. As ‘Dutchness’ has increasingly become a matter of emotions, the struggle for citizenship and rights has also shifted gears and entered the terrain of ‘culture’. The mask project is a good example of the importance of visual culture in articulating diasporic identity. What has become clear is that ‘imagination’ does not quite capture the haptic quality of those images through which the ancestors and the African diaspora is imagined. Perhaps instead of imagining it would be better to speak of ‘imaging’, a process that includes not only the virtual dimension of the image, but also its physical presence. I think this is crucial to better grasp the range of the project of imaging diaspora, which is not limited to questions of representation, but is also about embodied interventions in the material world. What the mask, with its strong emphasis on materiality, implies is that redressing the past, and working on a different future must go beyond the world of signs, and take on the material world through which we are made subjects.

Imaging the African Diaspora


Markus Balkenhol is an anthropologist at the Meertens Institute (Amsterdam) working on issues of colonialism, race, citizenship, cultural heritage, and religion. His PhD thesis, ‘Tracing Slavery: An Ethnography of Diaspora, Affect, and Cultural Heritage in Amsterdam’ (2014, cum laude), deals with cultural memories of slavery in Amsterdam. His most recent publications include: ‘Iconic Objects: Making Diasporic Heritage, Blackness and Whiteness in the Netherlands’, in Birgit Meyer and Mattijs van de Port, Sense and Essence: Heritage and the Cultural Production of the Real (Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2018); and ‘Silence and the Politics of Compassion: Commemorating Slavery in the Netherlands’, Social Anthropology / Antropologie Sociale 23(4) (2016).

Notes 1. In 2012, the Caribbeanist journal Small Axe began a new series of artist projects and essays entitled ‘The Visual Life of Catastrophic History’. During three years, the journal featured one artist’s portfolio and one essay (‘The Visual Life of Catastrophic History: A Small Axe Project Statement’ 2011). 2. Bremer was the director of the World Museum from 2001 until 2015. He had announced his ‘revitalization plan’ for the museum, which included the establishment of a commercial travel agency in the museum, a cafe and a restaurant. In 2006 the museum closed to be rebuilt into a ‘museum theme warehouse’. Bremer also planned to establish a dating service in the museum. When it turned out that the museum was in debt, he planned the sale of the museum’s Africa collection, which met the resistance of a broad coalition of artists, citizens, and other museums. Bremer was forced to resign in 2015. The museum has survived and is now cooperating with the three other ethnographic museums in the Netherlands.​t​ -wereldmuseum-4172360-a1520095, last accessed 19 September 2017. 3. Den Otter is a well-known Dutch artist whose work is in Booijmans van Beuningen, Centraal Museum Utrecht, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. He became the spearhead of the movement following a Facebook post in which he criticized Bremer’s plans. 4., last accessed 15 November 2017.

References Appadurai, Arjun. 1988. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Balkenhol, Markus. 2014. ‘Tracing Slavery: An Ethnography of Diaspora, Affect, and Cultural Heritage in Amsterdam’. PhD dissertation, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. ______. 2015. ‘Working with the Ancestors: The Kabra Mask and the “African Renaissance” in the Afro-Surinamese Winti Religion’, Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief 11(2): 250–54.


Markus Balkenhol

Barthes, Roland. 2000. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. London: Vintage. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Campt, Tina. 2012. Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Edwards, Elizabeth, and Janice Hart. 2004. Photographs Objects Histories: On the Materiality of Images. New York: Routledge. Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso. Hemel, Ernst van den. 2014. ‘(Pro)claiming Tradition: The “Judeo-Christian” Roots of Dutch Society and the Rise of Conservative Nationalism’, in Transformations of Religion and the Public Sphere. Springer Link, pp. 53–76. Meyer, Birgit, and Mattijs van de Port (eds). 2018. Sense and Essence: Heritage and the Cultural Production of the Real. New York: Berghahn Books. Miller, Daniel. 2005. ‘Materiality: An Introduction’, in D. Miller (ed.), Materiality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 1–50. Mirzoeff, Nicholas. 2017. The Appearance of Black Lives Matter. Miami: [NAME] Publications. Pijl, Y. van der. 2007. Levende-Doden: Afrikaans-Surinaamse Percepties, Praktijken En Rituelen Rondom Dood En Rouw. Amsterdam: Rozenberg Publishers. Roodenburg, H.W. 2012. ‘De “Nederlandsheid” van Nederland: Een Nieuw Project Aan Het Meertens Instituut’, Volkskunde. Tijdschrift over de Cultuur van Het Dagelijkse Leven 113(2): 203–12. ‘The Visual Life of Catastrophic History: A Small Axe Project Statement’. 2011. Small Axe 15(1): 133–36. Thornton, John. 1998. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Witte, Marleen de. 2014. ‘Heritage, Blackness and Afro-Cool’, African Diaspora 7(2): 260–89.

Chapter 11

Places of No History in Angola Ruy Llera Blanes

Introduction This photo-essay is a reflection on landscape, memory and heritage politics, as seen from Angola and its Atlantic history. Through the description of certain off-track, remote landscapes that are not included in the official Angolan heritage discourse, I pursue a reflection concerning the politics of heritage in Angola, using the idea of ‘places of no history’ to signal how certain landscapes become purposefully abandoned or overshadowed by other, official topographies. Simultaneously, I perform an itinerary that exposes lesser-known histories of the Atlantic, as seen from an Angolan perspective.1

Remote Remnants in Southern Angola The village of Salinas is a small hamlet on the Atlantic coast of the Namibe province in southern Angola. Located about 100 kilometres north of the provincial capital (the city of Namibe), it was once integrated in a penal complex known during the colonial era2 as Campo de São Nicolau, a concentration camp for political prisoners created by the Portuguese colonial authorities in the late 1950s.3 While most inmates worked in the main sector of São Nicolau (a few kilometres south of Salinas) on the large-scale Notes for this chapter begin on page 228.


Ruy Llera Blanes

Figure 11.1 Across the desertic landscape, towards Salinas (Namibe, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2013.

agricultural venture, a selected group was brought to this hamlet for the heavy duty of exploiting the salt mines, cropping and packaging the salt for nationwide distribution. After Angolan independence in 1975, the colonial concentration camp officially closed, but the prison site, meanwhile renamed Bentiaba, continued to operate, this time for the reclusion of Angolan political prisoners flagged as enemies of the MPLA regime (see Bahu and Blanes 2016).4 In the 1990s, however, the penal colony was dismantled and integrated into the national prison system. Today, roughly forty years after Angolan independence, Bentiaba appears in the public discourse as a ‘site of heritage’, symbolizing the resistance against the colonial endeavour, and its particular penal system is now celebrated as exemplary of social policies towards reintegration.5 Images of the prisoners leaving São Nicolau in the aftermath of Angolan independence are well known in the public sphere, and many of its former inmates were shown being interviewed in the famous documentary Independência (2015), sharing their extraordinary experiences as exiled prisoners in this region. In the meantime, during the same process of extinction of Bentiaba’s concentration camp, the Salinas were expropriated, and eventually began

Places of No History in Angola


Figure 11.2 Old harbour structure in Salinas (Namibe, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2015.

to be exploited by private entrepreneurs. The old colonial housing that was built to support the enterprise was eventually occupied by the families of the current workers of the salt mines, some of whom were related to former prisoners or guards of São Nicolau. The hamlet is composed of one main street that ends in an area that locals refer to as pescaria (fishing site), where we find an old wooden infrastructure that still stands vertically on a small beach of what is today a lake. The elders of the hamlet tell us that back in the day there was no lake, but open sea, and the site was used as a harbour, through which slaves from central Angola arrived to work in the region, or were shipped via the transatlantic slave route, probably through the more active slaving ports of Benguela and Luanda. The old wooden remains would thus be the poles that supported the jetty for embarking and disembarking slaves. However, while the Bentiaba area has gained a spotlight in the Angolan public sphere as one of the sites in the Angolan path towards independence, this particular historical thread of marginal Atlantic slave route has not been pulled, and the story of the Salinas remains largely unknown beyond the local sphere (see e.g. Pantoja and Saraiva 1998; Heintze 2004; Curto 2005; Freudenthal 2005).


Ruy Llera Blanes

Figure 11.3 Main street of Salinas (Namibe, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2013.

Meanwhile, back in Bentiaba, bordering the prison complex, we find another interesting nineteenth-century historical vestige: an old cemetery, with several examples of what is referred to as ‘Mbari funerary art’: sculptured and ornamented graves – mostly cruzetas, small plaques with a cross and a pictorial depiction  – using a specific kind of local stone referred to as sanga. The Mbari,6 I was told on that occasion, were originally groups of Ovimbundo ethnicity, from the Central Highlands of Angola. Throughout the nineteenth century, they were enslaved and shipped to the Moçâmedes region, probably through the Salinas port.7 A first group seems to have remained in Bentiaba, in what was then (before its transformation into the colonial concentration camp) a private fazenda (farm) founded in 1824 by a certain Senhor Nicolau, later sold to the Portuguese government.8 A larger group was shipped to the then emerging provincial capital of Moçâmedes, to work in the urban economy in the wake of the international prohibition of slavery, while remaining well known for their artisan mastery. Prior to the arrival of the Mbari and other colonists, the longue durée of this region was one of scarcely populated landscapes, of nomadic and semi-nomadic Mucubal9 tribes across the Namibe desert and its northern semi-desertic fringes until its progressive occupation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Apart from the degredados (exiled criminals) that Portugal sent to the colony in its early occupation campaigns (Bender 1978), there are also histories of former Portuguese colonists in Pernambuco and their African slaves, who fled from Brazil in the mid-1800s (in the wake of the armed insurrection in that Brazilian city), as well as of South African Boers who also occupied the region with their own private farms.10 Within this framework, the Mbari appear as a by-product of this marginal miscegenation between locals and (voluntary and involuntary) newcomers,

Places of No History in Angola


visually expressed in the semiotics of their funerary art, which includes local, Western and Atlantic elements (Cardoso 1963). Throughout the twentieth century, however, the Mbari very much disappear as a sociopolitical entity, subsumed into other policies of population of the landscape. From this perspective, today, while we do not know who is or who is not Mbari, their art remains locally visible. Meanwhile, the Mucubal were the object of similar attempted politics of domination. From the viewpoint of the colonial regime they were, as Ruy Duarte de Carvalho (2002: 138) describes, seen as ‘historical and sociological residues’ of the civilizational project, distant from the focal points of the empire. Nevertheless, the Mucubal experienced their own history of resistance, forced colonization, violence and Atlantic deportation during the late colonial period, being shipped to São Tomé and Príncipe for forced work on the islands’ plantations throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The salt mine and cemetery in this remote coastal landscape are quite unique and, perhaps precisely because of their very remoteness, remain, from an archaeological perspective, intact; this despite the notoriety of

Figure 11.4 Mbari funerary art in Bentiaba (Namibe, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2015.


Ruy Llera Blanes

the Bentiaba prison, which by 2015 was commissioning a brand new prison block, constructed by a Chinese company with national government funding. Such vestiges appear as off-track remainders of defining socio-historical movements that unveil Angola’s Atlantic configuration – that is, the emergence and subsequent demise of the colonial slave economy, the transition towards an authoritarian colonial regime, and, finally, political independence, which in turn was marked by civil war and a new wave of authoritarian rule. From a more macro perspective, such movements are the cornerstones of Angola’s colonial and precolonial history, as we describe below. But at the same time, a closer look at places like the Salinas and the Mbari cemetery reveals how, alongside the more notorious and public landmarks and iconicities of those historical movements, other places, while deserving similar recognition, remain in a significant void. In what follows I will speculate about why this is so.

Diverging Heritages Without an extensive historical and archaeological investigation, one cannot ascertain if indeed such sites and infrastructures identify exactly as the local lore tells us. However, my approach to these remote locations, although fascinated by those registers, is more ethnographic, and more concerned with how such histories are perceived and experienced on site; in other words, questioning what kind of temporal depths and significances are acknowledged and identified in such spaces, otherwise seen as ‘places of no history’, both by the government and by visitors who fail to see the temporalities that lie within and below what is commonly perceived as a barren landscape of stone, rubble and decay (Gordillo 2014). In my second visit to Bentiaba in 2015, I discussed these issues with Bernardo (not his real name), the local representative of the culture department in the provincial capital. He was a former student of social sciences who ended up working for the regional government. Standing in the middle of the Mbari cemetery, we ended up agreeing that it was a shame that there were no resources or even any interest in studying or safeguarding these vestiges of early colonialism in Angola: ‘So many things to be done, and we are constantly boycotted by the state bureaucracy!’, he complained. On the other hand, I replied, we could also argue that the very remoteness and abandonment of such sites is what keeps them intact, having survived any kind of speculation. But the key argument, perhaps the most difficult question to answer, was what caused this situation of lack of interest in such a ‘significant void’.

Places of No History in Angola


A subsequent point was that this kind of discourse of frustration, sorrow and ‘mourning’ for the abandoned heritage of Angola is not exclusive to the Namibe region. I heard it again in places like Uíge, Zaire, Huíla, Bengo and even Luanda  – people complaining about how sites of historical importance are being neglected by the government, which constantly prefers to physically eliminate or refashion (see below) what many Angolans perceive as ‘national heritage’. This, I believe, is revelatory of two interrelated processes: a citizen critique of the regime’s politics of heritage, which I described elsewhere (Blanes 2018) as being selective, amnesiac and subdued to other economic and political interests; and subsequently the recognition of disconnection between governmental and grass-roots processes of heritagization. This is very much what we can observe, for instance, in the village of Mbanza Kongo (Zaire province), recently recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, but simultaneously the object of diverse and divergent processes of heritagization on behalf of religious groups (see Sarró and Temudo, this volume). This reveals what Cristina Sánchez-Carretero (2013) recently identified as ‘uncomfortable heritage’, through which sites and objects of iconicity become so through processes of ongoing personal and political divergence. The same applies to particular historical narratives and discourses, which are often mediated or produced through presentification or absentification of problematic lexicons. This is the case, for instance, of the traumas associated to the history of slavery, which is affected by processes of spotlighting and obscuring certain events, agencies, directionalities and protagonists (Trouillot 1995), and determines particular ‘public’ and ‘private’ memories and historicities (Araújo 2010, 2014). Indeed, such processes of divergence and disconnection produce what I speculatively call here ‘places of no memory’  – places that, for whatever reason, are excluded from the official, regime-sponsored heritage narrative in Angola. By observing local approaches to these spaces, we acknowledge spaces of conflict, social dissent and political resistance, while at the same time deconstructing the ‘official transcript’. In another article (Blanes 2018), I described these processes in the framework of the contemporary political situation in the country, mostly from an urban perspective. Here, I am enacting this argument from an ‘Angolan/ Atlantic perspective’, and reflect upon about how Angola’s Atlantic history has been configured into the local regime’s politics of history and commemoration, which includes a very thin, restricted acceptance and appropriation of such an ‘Atlanticity’. Before I do so, however, I will review some of the key elements concerning the idea of an ‘Angolan Atlantic history’.


Ruy Llera Blanes

Histories of the Angolan Atlantic Just a few kilometres south of Luanda, we find one of the most famous destinations in what concerns the capital’s weekend tourism: the island of Mussulo  – a beautiful, paradisiac stretch of land bordered by countless kilometres of ‘wild’ sandy beaches, populated with bars and holiday homes of the capital’s elite. In this respect, it is somewhat of a trademark in Angolan culture and highlife, and a nearby haven for an otherwise chaotic, dirty and noisy African polis. On the coast of the mainland, perched on the Morro da Cruz, a small hill that overlooks one of the ports used for crossing over to Mussulo, stands a small white building, a former seventeenth-century chapel (‘Capela da Casa Grande’) that once belonged to the Capitão de Grandeiros, Dom Álvaro de Carvalho Matoso, Chevalier of the Order of Christ and, by the way, also the son of a notorious slave trafficker, Dom Pedro Matoso de Andrade, who was also in charge of the presidiums of Ambaca, Muxima and Massangano. It is said that the chapel was used to baptize the slaves before embarking them for their journey to the American colonies.11 After centuries of abandonment, in 1997 the chapel was refurbished and repurposed into the National Museum of Slavery, integrated in the Instituto Nacional de Património Cultural (INPC). Ten years after its inauguration, I had the chance to visit the museum, along with my colleague Ramon Sarró. We arrived at around noon, only to find the museum closed. After asking around, we finally managed to find the clerk and asked him to open up for us. Once inside the museum, we were offered a history of slavery in Angola through a chronological sequence.

Figure 11.5 The Museum of Slavery in Luanda. Photograph by the author, December 2007.

Places of No History in Angola


Figure 11.6 Depiction of slaves being baptized before being shipped in the negreiro vessels. Photograph by the author, December 2007.

This included documents pertaining to the end of slavery across the Lusophone Atlantic, in particular after Brazilian independence in 1822, and that described the slow evolution from the subaltern condition and status of slavery to one of ‘liberto’ (free), ‘indígena’ (indigenous) and finally independent ‘cidadão’ (citizen). The texts we are able to read were accompanied by a set of images and objects of diverse origin, which included objects of torture and pictorial depictions of slaves being tortured or baptized before being shipped to the American continent. Such histories were famously described by the likes of Gerald Bender (1978), Joseph Miller (1988), John Thornton (1992), David Birmingham (2006) and Roquinaldo Ferreira (2012), who taught us about the emergence of Angola within the transatlantic economy, based on extraction and exploitation. This task of unveiling sites, stories and protagonists of this Atlantic history continues (see e.g. Cândido 2013; Ball 2015; Toldo 2016; Heywood 2017). However, as Bernardo’s frustration indicated, the task remains complicated, in particular when we attempt to move beyond the official discourse and find other ‘Atlantic Angolas’. Today, the Museum of Slavery is arguably the most relevant reference for the local understanding of Angola’s early colonial history. However, two other places come to mind, which could play a similar mnemonic role: the São Miguel fortress and the palace of Ana Joaquina, two of the few remaining pre-twentieth-century edifices still standing in Luanda. The São Miguel fortress dates back to the sixteenth century, during the aegis of Luanda’s first regent, Paulo Dias de Novaes. Built in the classic abaluartado style, it was the first defensive structure to be built by the Portuguese in the territory, mostly to combat piracy. In the nineteenth century, it became the Depósito de Degredados de Angola, in the framework of the Lisbon policy of exiling criminals to the colony (Bender 1978).


Ruy Llera Blanes

Finally, after hosting the Museum of Angola throughout the Estado Novo period, during the liberation wars it was once again militarized and used as a headquarters by the Portuguese battalions. After the Angolan independence, it was occupied by the FAPLA (the MPLA armed forces) until 1978, when it became the current Museum of the Armed Forces, reinaugurated by Angola’s president in 2013. It is simultaneously under the aegis of the Angolan Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Defence. In 1996 it was included in a proposal for a UNESCO World Heritage Site, unsuccessfully so far. The Ana Joaquina palace, allegedly built in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, was named after a wealthy early nineteenth-century creole (she was the daughter of an Angolan mother and a Portuguese father) entrepreneur and slave trader, who accumulated such fortune that she became somewhat of an icon of the elite society in the city. It is said that until the early twentieth century, the palace had a large garden on the front side, and a tunnel through which slaves were clandestinely led to the ships that sailed to Montevideo and several Brazilian cities. In the twentieth century, the palace became a private school, and remained structurally intact until independence in 1975. But from that moment onwards it suffered a fast and continuous process of ruination. In 1998, as Jon Schubert (2014: 65) describes, the remains of the palace were torn down overnight to give way to a high-rise construction. However, after a significant public outcry led by local architects, the plans were shelved and the provincial government’s strategy then shifted towards its ‘rehabilitation’ – that is to say, a complete reconstruction, attempting a ­replication of the original building. Today, despite still being recognized as a historical site in Luanda, it actually bears no physical remnant of past times, and its current function as a provincial court, in which several

Figure 11.7 The old São Miguel Fort, now occupied by a modern military history museum. Photograph by the author, December 2007.

Places of No History in Angola


notorious court cases have been tried, has overshadowed older images and memories. Both the palace and the fortress of Luanda can be said to have experienced a process of what we could call ‘transversion’ – a progressive resignification that has rendered particular historical evidences subsumed under other, more politically relevant histories. In this respect, the São Miguel fortress is telling: while it is a vestige of a colonial military history, it offers the visitor a postcolonial military history. These examples indicate two features of Angolan Atlantic history: its subsumption within other regimes of historicity  – perfectly illustrated in the superimposition of modern military history onto an older one; and its encapsulation into a politically inoffensive condition  – one that does not challenge or question the regime’s victorious history that exerts from the MPLA’s nationalist narrative (Blanes 2017, 2018). This narrative includes, for instance, the substitution of other Atlantic points of ­reference – for example, the Cuban–Angolan collaboration and its role in the consolidation of the ruling party’s regime (George 2006; Peters 2012); and the continuing reduction of other political identities or protagonisms in the country’s pre- and post-independence period (Pearce 2015; Péclard 2016). It is precisely this victorious history that produces the alternative ‘places of no history’ that I talk about here. Let me give one last example of this by returning to southern Angola one last time.

Tundavala, the Silent Cliff The Tundavala gap is a steep cliff of about 1,200 metres located in the Serra da Leba (Huíla), about one hundred kilometres east from Bentiaba and the Salinas. Boasting incredible views to the northern Namibe plateau and an outstanding biological diversity, Tundavala is seen today as a touristic hotspot, both for Angolans and for foreign visitors. However, in the aftermath of the civil war (1975–2002) that had ensued Angolan independence, Tundavala became a designated site for the physical elimination of opponents of the ruling regime (MPLA), who were shot and thrown down the gap. It is estimated that hundreds, if not thousands, were murdered at Tundavala, and it is said that the remains of many can still be found at the bottom of the cliff. In this respect, if Tundavala’s biological and touristic potential is unquestionable, its dark history remains a taboo in the Angolan public space. The association of Tundavala to the mainstream and alternative Angolan Atlantic histories I have been talking about here may not yet


Ruy Llera Blanes

Figure 11.8 Panorama of Tundavala (Huíla, Angola). Photograph by the author, October 2015.

seem very evident, and indeed will remain somewhat indirect. I will address that with the story of a man I met in 2016, called Kazunda (not his real name), who lives in the provincial capital of Namibe. Kazunda is a Bakongo, born in Cabinda in 1946. When he was still a baby, his mother took him to Luanda, where he managed to make his way through middle school. However, in his late teens he enrolled in the UPA movement, which later became the FNLA.12 It was not long before he was arrested and jailed in the São Paulo prison in Luanda, where he suffered continued torture and beating. In 1967, Kazunda was deported from Luanda to São Nicolau. Along with other inmates, he was shipped on a 72-hour trip to Moçâmedes. During the trip, they were given food, but when they arrived they were sent to the local prison near the harbour, and spent several days without food. Eventually, he and other inmates were put in a van and covered up, so they could not see where they were being taken. They thought they were going to be executed, but it turned out they were taken to São Nicolau. He was put to work in the Salinas and later on, owing to good behaviour, was allowed to return to the main complex where he worked making adobe bricks, although without pay. At a certain point his only clothing was the cloth bags used for packing sugar or salt; and he would wash himself in the sea. In 1974, after an amnesty, Kazunda was released from the camp. He was twenty-five years old. After the independence he was integrated in the MPLA apparatus and worked in the regime’s secret services, in logistics. However, in 1977, in the aftermath of the episode known as fraccionismo – a frustrated coup against the MPLA leadership, which resulted in a massive witch-hunt against any militant suspected of ‘insufficient’ allegiance to Agostinho Neto (Mateus and Mateus 1999) – he was arrested, and taken to the Tundavala cliff. He was blindfolded and, together with several other detainees, shot. Luckily, the bullet missed him, but he let himself fall down as if he had been hit. Luckily, he only dropped a few

Places of No History in Angola


Figure 11.9 Detail from a mural sculpture in the abandoned Cine Estúdio in Namibe, depicting the local attachment to the sea. Photograph by the author, October 2017.

metres before hitting ground. Left to die, he managed to climb down the Tundavala and hid for several months in a remote Mucubal farm. Eventually, he returned to Namibe and managed to find jobs as a truck driver and in the local fishery industry.

Conclusion: The Slavery of History In the very last pages of his book Silencing the Past, Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1995: 153) wrote that ‘[h]istory does not belong only to its narrators, professional and amateur’. This is indeed the feeling one gets when we approach issues of memory, heritage, landscape and politics in Angola: if we quickly become well aware that in Angola, memory is a political matter of fact, built upon centuries of violence and exploitation, we also realize how the landscape is composed of layers of multiplexed, plural and heterogeneous remembrances. Kazunda’s story tells us how Tundavala is part of the MPLA regime’s silent itinerary of violence and terror that produces ‘places of no history’,


Ruy Llera Blanes

places of social and epistemological abandonment, excluded from the official register. However, a closer look reveals not only alternative and complexified historical processes under the shadows exerted by the national register, but also unexpected connections between them – as we saw in Kazunda’s personal journey from Cabinda to the fishing harbours of Namibe, crossing Luanda’s pre- and post-independence military and penal history, from Luanda to São Nicolau/Bentiaba and Tundavala. Such shadows include, for instance, marginal Atlantic histories such as the one that emerges from the Salinas harbour, but also and especially reveal the mechanisms through which the Angolan regime’s victorious history superimposes one temporality (the late colonial and independent history) over the other (the early colonial and marginal history). Such revelations, however, do not necessarily exhaust the exposition of ‘hidden truths’; in fact, the itinerary of ‘places of no history’ that I propose here is not only a subjective exercise based on my own ethnographic journey, but is also the by-product of several individual and collective manufactures, based on acts of either resistance or compliance with the victorious history. Ruy Llera Blanes received his PhD from the University of Lisbon in 2007. He is a senior lecturer in Social Anthropology at the School of Global Studies of the University of Gothenburg. His current research site is Angola, where he is working on the topics of religion, mobility (diasporas, transnationalism, the Atlantic), politics (leadership, charisma, repression, resistance), temporalities (historicity, memory, heritage, expectations) and knowledge. He is the author of A Prophetic Trajectory (Berghahn Books, 2014) and co-editor of The Social Life of Spirits (University of Chicago Press, 2013). He is also editor of the journal Religion and Society: Advances in Research.

Notes  1. The research in southern Angola described in this chapter was undertaken with my colleague Helder Bahú (ISCED-Huíla), with whom I travelled around the region in the framework of an ethnographic study of the Bentiaba prison, from 2013 to 2016. Considering everything he taught me about Namibe and southern Angola, I am profoundly indebted to him for this exposition.  2. Formerly the home of the kingdoms of Kongo and Ndongo, Angola only became an ‘active’ Portuguese colony in the nineteenth century, after centuries of commerce in coastal outposts. Throughout the twentieth century, however, Angola became a key territory for the Portuguese Lusotropical Estado Novo (1933–1974) empire, object of

Places of No History in Angola




 6.  7.  8.

 9. 10. 11. 12.


strong financial, demographic and political investment. However, in the wake of the movements towards African independency, a liberation war began in 1961, which eventually led to Angola’s independence in 1975. As Medina (2013) describes, the initial plan on behalf of the colonial authorities was to create a colonato (large-scale agricultural venture based on indigenous forced labour – see e.g. Blanes and Paxe 2015) in the area, a plentiful oasis in the mouth of the River Bentiaba that had until then been privately exploited by a Portuguese landowner (see below). However, with the beginning of the liberation wars and the increasing presence of Portuguese military and counter-revolutionary forces in Angola (Mateus 2004), it was decided that it should become a penal colony. This explains the central role of agriculture in its organization. The MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) was, along with UNITA and FNLA, one of the protagonists of the Angolan liberation wars against Portugal. They reached the position of ruling party after independence, declaring Agostinho Neto as first president of the new country. In 1979, after Neto’s death, the leadership was taken by José Eduardo dos Santos, who remained the country’s president until 2016. The MPLA began by enforcing a Marxist–Leninist agenda, but the civil war that ensued (and lasted until 2002), and the end of the Cold War, eventually gave way to a form of authoritarian state capitalism (see Oliveira 2014). They remain to this day the only party to have ruled in any governmental instance since the country’s independence. As described elsewhere, the camp was quite unique owing to its geographical characteristics: located in a coastal oasis surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of pre-desertic and desertic landscape, its edifices were not surrounded by prison walls, which made any attempt to escape an extremely difficult task. Subsequently, inmates and prison officers worked side by side in the agricultural exploitation venture, and freely circulated within and beyond the complex (see Bahu and Blanes 2016). ‘Mbari’ means, literally, ‘Umbundu language’. Interestingly, it also refers to a visual art form practised among the Igbo in Nigeria. Moçâmedes was the official name of Namibe in colonial times, and until 1985. Former inmates and prison guards, however, mentioned that the farm goes back to ‘o tempo dos holandeses’ (‘the time of the Dutch’), possibly referring to the time in which the Dutch West India Company occupied Luanda and other coastal settlements (1641). Also referred to as Kuvale (see Carvalho 1995, 2003; Costa 2010). On this history, see e.g. Estermann (1957), Guerreiro (1971), Bender (1978), Pélissier (1986), Castelo (2007, 2017), Bastos (2009), Azevedo (2014) and Saraiva (2016)., last accessed on 25 October 2018. The FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola) was, alongside the MPLA and UNITA, the politico-military protagonist of the liberation wars. Of mostly Bakongo ethnic composition, it lost protagonism in the post-independence period, and is today associated with a ‘dubious allegiance’ (Mabeko-Tali 1995; Mbah 2010), closer to the identity of the ancient Kingdom of Kongo than to that of Angola.


Ruy Llera Blanes

References Araújo, Ana Lúcia. 2010. Public Memory of Slavery: Victims and Perpetrators in the South Atlantic. Armherst, NY: Cambria Press. ______. 2014. Shadows of the Slave Past: Memory, Heritage, and Slavery. New York: Routledge. Azevedo, José Manuel. 2014. ‘La Colonización del Sudoeste Angoleño, del Desierto de Namibe al Planalto de Huíla, 1849–1900’. PhD thesis, Departamento de Historia Medieval, Moderna y Contemporánea, University of Salamanca. Bahu, Helder, and Ruy Llera Blanes. 2016. ‘A Colonial Prison in the Postcolony: Legacies of Imprisonment in Bentiaba, Angola’. Paper presented at the international conference ‘Colonial Incarceration in the 20th Century’, Lisbon, 21–23 July 2016. Ball, Jeremy. 2015. Angola’s Colossal Lie: Forced Labor on a Sugar Plantation, 1913–1977. Leiden: Brill. Bastos, Cristiana. 2009. ‘Maria Índia, ou a Fronteira da Colonização: Trabalho, Migração e Política no Planalto Sul de Angola’, Horizontes Antropológicos 15(31): 51–74. Bender, Gerald. 1978. Angola under the Portuguese: The Myth and the Reality. Berkeley: University of California Press. Birmingham, David. 2006. Empire in Africa: Angola and its Neighbors. Athens: Ohio University Press. Blanes, Ruy Llera. 2017. ‘A Febre do Arquivo: O Efeito Benjamin e as Revoluções Angolanas’, Práticas da História 3: 71–92. ______. 2018. ‘Scaffolding Heritage: Transient Architectures and Temporalizing Formations in Luanda’, in Birgit Meyer and Mattijs van de Port (eds), Sense and Essence: Heritage and the Cultural Production of the Real. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 158–81. Blanes, Ruy Llera, and Abel Paxe. 2015. ‘Nostalgies Impérialisées: Mémoires Plurielles et Contestations Politiques en Angola’, Terrain 65: 94–113. Cândido, Mariana. 2013. An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and its Hinterland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cardoso, Carlos Lopes. 1963. ‘A Arte Mbali no Distrito de Moçâmedes’, in VV.AA. Separata do 1.⁰ Encontro de Escritores de Angola. Sá da Bandeira: Unknown Publisher. Carvalho, Ruy Duarte de. 1995. ‘O Futuro Já Começou? Transições Políticas e Afirmação Identitária entre os Pastores Kuvale (Herero) do Sudoeste de Angola’, Lusotopie: 221–37. ______. 2002. Os Kuvale na História, nas Guerras e nas Crises. Luanda: Edições Nzila. ______. 2003. ‘Em quem Pensa Quem Responde pelos Kuvale?’, Cadernos de Estudos Africanos 5–6: 197–208. Castelo, Claudia. 2007. Passagens para África: o Povoamento de Angola e Moçambique com Naturais da Metrópole (1920–1974). Porto: Afrontamento.

Places of No History in Angola


______. 2017. ‘African Knowledge and Resilience in Late Portuguese Colonial Empire: The Agro-pastoralists of Southwestern Angola’, Portuguese Studies Review 25(1): 91–118. Costa, Kátia Míriam. 2010. ‘Da Etnicidade ao Simbolismo: Três Olhares sobre a Etnia Kuvale’. Paper presented at CIEA7, Lisbon, 9–11 September. Curto, José C. 2005. ‘Resistência à Escravidão na África: O Caso dos Escravos Fugitivos Recapturados em Angola, 1846–1876’, Afro-Ásia 33: 67–86. Estermann, Carlos. 1957. The Ethnography of Southwestern Angola: The Non-Bantu Peoples, the Ambo Ethnic Group. New York: Africana Press. Ferreira, Roquinaldo. 2012. Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Atlantic World: Angola and Brazil during the Era of the Slave Trade. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Freudenthal, Aida. 2005. Arimos e Fazendas: A Transição Agrária em Angola. Luanda: Chá de Caxinde. George, Edward. 2006. The Cuban Intervention in Angola, 1965–1991. London: Frank Cass. Gordillo, Gastón. 2014. Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Guerreiro, Manuel Viegas. 1971. ‘Vida Humana no Deserto de Namibe: Onguaia’, Finisterra 6(11): 84–124. Heywood, Linda. 2017. Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Heintze, Beatrix. 2004. Pioneiros Africanos: Caravanas de Carregadores na África Centro-Ocidental (entre 1850 e 1890). Luanda: Nzila. Mabeko-Tali, Jean-Michel. 1995. ‘La Chasse aux Zaïrois à Luanda’, Politique Africaine 57: 71–84. Mateus, Dalila. 2004. A PIDE-DGS na Guerra Colonial (1961–1974). Porto: Terramar. Mateus, Dalila, and Álvaro Mateus. 1999. Purga em Angola: O 27 de Maio de 1977. Lisbon: Texto. Mbah, Jean Martial. 2010. As Rivalidades Políticas: entre a Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (FNLA) e o Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), 1961–1975. Luanda: Mayamba. Medina, Maria do Carmo. 2013. Angola: Processos Políticos da Luta pela Independência. Coimbra: Almedina. Miller, Joseph. 1988. Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Oliveira, Ricardo Soares de. 2014. Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola since the Civil War. London: Hurst. Pantoja, Selma, and José Flávio Sombra Saraiva (eds). 1998. Angola e Brasil: Nas Rotas do Atlântico Sul. Rio de Janeiro: Bertrand Brasil. Pearce, Justin. 2015. ‘Contesting the Past in Angolan Politics’, Journal of Southern African Studies 41(1): 103–19. Péclard, Didier. 2016. Les Incertitudes de la Nation en Angola: Aux Racines Sociales de l’Unita. Paris: Karthala. Pélissier, René. 1986. História das Campanhas de Angola: Resistência e Revoltas (1845–1941). Lisbon: Estampa.


Ruy Llera Blanes

Peters, Christabelle. 2012. Cuban Identity and the Angolan Experience. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Sánchez-Carretero, Cristina. 2013. ‘Patrimonialización de Espacios Represivos: En Torno a la Gestión de los Patrimonios Incómodos en España’, in Carmen Ortiz (ed.), Lugares de Represión, Paisajes de Memoria. Aspectos Materiales y Simbólicos de la Cárcel de Carabanchel. Madrid: Los Libros de la Catarata, pp. 28–41. Saraiva, Tiago. 2016. Fascist Pigs: Technoscientific Organisms and the History of Fascism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Schubert, Jon. 2014. ‘Working the System: Affect, Amnesia and the Aesthetics of Power in the New Angola’. PhD thesis, Department of African Studies, University of Edinburgh. Thornton, John. 1992. Africa and the Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1680. New York: Cambridge University Press. Toldo, Federica. 2016. ‘Memória e Imaginação Histórica na Narração da Origem Brasileira e Escrava em Luanda Contemporânea’, Afro-Ásia 54: 49–102. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Chapter 12

Slavery Histories from the Hinterland Making Indigenous Heritage Landscapes in Western Burkina Faso Laurence Douny

In West Africa, slavery remains a complex phenomenon to investigate and a highly sensitive history to recount (Ki-Zerbo 1972; Bazémo 2007; N’Diaye 2008; Diakité 2008). Social stigma relating to domestic and inter-African forms of slavery are reproduced while history is silenced (Trouillot 1995) for political reasons. In the Upper Gambia River Valley, the past is also displaced since slave descendants are thought by freeborn to have no ancestry in addition to having no homeland (Gaibazzi 2013). As Shaw writes, recalling Ball’s (1998) experience of interviewing African slave traders’ descendants in Sierra Leone, Africans seem to be reluctant to acknowledge in spoken words their implication in, or responsibility for, slave trades (Shaw 2002: 1–2). Therefore, slavery is absent from public debates (Gaibazzi 2013: 24, also citing Pelckmans and Hohanou 2012), although in the last decades, efforts have been made towards the political emancipation of servile group descendants (Hohanou 2011). As Burkinabe historian Maurice Bazémo underlines, domestic slavery and trade  – heightened by raids, jihads and famines, but also, in the twentieth century, by impoverishment through colonial taxation  – have dramatically shaped the social history, economy and development of political institutions in Burkina Faso. While remaining deeply rooted in the ­collective memory, over time the history of slavery has forged people’s perceptions of one another. It has affected social relations and hampered a sense of national unity (Bazémo 2007: 180). Furthermore, African slave trade activities, and their political and economic logics and Notes for this chapter begin on page 246.


Laurence Douny

dynamics, shaped the Atlantic exchange in the long term, as much as the Atlantic exchange impacted upon sub-Saharan Africa and the interior of West Africa (Roberts 1987; Meillassoux 1991; Manning 2006; Lovejoy 1982, 2011). In this chapter, the Sourou and Mouhoun regions of Western Burkina Faso constitute an ‘indirect linkage’ (Hubbell 2001) in a broader regional and West African history of slavery. Hence, an examination of historical formations and practices of s­ lavery in these regions of the hinterland also provides alternative histories to the European trade and the shaping of the Atlantic space, by including multiple voices of descendants of slaves, captors, owners and traders, of Bobo, Bwa, Marka-Dafing, Fulbe (Peul) and Djoula ethnicity, along with accounts from blacksmiths, griots and marabouts stemming from these communities. This field-based research1 reveals how people engage with local history through its materiality, and how history is reinstated through recounting, performing, displaying and curating historical knowledge through embodying its material dimensions. I argue that these material and historical engagements make indigenous heritage landscapes, but also consolidate them through time. By heritage landscape, I shall refer to an area of cultural, political and ritual activities that encompasses the material and historical dimensions of specific features of the landscape in the form of artefacts, built elements, knowledge systems and oral traditions that relate to specific periods of intra-African slaveries’ history. These elements establish deep localized indigenous heritages that are embodied and entangled in the collective memory. Inspired by Shaw’s account on practical memories of the slave trade in Sierra Leone, which are expressed in ritual forms and as embodied history (Bourdieu 1990: 56, in Shaw 2002: 4), I propose that local definitions of heritage emphasize the ubiquitous role that the ancestors play in people’s sociosymbolic production and reactivation of their memories of slave trades. They are primarily embodied through people’s material practice involving weapons that constitute for them significant historical artefacts, and form the legacy of the ancestors.

An Ethnography of Indigenous Heritage Landscape In this chapter, I introduce an ethnography of heritage landscape formulated in indigenous terms, which encompasses oral tradition and commemoration practices that are both performed through the medium of a material culture of slavery that I suggest forms a material identity (Sofaer 2007). In my analysis, a material identity concerns the ways by which slave-masters’ descendants of the Marka-Dafing village chiefdom of Sanni

Slavery Histories from the Hinterland


in western Burkina Faso employ historical materialities to express dimensions of their social identities, status and power, and their relationships to, for instance, Bwa, Bobo and Marka-Dafing slave descents forming the village’s community. Following Stahl (2001: 53) who underlines the ‘active role of materiality in the making and transformation of social worlds’ (ibid.: XVI), I focus on local material practices involving the indigenous curation and display of historically significant objects of power belonging to chiefdoms that materialize pasts (Rowlands 2008), and through which social structures are reproduced. Shrines, ankle chains and weaponry are displayed and explained by their owners in the course of interviews, and are also used to perform sacrificial practices at the funeral and enthronement of a chief, or to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The curation and display of objects embedded in narratives forming indigenous historical embodied knowledge are means by which people reactivate the past while conveying a sense of historicity or local historical authenticity to the audience. At the same time, curation and display function to legitimate the past, helping leaders to reproduce social hierarchies and status, and reaffirming both social identities and inter-ethnic relations through a principle of ancestrality. Hence, through these material practices people reconnect to the past, which becomes embodied through their engagement with materialities that expose the ways people envisage slavery and social relations within the prism of slavery (Stahl 2001; Shaw 2002; Argenti 2006). In the hinterland, localized histories about slavery enfold multiple forms and practices of slavery such as intra-African trade and domestic servitude, which are recalled in a non-temporal fashion through the medium of objects. As Shaw proposes, ‘the past is remembered not only in words but also in images and non-discursive practical forms that go beyond words’ (Shaw 2002: 4). Material culture stands as a device to support memory, and is subjected to reinterpreting the past in the light of new situations (Nooter Roberts and Roberts 1996) and thus producing pasts in the present (Stahl 2001: 223). Finally, by following on Hubbell (2001: 28, 47) who describes the Souroudougou and Western Volta regions of Burkina Faso as a ‘peripheral’ slaves ‘reservoir’ that supplied centralized states located in neighbouring countries, I examine the sociohistorical dimensions of these reservoirs as spaces of interactions between endogenous populations and foreign captors, in which captives were gathered in camps at different periods. These are for instance, the fortified walled-in camp of Thiouma and the village of Dionkongo (meaning ‘slaves’ bush’), founded on a camp site, and where the descendants of both captors and captives coexist today. The zone of the Mouhoun and the Sourou regions down to Bobo-Dioulasso formed a strategic geographic and commercial corridor


Laurence Douny

that allowed the movement of Fulbe captors in and out of the reservoir. Moreover, the hinterland that was riddled by multiple intertwined forms of slavery, including intra-African, domestic and trading activities relying on specific techniques of enslavement and of capture as described in this chapter, also reveals a narrative space that interconnects multiple lived pasts (Stahl 2001: 223), materialized in objects of power that bolster the collective memory and reshape history (Nooter Roberts and Roberts 1996). Western Burkina Faso’s sociohistorical reservoirs today form a heritage landscape that is shared by the Bwa, Bobo, Samo, Marka-Dafing and Fulbe communities that took parts in the research, and that is celebrated in discrete ways in the absence of regional and national commemorations concerning slavery. Hence, in this chapter, I will concentrate on the contemporary dimension of the social and political productions of traditional historical knowledge, indigenous curatorial practices and embodied performances as forming both an indigenous cultural heritage that brings the past into the present and a form of social reproduction of traditional hierarchies (de Bruijn and Pelckmans 2005). Methodologically speaking, in order to identify the research areas concerned, I used three kinds of leads: a trade route going from Djenné in Mali down to Bobo-Dioulasso and Kong in Northern Ivory Coast, which runs parallel to the Nouna-Bobo-Dioulasso route; then a series of toponyms; and finally zones of Fulbe’s influence in western Burkina Faso (Capron 1973; Le Moal 1980) for which the work of Burkinabe historian Maurice Bazémo and anthropologist Youssouf Diallo provide valuable insights to this field research, and this has helped me to situate the core of my data between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, a period that centres around the progressive infiltration and expansion of Sidibé Fulbe in the concerned area, and continued with a short-lived clandestine slave trade in precolonial western Burkina Faso.2

Western Burkina Faso as a Slave ‘Reservoir’ As Bazémo explains, the lack of historiography and of social history regarding Burkina Faso and in particular the Western region (Bazémo 2001: 171) may, in the long term, have created a gap in Burkinabe’s collective memory that will be unsound for future generations. According to him, there is also a need to frame western Burkina Faso’s slavery history within a broader West African history and, as he points out, looking at intra-African forms of slavery is key to setting the transatlantic slave trade in perspective (Bazémo 2006: 23–25). It involved over twelve million men, women and children who were sold on the Atlantic Coast and

Slavery Histories from the Hinterland


transferred to the New World between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries (Manning 1992: 119). Intra-African slave trade in West Africa existed prior to the European trade boom owing to an increasing demand for slaves, which peaked in the eighteenth century. Yet, not all captives departed to the New World, and those who remained in West Africa were used for domestic labour as weavers or builders, and for agricultural work such as producing domestic grain (Roberts 1987: 25). The increase of slavery in West Africa that coincided with the formation and empowerment of empires, kingdoms and chiefdoms based on military rule, and supported by the European and trans-Saharan trades, therefore occurred through the medium of war and economic networks, and with the expansion of the Islamic jihads or holy wars between 1720 and approximately 1900 that predominantly enslaved non-Muslims. By the late eighteenth century, increasing European demand for slaves generated constant and widespread insecurity in the West African hinterland, as slaves brought high prices. Prisoners of war, criminals and captives resulting from debts and raids were exchanged or sold to acquire luxury goods such as salt, cloth, silks and cowries, but also horses and weapons. In times of famine, people were sometimes traded by their relatives in exchange for food. In western Burkina Faso, slaves captured in raids or razzia perpetrated by Fulbe and the Mossi, both stemming from hierarchical societies, were often handled by multiple owners and transited through markets located in San, Djenné, Segou, Kayes and Nioro du Sahel (Mali), or Ouarkoye and Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso and Kong and Korgho in Ivory Coast. In parallel, there are indications in oral tradition collected in Burkina Faso that people were also taken by Saharan traders to Timbuktu and then on to North Africa. However, numbers regarding slave deportation for the area of western Burkina Faso are so far inexistent. In over fifty interviews conducted mainly in the Mouhoun River bend, the Sourou Valley, and to some extent the Bobo-Dioulasso areas, inter-ethnic wars, Fulbe slave raiders and the role played by Djoula who lived from the profits of slavery (Meillassoux 1978: 127) in African, trans-Saharan and European trading are highlighted. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Djoula traders largely contributed to the integration of Burkina Faso into longdistance trade networks by supplying remote areas with precious goods that motivated the captures of slaves as a highly profitable exchange ­currency (Bazémo 2001: 183). The areas of the Mouhoun River bend and Sourou Valley formed slave reservoirs as slave-hunt zones for Fulbe raiders sometimes described as ‘Peul’ or ‘Fouta’ by interviewees, and coming from the Massina in present-day Mali. Peasant populations were captured by Fulbe horsemen while cultivating their fields or collecting wood in the bush through a


Laurence Douny

military operation called razzia that Fulbe deployed on foreign land by using force (Gallay 2011: 40). These long-distance slave raids were also committed by the Mossi of the Yatenga,3 who were rivals of the Fulbe raiders and with whom the Fulbe developed commercial and diplomatic relationships, for instance respecting each other’s delimited territories in exchanging slaves for horses (Interview, Sidibé Alhadji Kalifara, April 2015, Bossien). Within these raiding zones, slave camps were built such as the one that was the foundation of the village of Dionkongo located between the Yatenga and Barani, and is today a Dafing village. Captives were taken to Dionkongo through the Sahelian bush by following a hidden path known to their captors. In Dionkongo slaves were gathered, counted and redistributed to markets or sold to Djoula traders, or were used as domestic labour in situ (Interview, Zon Kassoum, March 2015, Dionkongo). In the Samo area, the remains of a circular fortified mudbrick wall with a zigzag pattern was built by the slaves of a Marka captor named Amara Tanni. It was meant to enclose people like cattle before taking them to Mali, as well as to protect those being held against other raiders (Interview, Zon Kassoum, March 2015, Diokongo; and confirmed in Interview, Toe Issa, March 2015, Kougny). These defensive mud walls, using an architecture developed between the seventeenth century and the end of the eighteenth century (Bah 1987), and described by Hubbell (2001: 31–32) in the Samo areas, is also found throughout western Sudan, for instance in Wasulu in southern Mali (Klein 2004). A similar architectonic type known as tata or fortifications was, according to Meillassoux, built by villagers or local overlords to protect themselves against pillagers and slave captors. Some of these structures also resulted from Tokolor military implantation (Meillassoux 1966: 30) that were built in the nineteenth century. In oral tradition, the Fulbe who bear the patronymic of Sidibé in the present-day village of Barani stand at the epicentre of the history of African slave trade conducted within western Burkina Faso, and that supplied slaves far beyond the area concerned. De Rasilly (1972: 924), cited by Diallo (1994: 362), locates the presence of Fulbe families conducted by Sambo Belko in the Barani area (before the foundation of Barani) around the sixteenth century, while Diallo proposes the progressive integration of Sidibés into the Boobola land (Bwa-land) at the turn of the eighteenth century (Diallo 1994). The recitation of the genealogy of the Barani chiefdom by the marabout of Barani, which counts nineteen chiefs, situates the departure of the first chief of the woodjabe Fulbe called Moaji Sidibé from Kounari, near Mopti in Mali, around 1250 to Baye (in present-day Mali). Then, recalling from a local archive composed of Arabic manuscript notes that had been copied on notebook paper from a much older copy

Slavery Histories from the Hinterland


damaged by termites, the marabout recounts that Moaji Sidibé probably moved his camp some twenty years later to Torkoto near the present Barani village after devastation by an epidemic (Interview, Sidibé Al Hadji Boucari, March 2016, Barani; also described in Diallo 1994: 362–65). The Boobola or land of Bwa as described by Diallo is a strategic and fertile corridor that extends from the valley of the Sourou River to regions of the bend of the Black Volta or Mouhoun, and stands on the Kong– Djenné trade axis through which kola nuts, millet, salt bars and captives transited to markets (Diallo 1994: 360). For two centuries, Fulbe warriors – who were also described as looters – exercised a hold on Bwa and Bobo but also on the Dafing (Marka) and San (Samo) (Interview, Sidibé Alhadji Kalifara, April 2015, Bossien). Over time, they had commercial ties with the Mossi of the Yatenga (founded in the sixteenth century), Kong Kingdoms (1710–1898) and then with Samori Touré (c. 1830–1900) (Interview, Sidibé AlHadj Boucari, 2016, Barani). In Diallo’s view, the Sidibé progressively infiltrated the area to finalize their hegemonic move at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Diallo 1997: 85) to become a powerful military state led by Widi Sidibé, who exerted full domination over these areas towards the end of the nineteenth century. Hence, the Bobo and Bwa land, and neighbouring areas such as the Dafina, were marked by a constant insecurity, spread by razzia, banditry, clan and village wars, recurrent episodes of famine that forced people to sell their relatives, and jihads that were ended in the French colonies in the nineteenth century. As an informant from Dandé put it: ‘As we say, slavery is abolished but history remains’ (Interview, Anonymous, February 2016, Dandé). Localized histories of slavery remain deeply rooted in people’s consciousness but also in their perceptions of Fulbe and in the ways that one relates to the other, as we shall see.

Raiding the Hinterland: Capture Techniques and Historical Materialities ‘Behave or the Fulbe horsemen will come to catch you’ is a common warning in western Burkina Faso to fractious children. Images of violence spread by banditry and raids remain vivid in the West African collective memory, and have psychological effects (Diakité 2008: 33). Fulbe captors are described by interviewees as cunning horsemen who seized children and adults by surprise while they worked in the bush. Razzia military strategy consisted of trapping people randomly in an ambush and holding them in a camp or in the courtyard of the village chief, their accomplice who would accommodate Fulbe captors, and from where slaves


Laurence Douny

were taken to a market to be sold or bought by Djoula traders (Interview, Al Hadji Kerfala, April 2015, Bossien). Fulbe kidnapping techniques are embedded in the very name and meaning of the village of Barani. As described by the marabout of the town, the name of the Sidibé’s fiefdom of Barani, bara dji,4 which refers to a bottle-necked water gourd, stems from a technique deployed by the Sidibé ancestors to dupe, surround and capture people at a time when the Sidibé Fulbe had not yet embraced Islam, and they enslaved Bwa and Bobo peasants by trickery: ‘The name of Barani comes from a trap that we (our ancestors) laid by use of a gourd that we filled with water and placed on the paths taken by thirsty peasants who would have stopped at the sight of this calabash. Then, they would be encircled, threatened with bows, arrows and spears, and taken away by force to be sold’. Finding water in the dry season in the Sahelian landscape was rare. Hence, as Barani’s marabout pursues: ‘Barani was founded by our ancestors for slave capture. Anybody or anything such as cattle they found on their way would be seized’ (Interview, Sidibé Al Hadji Boucari, March 2016, Barani). The water gourd stands as a symbol for the foundation of the place, as water generally refers to life and therefore to the fertile nature of the Boobola land, but overall it describes the kind of morality and approach that the Fulbe ancestors of Barani displayed towards the people of the Boobola, as well as their determination in their progressive political conquest of territory. In the course of interviews with the chiefs of villages, in most of which Fulbe coexist with Bwa, Bobo and Marka-Dafing people, objects such as weapons and chains relating to slavery, and kept in the ancestors’ or chief’s house, were taken out and described as testimonies of the past, as trophies of war and as the legacy of the ancestors. This heritage represents their strength and bravery in fighting Fulbe horsemen, and on the Barani side these objects of power represent Fulbe’s capacity for subjugation that is also materialized in the horse’s harness, representing the fierce and forceful nature of horses that terrified small farmers who had never seen one before. In Bwa villages, interviewees described the mystic aspect of Fulbe horsemen wearing scarification marks on their face, who were also using magic charms to ensnare their prey. Their weapons were made of sophisticated and resistant materials unknown to the people of the bush. As part of their raiding technique, Fulbe captors would benefit from the seasonality of the landscape – for instance, the thick vegetation growing in the rainy season enabled captors to hide and strike people at a time when farmers were busy and exhausted after hoeing the land all day (Interview, Tamini Pierre, April 2015, Ouarkoye). As described by Bobo

Slavery Histories from the Hinterland


informants, one of the many Fulbe techniques of capture consisted of dispersing people in the bush and pursuing them until they collapsed of exhaustion and thirst. For those who still resisted, a curved stick would be thrown at their feet to make them stumble, then a stick with a rounded arrow-shaped end was forced into their mouth, and thorny branches twisted around their neck, before metallic ankle chains copied by Fulbe blacksmiths from a European model were applied. Chains were used in the same way to immobilize and convey recalcitrant captives who would not submit to their captors, as well as to fix them in one place such as in a market (Interview, Sidibé Beidari, March 2015, Bomboila). Children were hauled onto horses by the use of a sickle-shaped object and were individually transported on the horse of the captor, while men and women were attached in line by a rope around their neck (Interview, Siiko Konaté, February 2015, Sodien). Captives were also blinded so they were not able to find their way back if they escaped. In the raided villages, local warriors were trained to protect the population and to fight their enemies with bows and poisoned arrows. They also wore amulets on their body and inside of it, by way of magic substances inserted in the thigh to give the power of becoming invisible (Interview, Siiko Konaté, February 2015, Sodien). The multiple objects that were shown and embedded into narratives about Fulbe’s raiding techniques not only illustrate local histories about slavery, but help to enact the past, and to pass it on to younger generations. This dimension of cultural transmission through material culture stands as a legacy from the ancestors, and is thus a material heritage that is reactivated through narratives and the power of speech. The selfdisplay of men posing with weapons for a picture that was returned to them afterwards, and the display of objects of power to the villagers in the context of interviews, during which they gathered around us with their children to discover their history, stood as an opportunity for them to learn but also to capture histories of the elders in images and sounds recorded with their cell phones, before as they said, the elders take their knowledge to the grave and the objects disappear. As the seniors of the village of Goersa explained, many chains, weapons, bangles, bows and arrows that were kept in the chief’s house fell into the hands of Nigerian antiquarians who, a couple of years before, had stripped a series of villages of the Mouhoun area of their material heritage with the complicity of young people, avid for cash. They also pointed out that a large number of these objects had been collected and discarded by the French colonial administration, because possessing objects related to slavery (for instance, ankle chains), ran counter to the law on the abolition of slavery. Hence, little material evidence of these histories of slavery remains in


Laurence Douny

the villages compared to the bulk of war trophies and material culture, such as chains, that were subsequently destroyed or sold, or that simply disintegrated through time, such as the ropes and nets used for capturing people.

Curating the Past and Embodying Heritages As explained by the owners of the objects shown during the interviews, these trophies of war kept either in a village’s ancestor’s house or in the chief’s house, form the ancestors’ heritage tawangal (what we found), or fina-tawa for the Fulbe, meaning ‘the ones who found this tradition when they were born’. It is also described by the term laada and tigné by MarkaDafing, referring to the concept of tradition. The indigenous definition of heritage includes the usages and customs, knowledges and techniques owned and passed on by the ancestors, and that are associated with material forms. In rural areas of western Burkina Faso, slavery is commemorated through celebration of the ancestors and their legacy. As Pierre Tamini of Ouarkoye explained when visiting their ancestors’ house: ‘We are thankful to our ancestors, those who lived on as well as those who were taken away, because without them we wouldn’t be here today’. Annual commemorations in the form of libations and a sacrifice are performed at a shrine kept in the ancestors’ house to appease the souls of those who were taken away and who never returned. Ancestrality not only stands as a legitimation of the past and but also of the present. In the Bobo, Bwa and Marka-Dafing areas where slavery and slave captures were practised by the chiefdoms before colonial times, weapons and chains are displayed at the funerals of descendants of the chief who owned or captured slaves, as a means to reinstate the power of the chiefdom. In the village of Goersa, chains in particular are displayed next to the body of the deceased, but also shaken by his eldest daughter during the funeral ceremony to remind the villagers of the power, wealth and nobility of its owner, a descendant of the slave owner. The sound of chains in particular functions as a means to remind the slaves’ descendants who are present of their origins, and of their status within the village community. Through this display and performance, both events of the past and structures of power are therefore re-enacted. A similar statement is made in the village of Sanni, where a spear that belonged to the ancestor of the Cissé chiefdom, a family of slave-owner descendants and of marabouts or Qu’ranic scholars originating from the Mande (Cissé Mandé mori), and who launched jihads or holy wars on his return from Mecca in the late eighteenth century, is kept in the chiefdom’s

Slavery Histories from the Hinterland


house. The spear that served to capture the ‘non-believers’ is part of an arsenal of more ancient weapons such as bows and arrows, but also Fulbe slave-raiders’ spears and tools considered as ‘trophies of war’. The spear is seen as the most sacred object of the arsenal because it was obtained in Mecca. The object is used for ritual purposes at the time of both the funeral and the enthronement of a new chief when he takes power surrounded by his ancestors’ arsenal and holding the spear, but also at the end of Ramadan. In the first case, a sheep is slaughtered on the head of the spear that is placed on earth onto which blood flows – an act reminiscent of an animist blood sacrifice on an earthen shrine. Pouring blood onto the blade stands as a way of paying tribute to the ancestors of the chiefdom, as well as symbolically counteracting the dangerous power of the object. Dousing the spear with blood symbolically ensures that it will not bring a blood harvest again in a place where there are long-enduring tensions between the chiefdom and the villagers, who cannot take the lead of the village because of their slave ancestry. In the same way, this sacrifice enables appeasement of the souls of the ancestors who were victims of slavery: captured, tortured and wounded when captured, or who died during slave raiding, wars, conquests of the territory and holy wars, as well as to appease the community of the village of multi-ethnic origins that comprises mainly slave descendants. On the other hand, the display of the spear serves to reaffirm the power of the chiefdom and its dominant status in the village. Similar to this sacrificial act, another performance involving a blood sacrifice is carried out at the end of the month of Ramadan as a symbolic means of recalling the cohesion of the society. The spear is carried by hand by the chief of the village to the outskirts of the village for the communal prayer. On his way, he is accompanied by the griots who praise him, recall the history of the chiefdom by chanting the genealogies but also the implication of the chiefdom in slavery, until they arrive at the site where his assistant sacrifices a sheep on the blade that is placed on the earth, in a similar fashion as in the previous ritual described. Then, after giving his blessings as a symbol of peace, the villagers of various ethnic backgrounds gather for the communal prayer. Sacrificing on the spear that was used in the past to enslave ‘non-believer’ captives and prisoners of war helps to remove existing tensions between villagers through the act of sacrifice, and subsequently through sharing the meat. As an indigenous form of curation of heritage, the blood that accumulates over time on the head of the spear constitutes the symbolic agency of the object. Thus, through this symbolic reactivation of the object, for the chiefdom members who are descendants of slave owners, the past is reactivated. This performance enables the chiefdom to make a powerful political statement, reminding people of their indelible social


Laurence Douny

status and shared history. Performing with a spear and, in the same way, with a chain, are means by which the current leadership is upheld.

Making Indigenous Heritage Landscapes As we have seen, the spear and other weapons standing as the ancestors’ legacy are means by which history is recalled. Forming a material identity, these historical artefacts play a role in the sociopolitical shaping of the world of today; they enable chiefdoms to perform their visions of the past and to re-establish social relations in a dramatized way. Weaponry and chains shown during the interviews and those used in commemorations, as well as the built features of the landscape (fortified walls), are not only testimonies of the past but they act as mnemonic devices that support collective memory, and enable memorizing and recalling localized histories of slavery through material practice in order to reinstate power relations (Nooter Roberts and Roberts 1996). In other words, through people’s engagement with these materialities, history and the society are reshaped (Stahl 2001), while indigenous heritage functions as an instrument of social reproduction of traditional hierarchies, and thus of social inequalities (de Bruijn and Pelckmans 2005). Ancestors’ implication in a chiefdom’s making of heritages through rituals as a legitimization of the past and of social reproduction, create an ambiguity in local commemorative practice that also aims to appease the souls of the dead, to ease tensions amongst village communities, and thus to make sure that history will not be repeated. It can be noted that on a daily basis, tensions are also alleviated through mockery as a form of play called a ‘joking alliance’, which exists between ethnic communities such as the Bobo and the Fulbe, descendants of slaves and captors who therefore share a common history. Similarly, at the time of the Ashoura Muslim celebration, or the Muharram Day of Remembrance, Djon minè (meaning ‘to catch slaves’, or Slaves’ Day) is celebrated in the Mande regions and shows a playful dramatization of the capture of slaves. People chase each other down and are caught with a rope that is tied around the neck, like slaves in the past. Then, they symbolically buy their freedom with a few coins. Here, roles can be inverted and freedom can be symbolically bought, but only through play. Paradoxically, the material and historical forms of heritage that I have exposed in this chapter are also means by which the chiefdom explicitly reaffirms its power, the village’s social hierarchy, Fulbe’s historical conquest and supremacy as slave captors, but also local chiefdoms’ implication in slave captures and trades in complicity with the Fulbe and in the context of jihads. People are reminded of their slave filiation and identity,

Slavery Histories from the Hinterland


and historical materialities are used by chiefdoms to define their relationships to others. Finally, by displaying and performing with these objects of power, material heritages become embodied through the experience of performer and audience of the sensory qualities of these objects of power, such as the sight of sacrificial blood on the blade of the spear, of holding the spear and the chains during performances, and of the metallic sound produced by the chains that are shaken. Therefore, these embodied forms of heritage, defined on the basis of the principle of ancestrality, imply social and ritual processes by which people reflect on remembrance of the past through experiencing materialities, while embodiment as a material process makes and consolidates indigenous heritages.

Concluding Note: Contemporary Perceptions about Slavery Structures of power and attitudes of dominance towards slave descendants remain today in West Africa (Haonou 2011). As Bazémo (2006) observes, they inhibit the formation of a national consciousness that is needed in a country where ethnic communities still remain divided. Descendants of slaves, captors and owners can all live together in the same village and form the village council, yet individual status as a slave descendant is an obstacle to access to leadership and disqualifies political candidates. In a similar way, descendants of slaves dig the graves of nobles; inter-ethnic marriage as well as marriages between slave descendants and nobles are very uncommon in rural areas, whereas people may benefit from anonymity in socially and ethnically heterogeneous towns and cities. However, as can be observed in Mali, wedding guests of slave descent are obliged to give up scarce seats to descendants of their ‘masters’ arriving fashionably late. Hence, in this political context of social reproduction of inequalities and antagonism, the embodied history of slavery in the hinterland as a slave reservoir is grounded in long-term intra-African power relations. Slavery as a history of social relations and transformations – a perception, inheritance and an embodied heritage – is brought into the present as a way for villagers to interpret current social and political situations, their social relations and potential situations of conflict. Therefore, impacts of slavery on the collective consciousness are still apparent, but history is subdued and never called into question. Although descendants of slave traders, of owners and of slaves themselves all live together in the same villages, cultivate the same land and may eat from the same dish, people remain former masters or former slaves (Bazémo 2006). As Bazémo suggests, mass education is central to changing consciousness and people’s outlooks towards one another, in


Laurence Douny

order to dissipate a social climate of distrust that impairs the political process of constructing a national consciousness and identity (ibid.: 180). Laurence Douny is an anthropologist and visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her current research examines past and contemporary trade networks in West Africa from the point of view of materials, techniques and knowledges, and in particular within the context of slavery between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries. She has published several papers and books on material culture related themes, including ‘Living in a Landscape of Scarcity: Materiality and Cosmology in West Africa’ (Left Coast Press/Routledge, 2014).

Notes I would like to thank Ruy Llera Blanes (Gothenburg), Ramon Sarró (Oxford), David Berliner (ULB), Dr Marie-Thérèse Somé (Director of Forum national de la recherche scientifique et technologique, FRSIT), Prof. Mamadou Diawara (Goethe University, Frankfurt), Prof. Jo Tanden Diarra (Catholic University of Bobo-Dioulasso), Dr Sanou (DGRSIT/Abidjan), Prof. Aubin Agnissan and Prof. Baha Bi You Zan (University Houphouët-Boigny /CocodyAbidjan), Alhadji Kalifara Sidibé, Kassoum Zon, Issa Toe, Al Hadji Boucari Sidibé, Tamini Pierre, Beidari Sidibé, Siiko Konaté, all informants in Dandé, in the Boobola and Dafina who wish to remain anonymous, Lossani Cissé, Salif Sawadogo and Lossani Dayo. Also, I would like to thank Ramon Sarró (Oxford), Ruy Llera Blanes (Gothenburg), David Pratten (Oxford), Mike Rowlands (UCL) and the audience of the Currents-of-Faith workshop (November 2017) for their insightful comments on my talk; and finally, Violet Diallo (GAP/ Bamako) for copyediting an early version of this chapter. 1. Fieldwork included a two-week reperage period in December 2014, followed by seven months of fieldwork spread between Burkina-Faso and the Ivory Coast, during which fortysix interviews were conducted, followed by another eight interviews in 2016. Research permits were obtained from the CNRST in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) supported by an affiliation from Point Sud in Bamako (Mali) and DGRSIT in Abidjan (Ivory Coast). 2. In its current state, my work presents many limitations as regards, for instance, the lack of a detailed chronology and the dating of material evidences, as well as the calculation of numbers of slaves captured in that particular area. Furthermore, the links between the Fulbe slaves’ captors of the Mouhoun and Sourou regions and the Europeans traders have yet to be developed. 3. The Mossi kingdom of the Yatenga is said to have been founded in the sixteenth century. 4. In the Malinke language, or bolirou in the Fulfulde language.

Slavery Histories from the Hinterland


References Argenti, N. 2006. ‘Remembering the Future: Slavery, Youth and Masking in the Cameroon Grassfields’, Social Anthropology 14(1): 49–69. Bah, T.M. 1985. Architecture militaire traditionelle et poliorcétique dans le Soudan Occidental (du XVIIe à la fin du XIXe siècle). Yaoundé: Éditions Clé. Ball, E. 1998. Slaves in the Family. New York: Ballantine Books. Bazémo, M. 2001. ‘Les Pays du Burkina dans le trafic des esclaves aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles: les agents et les axes d’acheminement’, in Routes et marches d’esclaves, Proceedings of the 26th Symposium of GIREA, Besançon, 27–29 September, pp. 171–86. ______. 2007. Esclaves et esclavage dans les anciens pays du Burkina Faso. Paris: L’Harmattan. Bruijn, M. de, and L. Pelckmans. 2005. ‘Facing Dilemmas: Former Fulbe Slaves in Modern Mali’, Canadian Journal of African Studies 39(1): 69–95. Capron, J. 1973. Communauté villageoises bwa: Mali, Haute-Volta, 1. Paris: Institut d’ethnologie. Diakité, T. 2008. La traite des Noirs et ses acteurs africains. Paris: Berg International. Diallo, Y. 1994. ‘Barani: une chefferie satellite des grands États du XIXe siècle’, Cahiers d’études africaines 34(133–35): 359–84. ______. 1997. Les Fulbe du Boobola: Genèse et évolution de l’Etat de Barani (Burkina Faso). Cologne: Riidiger Koppe. Gaibazzi, P. 2013. ‘Diaspora without Homeland: Slave Descendants and the Cultural Politics of Ancestry in the Upper Gambia River Valley’, Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales 29(1): 23–43. Gallay, A. 2011. De mil, d’or et d’esclaves: le Sahel précolonial. Lausanne: Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes. Hahonou, E.K. 2011. ‘Past and Present African Citizenships of Slave Descent: Lessons from Benin’, Citizenship Studies 15(1): 75–92. Hubbell, A. 2001. ‘A View of the Slave Trade from the Margin: Souroudougou in the Late Nineteenth-Century Slave Trade of the Niger Bend’, The Journal of African History 42(1): 25–47. Ki-Zerbo, M. 1972. Histoire de l’Afrique Noire. Paris: Hatier. Klein, M., 2004. ‘Defensive Strategies: Wasulu, Masina, and the Slave Trade’, in S. Diouf (ed.), Fighting the Slave Trade. Oxford: James Currey, pp. 62–80. Le Moal, G. 1980. Les Bobo: Nature et fonction des masques. Tervuren: Musée royal de l’Afrique central. Lovejoy, P.E. 1982. ‘The Volume of the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Synthesis’, Journal of African History 23(4): 473–501. ______. 2011. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Manning, P. 1992. ‘The Slave Trade: The Formal Demography of a Global System’, in J.E. Inikori and S.L. Engerman (eds), The Atlantic Slave Trade: Effects on Economies, Societies and Peoples in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 117–44.


Laurence Douny

______. 2006. ‘Slavery and Slave Trade in West Africa, 1450–1930’, in E. Akyeampong (ed.), Themes in West Africa’s History. Oxford: James Currey, pp. 99–117. Meillassoux, Cl. 1966. ‘Plans d’anciennes fortifications (Tata) en pays Malinké’, Journal de la Société des Africanistes 36(1): 29–44. ______. 1978. ‘Rôle de l’esclavage dans l’histoire de l’Afrique occidentale’, Anthropologie et Sociétés 21: 117–48. ______. 1991. The Anthropology of Slavery: The Womb of Iron and Gold. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. N’Diaye, T. 2008. Le génocide voilé: enquête historique. Paris: Gallimard. Nooter Roberts, M., and A.F. Roberts. 1996. Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History. New York: Prestel. Pelckmans, L., and E. Hohanou. 2012. ‘History Must Be Rewritten! National Histories of Domestic West African Slavery Revisited’, in D. Hamilton, K. Hodgson and J. Quirk (eds), Slavery, Memory and Identity: National Representations and Global Legacies. London: Pickering & Chatto, pp. 92–104. Rasilly, B. de. 1972. ‘Notes pour servir la chronologie du bassin du Bani-Nord et de arrière pays vers est Barani-Sourou et des cercles de San et de Tominian’, Bulletin de l’IFAN série XXXIV: 926–34. Roberts, R.L. 1987. Warriors, Merchants, and Slaves: The State and the Economy in the Middle Niger Valley, 1700–1914. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Rowlands, M. 2008. ‘Africa on Display: Curating Postcolonial Pasts in the Cameroon Grassfields’, in P. Schmidt (ed.), Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advance Social Research Press, pp. 149–62. Shaw, R. 2002. Memories of the Slave Trade: Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra Leone. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Sofaer, J. (ed.). 2007. Material Identities. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Stahl, A. Brower. 2001. Making History in Banda: Anthropological Visions of Africa’s Past. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Trouillot, M.-R. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Chapter 13

A Prophetic Enclave

Religious Heritage and Environmental History in Northern Angola Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo

Introduction ‘Heritage’ in Africa and in the Atlantic world has been studied both by anthropologists looking at the works of culture and by social scientists looking at environment, history and biocultural diversity (Beinart 2003; Cormier-Salem et al. 2005; Cocks 2006; Cormier-Salem and Basset 2007; Temudo 2012; Beinart, Middleton and Pooley 2013; Temudo, Figueira and Abrantes 2015). Yet the separate areas of heritage as built environment (monuments, ruins, material culture) and heritage as natural environment (national parks, politics of conservation, patrimonialization of ‘sacred bushes’, etc.) remain to be bridged and crossed over. This chapter aims to start such a bridge by bringing together livelihoods and religion  – two perspectives on how people value their environment, and both being extremely varied in the Angolan region under analysis. Culturally speaking, the northern Angolan province of Zaire is rather homogenous. It is inhabited by different subgroups of the Bakongo, all speaking mutually intelligible Kikongo dialects and belonging to different varieties of Christian churches (Catholic, Protestant, neo-­ Pentecostal) or of prophetic religious institutions. Some of the latter are Christian (e.g. Kimbanguism, Tokoism), while some others are explicitly opposed in their theology to Christian spirituality, giving Notes for this chapter begin on page 261.


Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo

centrality, instead, to traditional Kongo cosmology and spiritual beings (e.g. Mpadism, Bundu-dia-Kongo). The capital of Zaire province, Mbanza Kongo (known as São Salvador in Portuguese days) contains the ruins of the capital of the old Kingdom of Kongo (Thornton 2000), as well as the remains of the building known in Kikongo as Kulumbimbi, one of the earliest Catholic churches in sub-­Saharan Africa. Because of this, Mbanza Kongo has recently been ­nominated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and therefore it is bound to become a major cultural centre and a site for different sorts of pilgrimages: religious, cultural, touristic, historical, ecological, and so on. In contrast with its ethno-linguistic homogeneity, the province presents a great diversity of ecosystems and livelihoods: mangroves on the coast, a fluvial system along the Congo River, savannah hills in the centre of the province, and dense forests in the north-east, close to the south bank of the Congo River and the neighbouring province of Uige. These multiple ecosystems are today in increasingly rapid transformation and landscape fragmentation. The coastal mangroves are endangered by the pollution from offshore and inshore oil exploration. The subsequently reduced level of resources (both farm land and fish) have been overexploited by local populations, whose livelihoods depend upon them since there has been no redistribution of the province’s oil wealth (Reed 2009). The riparian zones and the dense forests are also at risk, mostly due to urban industries and a technological change in the manufacture of mud bricks for house building – now employing wood-fuelled baking instead of sun drying – and the major increase in the urban population provoked by the massive arrivals and settlement, since the end of the Angolan civil war in 2002, of refugees and migrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The forests, rich in valuable trees such as the African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon), have also been subjected to increasing degradation by a combination of land grabbing and agricultural expansion by local elites and smallholders. Much like it has been portrayed for other parts of the continent (e.g. Leach and Fairhead 2000; Walker and Peters 2007; Temudo 2012), the landscapes of today’s Zaire are an outcome of anthropogenic and deep environmental historical processes.

War and Return Without digging too deep, however, a particularly important element in the historical making of the Zairian landscape has been the horrendous Angolan wars. It was in the territory of present-day Zaire that the colonial war against the Portuguese started in early 1961 (Cruz 2005; Mateus and

A Prophetic Enclave


Mateus 2011). Although there had been anti-colonial rebellions before, the Bakongo were the first group in Angola to take up weapons against Portuguese rule (Máximo 2017). Such military rebellion was made relatively easier because, unlike other Angolan groups, the Bakongo could organize themselves on the other side of the border, where they had many relatives and where they were supported, first, by anti-Belgian political parties (such as ABAKO) and, later, by the Congolese independent state itself (Congo became independent in 1960, while Angola remained a Portuguese colony until 1975). According to the oral history we gathered, already in the 1940 (and probably before that too) the Bakongo were massively migrating to the then Belgian Congo, escaping the inhumane conditions they had had to bear in the Portuguese colony (van der Waals 2011: 31; Máximo 2017). In the exile of the Belgian colony they organized the anti-colonial movement UPNA, União dos Povos do Norte de Angola (Union of the Peoples of the North of Angola), at first closely linked to the ABAKO. It is worth remembering that, at the beginning, the UPNA was not a pro-Angolan movement, but a pro-Kongo one (hence its reference to only ‘North of Angola’ in its name), whose main goal was to fight for the reconstruction of the kingdom of Kongo, with its capital in Mbanza Kongo. By the late 1950s, however, the UPNA had lost its ‘N’ and became the UPA, União dos Povos de Angola (Union of Peoples of Angola), a group of rebels whose orders were to fight for the independence of the entire Angolan land. On 15 March 1961, UPA started the anti-colonial fight, which was incredibly violent. Thousands of Portuguese and pro-Portuguese Africans were killed in the very first days of the guerrilla war (Mateus and Mateus 2011). The war became so violent that by the mid-1960s the entire population of Angola’s district of Congo (except for some inhabitants of the city of São Salvador) had left, finding refuge in the Congo (Brinkman 2008; Mateus and Mateus 2011; Temudo and Talhinhas 2019).1 The rural area became a battlefield between the Portuguese army and the UPA (which later became the Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola, FNLA). The situation was only reversed upon independence in 1975, when little by little people started to return to Angola. Then, however, a second war started, this time a civil one between the two main anti-colonial movements, MPLA and UNITA (van der Waals 2011; Spall 2014), and many Bakongo left again for Congo (by and large, Bakongo were members of neither the MPLA nor the UNITA, but of the FNLA). Those who remained had to sail through very troubled waters, often being attacked in their villages by soldiers of either the MPLA or the UNITA, living in between their houses and the forested hills, in whose depths they often found refuge from looting armies. The FNLA army, which first


Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo

tried to force the Bakongo who returned to Angola to take refuge again in the DRC, was dismantled in 1980, since when many ex-FNLA members joined the UNITA, while others sided with the MPLA, but many others opted for not taking sides. Mbanza Kongo became the scene of very intense fratricide wars. This war situation, which lasted for more than four decades (1961– 2002), left very deep imprints not only on people’s memories, but also on their natural and built environment. Agricultural practices had to be arranged according to security measures more than to agro-ecological conditions, which led to overexploitation of some areas, while others have underwent afforestation – a situation reported in other agrarian settings in war and postwar zones (Temudo and Silva 2012 for the case of Northern Mozambique; and Temudo 2012 for Guinea-Bissau). In some parts of Zaire, the war, deterring people from farming, actually induced vegetation cover recovery, but it also provoked an increase in hunting and poaching, decimating the population of some mammals.2 Oral accounts have it that the dense forests, and the rock caves lying inside them, offered refuge during the war. Some churches, especially the explicitly neutral and pacifistic ones, such as the prophetic movements Tokoism and Kimbanguism, encouraged labour and self-sufficiency and, as has been documented for the province of Uige (Paxe 2009), helped local dwellers to face uncertainty and hunger. As we have seen, the wars produced forced population displacement from Angola to the DRC, while every cease fire, and later the peace, enabled the inverse population movement, from the DRC back to Angola. After 2002, this was especially the case in moments of turmoil in Congo, when they expelled by force many of the Angolan refugees and their children born there.3 The pressure of refugees/returnees upon urban land was very taxing. Only in 2009, to give one official number reported by the Angolan Ministry of Social Reinsertion, Mbanza Kongo received 55,000 Angolan citizens who had been expelled from the DRC (a huge number considering the size of the city).4 Not all of them stayed in the capital of Zaire, but they lived there for many months, in camps set up by the Angolan government. It may be worth noting that many of them were nourished by local churches, thus replicating a situation Zairians had already lived through in the painful war times. It is reckoned that 111,000 Angolans still live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and more than 2,000 in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Together with the end of the war in Angola in 2002, another factor explaining the return was the change of power in the DRC. Indeed, many interviewees expressed that they had returned to Angola because of the deterioration in their livelihoods in the DRC after the 1997 overthrow, which put an end to the reign

A Prophetic Enclave


of President Mobutu, who allegedly had been supportive of them. The new government was less sympathetic to the presence of the Angolans – among other things because they were considered to be Mobutu supporters, but also as a retaliation for the eviction of many DRC migrants from the Lunda provinces by the Angolan government. It is likely that many of those Angolans who still remain in the DRC will be willing or forced to return to Angola in the near future, probably through Mbanza Kongo again.

City and Forest: Contrasting Heritage-scapes Over the last fifteen years, as peace has gradually been re-established in Angola, thousands of people have willingly returned to the province of Zaire from the DRC, following different paths and logics. Some have used the UN (AHRC) channels, while others have followed matrilineal links to find a place to settle in Angola, but many have invoked patrilineal principles and looked for their father’s relatives, through whom they can also get access to land. The fast growth of the city has altered the entire landscape, as well as the relations between urban and rural livelihoods, and it has indeed created hybrid landscapes. The average size of home gardens has shrunk, and the fields are increasingly distant. Often, people living in the city have to walk for many hours a day to go to and from their farm; when this becomes impossible, they spend some nights sleeping at the farm and the rest of the week in their city house (Temudo and Talhinhas 2019). In the case of these multi-sited households, it is difficult to determine if someone’s lifestyle is urban or rural. Furthermore, as previously stated, because city dwellers have to make bricks to build houses, increasing amounts of wood from the surrounding forests (and even from fruit trees in orchards) have to be cut every day. The more the city grows and encroaches over the surrounding environment, the more the forests become degraded, and the more conflicts emerge on land-related issues and on the ownership of trees. However, the forest has many values, apart from economic ones, and hides many histories too. In the early 1930s, the Portuguese forced Bakongo people to leave their villages (scattered hamlets of matrilineal descent groups located near forests and water sources) and to concentrate in settlements along the main roads (Brinkman 2008: 203–4). The situation was tragic. Not only was the displacement forced and linked to colonial taxation, but it was accompanied by an intensification of forced labour (Bhagavan 1986: 11; Cruz 2005). We collected many testimonies from older people about their move from the forest to a road, and we learned that the so-called


Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo

road they had to move to did not, in fact, always exist; very often young people were forced to build a road as well as move to it. An old woman we interviewed in 2016 re-enacted for us the work she was forced to do, showing her spine distortion and incapacity to stand up as a result of the heavy road works undertaken sixty years earlier. The displacement, according to oral accounts, started in 1931. By the end of that decade everybody was living in the recently created villages along the roads. In fact, it was very difficult for us to collect memories about the hamlets and the houses inside the forests; the details of everyday life there have gone forever. Those who had lived in them and were still alive in 2014–16 were either too old to remember, or were too young at the time they left the villages to have kept vivid memories. Despite the end of colonial rule, the Bakongo never went back to their ancestral hamlets, except for some periods during the wars. Today they still live by the main road, but everybody knows very well where the hamlet of their forefathers is located, and many ceremonies take place there. Many still go there to collect fruits sown by their ancestors, such as safou, kola, avocado and guava. Some farmers have their most productive fields in the forest. These ancestral hamlets (zumbo, pl. mazumbo, being also referred to by the Portuguese concept of abandonado, i.e. ‘abandoned’) are located in the forest, and nobody outside of the descent group can penetrate there without permission of the mfumu a nsanda, the living representative of the matrilineal clan that established the village. With his (or in some cases, her) authorization, one can claim land in the zumbo, hunt animals, and farm. However, the issue of traditional chieftaincy is one that is far from clear in today’s Zaire. The figure of the mfumu a nsanda often enters into conflict with the ones of soba and regedor, misleadingly also called ‘traditional authorities’ in Portuguese (autoridade tradicional). Both the soba and the regedor are administrative village chiefs, in the past nominated and paid by the colonial authorities; today, despite appearances of democracy, appointed and remunerated by the MPLA, the party in power. Many abuses occur in this entanglement in which it is never clear who has authority over whom or over which field of action. But it is not only on the soba and regedor sides that problems occur. Even the more traditional institution of the mfumu a nsanda gives rise to conflicts. The title of mfumu a nsanda is frequently claimed by several candidates within the same descent group, provoking enormous intra-familial tensions. It is not rare to hear allegations of amfumu a nsanda selling land to external investors, which many Bakongo consider to be an insult to the traditional rule that land is not to be sold. With this link to ancestrality, forests, and often the hills where they are located, become historical inscriptions. The entire history of the Zaire

A Prophetic Enclave


province is intimately entangled with that of its landscape and of the livelihood practices. Diogo Cão’s famous inscription of a Christian cross on a rock on the northern bank of the Congo River  − marking the first arrival of a Westerner to the Kingdom of Kongo in 1482 − initiated a series of landscape transformations that continues today. Among these was the immediate introduction by the Portuguese of maize (still today known among some Bakongo as masa mamputu, ‘the cereal of the White people’), cassava and many other crops that provoked great chances in ecological and livelihood practices. People today read the landscape as though they are reading a history book or listening to a wise elder. When walking with Bakongo friends across the hills of Lower Congo (the immediately adjacent province over the border in the DRC), we have often been reminded of a putative and remote heterotopy of the past leaking through the ruptured landscape of today. ‘That valley down there used to be full of elephants’, they told us from the top of a high hill, although, as we learnt later, elephants in the Lower Congo had disappeared long before those reporting the sights had been born. ‘This is where the slave caravan started, taking elephant tusks to the river mouth’, they recall on another hill. The relationship between landscape and historical imagination is a common topic in landscape studies (from historians like Schama 1996 to anthropologists like Crapanzano 2003). In the Kongo case, the relationship between landscape and historicity should not only include memory and images of the past, but also expectations and images of the future – a particularly messianic future among many Bakongo, who, no matter what church they belong to, subscribe to the common Kikongo saying: ‘The land is broken… but it will be restored again’. Of all the inscriptions in Zaire’s surface, none is such an open, bleeding wound as the forest that, according to local traditions, houses the very spot where the young prophetess Kimpa Vita was burned alive in 1706. Kimpa Vita (aka Dona Béatrice) had united the Bakongo at a moment of political crisis, and was sentenced to death by a coalition of Catholic and Kongo agents after much political intrigue during the Kongo civil war (Thornton 1998). Today, the memories of her life and death (some passed down from generation to generation, some others collected from archives by historians) also serve to unite many Bakongo, irrespective of what their religion is. But divisions are emerging in relation to the exact location of her killing. Was it in the Kanda Hills (as alleged by the Kimbamguist church), or was it in the forests of Kalambata village (as the local villagers belonging to Kimpa Vita’s clan argue)? And should the place of pilgrimage be the site where she was burned or the caves where she took refuge before being caught?


Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo

Many actors are expressing their views on this contested field, but it is undoubtedly one of the Angolan wings of the Kimbanguist church (the wing known as ‘Three Equals One’) that is making the biggest efforts to have the place of the tragedy marked and transformed into an iconic site of heritage. The process, initiated in 2008 (more or less at the same time as the government accepted the proposal to have Mbanza Kongo converted into a UNESCO World Heritage Site) by members of the Kimbaguist church, is in sharp contrast to the UNESCO one. While the latter is led by the Angolan government in Luanda, the former is proposed by a local church with clear and strong links to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where this church is much stronger than in Angola. While the UNESCO process is centred on ruins in Mbanza Kongo itself, the other focuses on a forest situated at some 50 km from the province’s capital. While the UNESCO proposal around Mbanza Kongo abides to national (and Catholic endorsed) Angolan mapping, the Kimbanguists’ one around Kimpa Vita’s burning stake is rather a ‘counter-map’ (to use Nancy Peluso’s [1995] graphic metaphor), contesting national boundaries and linking the Zaire province and its history to the figure of Simon Kimbangu in the DRC. Indeed, one of the objectives of the Kimbanguist church is to demonstrate that Kimpa Vita was genealogically linked to the prophet Simon Kimbangu, born in the Belgian Congo in 1887. Although contrasting, these processes have something in common: they are going to provoke new senses of place and new valuations (both moral and economic) of the territories of the province of Zaire.

Historical Resentment and Prophetic Enclaves Many of the Bakongo we interviewed expressed in their narratives a strong resentment towards the Angolan government for two main reasons. Firstly, because back in 1961 they had to give up a nationalist dream, the reconstruction of the Kingdom of Kongo. That was, indeed the original programme of the UPNA under its first leader Holden Roberto (1923–2007). However, exchanges with other independentist intellectuals from abroad (especially his friend Franz Fanon and Ghana’s anti-colonial hero Kwame Nkrumah) made Holden change his mind. He then told his people they had to fight to free the entire Angola and not only the northern part. The possibility of making the traditional Kingdom of Kongo emerge again from its ashes was to be sacrificed in order for the modern Angolan nation to be born. The Bakongo paid a very high price for which none of them, let alone Holden (who died, neglected by the state, a decade ago), has ever been thanked. Secondly, people often expressed

A Prophetic Enclave


resentment at the fact that Angolans never recognized the major input of the Bakongo to the cause of the independence. The official narrative, engineered by the MPLA, has effaced this; and in some booklets about the origins of the anti-colonial struggle, the date 15 March 1961 (Freudenthal 1999) is not even mentioned, so that the protagonism of the anti-colonial struggle can be attributed to the MPLA alone. This has caused a very deeply felt resentment, and often anger, as many people died as a consequence of the uprising. Not only are people resentful because of such recent historical unfairness, but also because of a lot of aggression against Bakongo, both in the past and in the present. It is very common for Bakongo to remember in conversations and interviews the suffering of their people in colonial times and even in more distant pasts, such as the burning of Kimpa Vita and the brutality of the slave trade, which was particularly intense along that part of the Atlantic coast. They are a people with an acute historical consciousness and with many technologies to make the past visible today, from inscriptions in the landscape to spiritual possession by h ­ istorical prophets and other agents in the prophetic churches. Obliterated from the past, and not helped by the authorities to live the present or to build a future, life for most people who have returned from the DRC to live in Angola is very harsh. They have returned to their land, but also to a nation-state that regards them with suspicion, and from whom they have little to expect in terms of services or citizenship recognition. Many returnees we interviewed have university or professional diplomas in the DRC, but in Angola their degree is not recognized, and they had not even been able to get an Angolan identity card thus far. When you raise this situation with Angolan authorities, they reply that most likely the putative degree did not exist in the first place. Very often have we been reminded of what a liar a ‘Zairois’ can be. ‘Zairois’ is a derogative concept with a very fine ambiguity: it means someone from the country called Zaire (i.e. the DRC now), but it can also mean someone from the province called Zaire in northern Angola; therefore we sometimes recalled with a trifle of irony that ‘all Zairois are Zairois’ − a phrase of multiple meanings, as it is true that today most people living in the Zaire province have at some point been living in the neighbouring country, also called for many decades Zaire (in Portuguese and in Kikongo, the pronunciation of the two ‘Zaire’ words is different, making confusions easy to avoid). We must admit that some returnees we met had clearly lied about their past and had fabricated university degrees they did not possess; but we also strongly believe that many of them were genuine. Indeed, some people who claimed to have an unrecognized degree in agronomy, for instance, proved to have the kind of technical knowledge


Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo

that they could only have acquired through official learning, and that they were now using on their own farms; but they were not employed as agronomists by the authorities, who did not recognize their degrees. Others had clearly completed schooling and were primary teachers in the DRC, while others were mechanics or electricians but were now working in agriculture or as night guards. They could be hired by the Angolan government to improve people’s livelihoods, but only if their citizenship and their degrees were to be duly recognized. But it is not only from the Angolan state that the returnees will have to protect themselves. There have been very few efforts at reconciliation since the civil war, and many people vent their resentment against other citizens by recurring to accusations and suspicions. Bakongo suffer a lot from peer pressure, and from conflicts with neighbours, with other farmers, and especially with close relatives. Returnees’ better education and their determination to quickly recover the livelihood conditions they had previously achieved in the DRC make most of them work harder than those of their relatives and neighbours who had stayed in Angola during the periods of war. This is creating an explosive situation, as Bakongo are quite prone to invoke notions of jealousy, envy, hatred, kindoki (witchcraft) and poisoning in order to explain their misfortunes and/or the fortunes of others. The incremental increase in witchcraft accusations, in its turn, makes some religious practices, especially those channelled by prophetic churches – but also Pentecostal ones, as shown in other African contexts (Meyer 1998a, 1998b)  − a very welcome discourse, as these churches possess specific mechanisms and rituals to protect people from witchcraft or to neutralize those accused of such. These churches, most of which are of Congolese origin, invoke and convey very deep cosmological notions and historical knowledge about Kongo prophets and kings, and they are particularly active in the city of Mbanza Kongo (Sarró 2018). however, some of them are also starting to make themselves present in the villages, where the main religions are Baptism and Catholicism, with some Kimbanguism. Altogether, the Bakongo of today seem to be stranded in a limen of difficult resolution. They live in between Angola, where they are not full citizens, and Congo, where they are no longer citizens, if ever they were so. Luanda, which was, until recently, a place they could escape to and find a new and free life by immersing themselves in the anonymous urban society, no longer offers job opportunities. Where can they go? How can they come out of the pariah condition they have been relegated to? Given how little room the Bakongo have in Zaire today, it is not surprising that they find in religion a kind of a ‘third space’, a place that is neither Angolan nor Congolese, where they can live in an ‘as if’ domain

A Prophetic Enclave


that fully satisfies their spiritual but also material needs. More and more churches are emerging in Mbanza Kongo that are allowing people to live ‘as if’ they were living in the Kingdom of Kongo, in an almost independent state, in which they feel a strong sense of belonging and to some extent of citizenship. These feelings are so strong that very regularly the churches enter into clashes with the state, which regards them with suspicion. Churches gather people (sometimes hundreds of them) for several hours a week, and they are meeting places in which all sort of things are discussed. Very often, churches invoke imageries of alternative political domains, in particular of the Kingdom of Kongo. Given how skilfully such imageries are used, with powerful visual portraits of prophets and kings (made by local artists, and imbued with the spirit through prayers), inspiring songs, and hypnotic drumming leading to spiritual possession, together with the reading of long texts denouncing the killing of prophets such as Kimpa Vita and other abuses of the colonial past, and with a theological language that very often takes political overtones over presentday matters, the suspicion of the state towards many of the churches can be understood. The Angolan government’s reaction, however, is often clearly exaggerated – for instance, when in 2016 they incarcerated Papa Wonda, the leader of a very popular prophetic church; in any case, it only serves to reinforce feelings of exclusion and official persecution among churchgoers, forcing them to close upon themselves and to harden the ‘as if’ nature of their performance vis-à-vis the aggressive offence of the state. In this way, churches, particularly the prophetic ones, become true ‘enclaves’, in Mary Douglas’s sense of the word (Douglas 1993, Feldman 2002) – places of purity where exceptional rules apply, protected by symbolic and sometimes real boundaries, away from the dirt of everyday life and from their exclusion in everyday politics; enclaves where the sense of belonging to a community of sufferers is reproduced, while the possibility to overcome the condition is projected to a future of Messianic salvation. One could be tempted to interpret enclaves, and religion in general, as ‘the opium of the people’ and to see their proliferation as mechanisms to escape the harsh reality and live in fake worlds and in ‘false consciousness’. This, however, would be too lazy an angle. In the long meetings that take place in churches, people not only practise their historical and eschatological imaginations, but also discuss daily life affairs and organize the performance of their labour. With the exception of the Catholic Church, in fact, people work together in fields that belong to the church, and the church thus reproduces today the ethos of self-sustainment that we know they had during the wars, as mentioned above. Besides, by looking at the history of the Bakongo it is proved to be false that the ‘expressive’


Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo

nature of religion has no ‘instrumental’ end. Religion has always been part and parcel of the conditions for the possibility of political, even military, action. It was important for Kimpa Vita to shape her invasion of Mbanza Kongo in the late sixteenth century, when she organized her own prophetic enclave in the bushes of today’s Kanda Hills. Almost four centuries later, religion was again very important for the UPNA (strongly dependent on Baptist organizational channels, and discourses of equality and dignity) to organize their meetings and legitimatize their action in the late 1950s. Whether imported by British missionaries like Baptist Protestantism, by Portuguese ones like Catholicism, or channelled through traditional mechanisms across many generations like the prophetic churches, religion for the Bakongo has been a major social force that gives people rationale and the energy to struggle for a space in which to discuss important matters; at the same time, by its very organizational structure and modes of subjectification, religion offers possible models for both societies and citizens. More importantly, it offers people collective mechanisms of solidarity and sharing, in a country where economic inequality and differences in access to basic rights are mounting, and where many rural societies are anomic. Fewer than ten of our almost one thousand interviewees testified to having no religion, and one of these replied that ‘[his] church is the [agricultural] field’. Indeed, if for many ‘[their] family is the church’ then ‘[their] state is the field’, as their survival depends entirely upon their own means to provide for themselves and their dependents in this ‘magnificent and beggar land’, as Soares de Oliveira (2014) labelled Angola.

Conclusion This chapter has shown that in order to understand how history gets inscribed in the present, we need a holistic approach in which notions of cultural and environmental history are brought together. The Bakongo farmers of today are struggling to survive in a postwar and post-return setting, and are learning to live in a place that many international observers deem to be of exemplary value to the understanding of African and Atlantic history. But if we have to understand the regimes of value of these farmers, and how they relate to place-meaning and place-making, we need to take into consideration their cosmology, how this relates to specific spots in the landscape, and how the environment frames the daily activities of the farmers. Abandoned by a government that does not acknowledge the prominent role they played in the making of the nation, and expelled from the neighbouring country where they had

A Prophetic Enclave


found refuge, these farmers have not many places to go. A long history of suffering, however, has taught them to be resilient and to create liveable worlds in ruins scattered along the shores of the Atlantic exchanges. More research is needed on the enclaves that these marginalized actors create, on the margins of the places valued by UNESCO, in the forests and on the hills where people hide and engage in world-making, and thus in historymaking too. Ramon Sarró is a social anthropologist at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford. He has conducted fieldwork in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Portugal on prophetic movements and their legacies. He has published many articles, and is the author of the monograph The Politics of Religious Change on the Upper Guinea Coast: Iconoclasm Done and Undone (International African Institute, 2009). Marina P. Temudo is a senior research fellow at CEF, School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Portugal. She has conducted extensive ethnographic field research on development and conservation in GuineaBissau, Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, S. Tomé and Príncipe, and in the Republic of Guinea. Some of her most recent articles have been published in Africa, African Studies Review, Conservation & Society, Development and Change, Human Ecology, Journal of Agrarian Change, Journal of Peasant Studies.

Notes 1. Angolan refugees in DRC amounted to more than one hundred thousand in June 1961, and over half a million in 1972 (Wheeler and Pélissier 1971: 187). 2. Albeit rather dated, the most thorough biodiversity and forest assessment available for Angola is the USAID report ‘Biodiversity and Tropical Forest Assessment for Angola (2008)’: pdf (last accessed 19 June 2019). Golan and Ton (2007) − two international environmental consultants  − offer another useful source to assess the value that people ascribe to their natural environment in postwar Angola in their account of personal encounters in the field. 3. It has to be added that a common suspicion of the Angolan government, probably justified, is that many people coming ‘back’ from the DR Congo were not really Angolan or descendants returning to Angola, but Congolese – or perhaps not even Congolese – attempting to enter Angola illegally. 4. It is difficult to establish the exact number of inhabitants of Mbanza Kongo, but the rate of growth is incredibly fast, mostly owing to the influx of returnees from the DRC. Suffice it to say that when we first visited there in 2008 we were told that it boasted


Ramon Sarró and Marina P. Temudo

70,000 inhabitants. In our more recent fieldwork in 2014–16, the oficial estimate we were given was 200,000.

References Beinart, W. 2003. The Rise of Conservation in South Africa: Settlers, Livestock, and the Environment 1770–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Beinart, W., K. Middleton and G. Pooley. 2013. Wild Things: Nature and the Social Imagination. Cambridge: White Horse Press. Bhagavan, M.R. 1986. Angola’s Political Economy 1975–1985. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies. Brinkman, I. 2008. ‘Refugees on Routes: Congo/Zaire and the War in Northern Angola (1961–1974)’, in B. Heintze and A. Oppen (eds), Angola on the Move: Transport Routes, Communications and History. Frankfurt: Lembeck, pp. 198–220. Cocks, M. 2006. ‘Biocultural Diversity: Moving beyond the Realm of “Indigenous” and “Local” people’, Human Ecology 34(2): 185–200. Cormier-Salem, M.-C., D. Juhé-Beaulaton, J. Boutrais and B. Roussel (eds). 2005. Patrimoines naturels au Sud: Territoires, identités et stratégies locales. Paris: IRD-MALD-MNHN. Cormier-Salem, M.-C., and T. Basset. 2007. ‘Introduction: Nature as Local Heritage in Africa – Longstanding Concerns, New Challenges’, in Nature as Local Heritage in Africa, special issue of Africa 77(1): 1–17. Crapanzano, V. 2003. Imaginative Horizons: An Essay in Literary Philosophical Anthropology. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Cruz, E. 2005. O estatuto do Indigenato: Angola. A legalização da discriminação na colonização Portuguesa. Lisbon: Novo Imbondeiro Editores. Douglas, M. 1993. In the Wilderness: The Doctrine of Defilement in the Book of Numbers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Feldman, J. 2002. ‘Marking the Boundaries of the Enclave: Defining the Israeli Collective through the Poland Experience’, Israel Studies 7(2): 84–114. Freudenthal, A. 1999. ‘A baixa de Cassanje: algodão e revolta’, Revista Internacional de Estudos Africanos 18–22: 245–83. Golan, T., and T. Ton. 2007. Encontros em Angola: o homem e a natureza na sombra da guerra. Luanda: Edições Chá de Caxinde. Guillaud, D., D. Juhé-Beaulaton, M-C Cormier-Salem and Y. Girault (eds). 2016. Ambivalences patrimoniales au Sud. Marseille: IRD. Leach, M., and J. Fairhead. 2000. ‘Challenging Neo-Malthusian Deforestation Analyses in West Africa’s Dynamic Forest Landscapes’, Population and Development Review 26(1): 17–43. Mateus, D., and A. Mateus. 2011. Angola 61. Guerra colonial: causas e consequências. Alfragide: Texto Ed. Máximo, B. 2017. ‘Um lugar entre dois mundos: paisagens de Mbanza Kongo’. Masters dissertation. University of São Paulo, Brazil. Meyer, B. 1998a. ‘Make a Complete Break with the Past: Memory and PostColonial Modernity in Ghanaian Pentecostalist Discourse’, Journal of Religion in Africa 27(3): 316–49.

A Prophetic Enclave


______. 1998b. ‘Commodities and the Power of Prayer: Pentacostalist Attitudes towards Consumption in Contemporary Ghana’, Development and Change 29: 751–76. Paxe, A. 2009. ‘Dinâmicas de resiliência social nos discursos e práticas tokoístas no Icolo e Bengo’. Masters thesis, University of Lisbon. Peluso, N.L. 1995 ‘Whose Woods Are These? Counter-mapping Forest Territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia’, Antipode 27(4): 383–406. Reed, K. 2009. Crude Existence: The Politics of Oil in Northern Angola. Berkeley, CA: Gaia Books. Sarró, R. 2018. ‘Ecunemism and Religious Pluralism in Mbanza Kongo, Angola’, Journal of Southern African Studies 44(1): 239–251. Schama, S. 1996. Landscape and Memory. London: Vintage. Soares de Oliveira, R. 2014. Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola since the Civil War. London: Hurst. Spall, J. 2014. ‘“Money has More Weight than the Man”: Masculinities in the Marriages of Angolan War Veterans’, IDS Bulletin 45: 11–19. Temudo, M.P . 2012. ‘The White Men Bought the Forests’: Conservation and Contestation in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa’, Conservation and Society 10(4): 354–66. Temudo, M.P., R. Figueira and M. Abrantes. 2015. ‘Landscapes of Diversity: Shifting Cultivation in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa’, Agroforestry Systems 89(1): 175–191. Temudo, M.P., and J. Silva. 2012. ‘Agriculture and Forest Cover Change in Postwar Mozambique’, Journal of Land Use Science 6(4): 1–18. Temudo, M.P., and P. Talhinhas 2019. ‘Dynamics of Change in a “Female Farming System”, MbanzaKongo/Northern Angola’, Journal of Peasant Studies 46(2): 258–275. Thornton, J. 1998. The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement 1684–1706. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ______. 2000. ‘Mbanza Kongo/São Salvador: Kongo’s Holy City’, in D. Anderson and R. Rathborne (eds), Africa’s Urban Past. Oxford: James Currey, pp. 67–84. Waals, W. van der. 2011. Portugal’s War in Angola: 1961–1974. Pretoria: Protea Book House. Walker, P.A., and P.E. Peters. 2007. ‘Making Sense in Time: Remote Sensing and the Challenges of Temporal Heterogeneity in Social Analysis of Environmental Change – Cases from Malawi’, Human Ecology 35: 69–80. Wheeler, D., and R. Pélissier. 1971. Angola. New York: Praeger Publishers.


From an Atlantic Point of View Some Final Thoughts Ramon Sarró

El ojo que ves no es ojo porque tú lo veas; es ojo porque te ve —A. Machado, ‘proverbios y cantares’1

When I was a student at University College London in 1989, I had a flatmate, now a very good friend, who learned to say ‘it depends on your point of view’ in many different languages. When someone said something to him in a language other than English, he would say ‘it depends on your point of view’, and the person would immediately assume not only that he knew the language, but also that he was a particularly cool, laid-back guy, open to all sort of opinions and not too polemical a discussant. He fooled me once, when I was saying to a Spanish visitor to our flat that English cooking leaves much to be desired. ‘Depende de tu punto de vista’, Matt pronounced, interrupting our conversation as he entered the kitchen. ‘I didn’t know you spoke Spanish’, I said. ‘I don’t’ he replied, and left the kitchen, totally unaware of the gravity of the matters under discussion. But whether English cooking leaves much to be desired or not is, indeed, a matter of opinion. Points of view are certainly good to think about. We anthropologists know a great deal about them. We know that even when we say ‘we anthropologists’ we, anthropologists, are imposing a point of view. ‘We anthropologists focus very much on the lived-through experience of Notes for this chapter begin on page 268.



individuals’; our ‘we’ separates us from other ‘we’, like sociologists, biologists, historians or astronauts, and it imposes a particular way of looking at things – or, rather, at people. Perhaps this is what characterizes anthropologists over all other social scientists: they may look at people, but they look at people, eye to eye. And looking eye to eye means being looked at eye to eye, too. As the verse by Machado states, the eye is not an eye because you see it; it is an eye because it sees you – it also has a point of view, which surely will not only be different, but perhaps explicitly opposite to yours. It occurs to me that the verse by the Andalusian author, in some way summarizes what we set out to do some years ago when a few scholars, under the leadership of Ruy Llera Blanes, decided to go for a HERA project on the Atlantic, not only interested in having a look at the Atlantic, but also curious to know how the world would look from the Atlantic. Although we invited some historians into the project, we basically wanted to explore the extent to which anthropology can be used as a lens to look at a space that, by its very nature, would not normally be considered a place for study by our discipline. Traditionally, anthropological knowledge has been divided into regions inhabited by people that we deem more or less homogenous, such as West Africa, Central Africa, or Lowland South America. But how could the Atlantic, on ocean, be a place of anthropological scrutiny? In fact, as my friend would tell you, it all depends on your point of view. Anthropologists are very free agents. We enjoy a liberty that should be envied by any other scientist. We can look at whatever it is that our gaze falls upon. We can look at places, at times, at religions, at cultures, at languages, at social structures, at political movements, at secrets, at silences, at art, at music, at houses, at cities, at deserts, at climate change, at cyborgs, at animals, at food, at houses of commons  – in fact, we are entirely free to look at anything we deem worthy of ethnographic effort. What will make the effort worthwhile is whether the result of our research will answer the questions we started with. Some anthropologists need twelve volumes of discovery to answer relatively simple questions (e.g. why had the king of the woods to be ritually killed at Nemi, according to some very old Latin descriptions?), while others need much shorter books to answer much more complicated questions (there is indeed a direct line from Frazer’s preoccupations about the ‘king of the woods at Nemi’ to current ones about how woods think or about the essence of kings). What characterizes the efforts as ethnographic, and what makes the inquiry anthropological, is that the method adopted must weave a careful attention to minuscule details with much wider considerations on what being human may be all about, and specifically on how connected our nature and our history (or histories) are.


Ramon Sarró

The volume you have just read, and the research project that made it possible, had so many questions that it would have been impossible for one single anthropologist to answer them all. In that respect, the book exemplifies the reversal that anthropology has experienced in the last hundred years. While authors in the late nineteenth century could use twelve volumes to answer one relatively simple question, we use fourteen different authors, with a variety of outlooks, methods and traditions, to answer many complex questions in one volume. The questions we were asking were of the following kind. How does cultural and human connection and disconnection take place in the Atlantic Ocean area? What kind of moralities sailed across the Atlantic in the intense years of slave and other forms of unfair trade? How did these relate to religious fluxes? How come Christian missionaries were going to Africa to spread the Gospel at the same time as Africans were exported from that continent to go, with their religions, to the American one? What images, what memories, what objects do people today keep as mementoes of this convoluted past? How does the production of locality, as a human necessity and a value often enshrined in more or less politicized forms of heritage, relate to history? What is the role of religion and ritual, which anthropologists know are of great relevance in making sense of the construction of ‘places of history’ in the Atlantic? What cosmologies and cosmographies emerge out of people’s historical experiences of movements and fluxes? What does the world look like from an Atlantic point of view? And more importantly, does such a thing as the Atlantic exist, or is it, too, a place of many eyes? The notion of doppelgänger, which Birgit Meyer, a very active member in our research project, has recently introduced in anthropology in her and Brian Larkin’s analysis of the confluence of Islam and Christianity in West Africa, is useful here. Are ‘the Americas’ (as we often refer to America) and Africa (as we often refer to ‘the Africas’) doppelgänger? Could it be that there is a kind of quantic ‘entanglement’ between them? Does what happens in Africa have immediate consequences in the Americas, and vice versa? This is indeed a rhetorical question, for it is obvious that connections between places must be historical, but with this question I want to problematize the straightforward ‘cause and effect’ reading of history (of the kind ‘Santeria is a consequence of the mixing of Catholicism with traditional African religion’). The question of, or the quest for, something we could call ‘authenticity’ (and its doppelgänger the copy, as well as all their shadows: the Creole, the Hybrid, the Syncretic, the Mixed, the Mestizo, etc.) has no doubt coloured the Atlantic history. It is indeed one of the lines we find in the chapters we have been reading. In particular, we wanted to see how the quest for the



authentic is expressed in religion, because religious institutions are far too often ridiculed as being copies, as not being truly ‘of the place’ in which they appear. But how can a religious experience not be authentically religious? What does ‘of the place’ mean? This book has shown that there is indeed a considerable amount of ‘diffusion’ – in the classic anthropological sense of the word  – going on in the Atlantic (indeed, from Herskovits to our authors, the Atlantic has been a privileged place of theoretical advancement in relation to acculturation, transculturation, innovation and other forms of flux); in particular, that there are many religious ideas and institutions moving (to use a visual analogy) like balls on a billiard table, bouncing from continent to continent, between Europe, Africa and the Americas, and enriching themselves in each port with new meanings, symbols and experiences. But the book has also shown that there is a hard ‘cultural work’ (to borrow a phrase from John Peel), a combination of conscious and unconscious efforts to make sure that the meaning of human existence is linked to the meaning of places and to the memories that actors associate to them. There is a considerable amount diffusion, granted, but humanity cannot be reduced to diffusion. If that were the case, we could not see Africa and the Americas (or Islam and Christianity, come to that) as doppelgänger, for it would be far too easy to determine which was the original and which the copy. Wherever it is to be found, humanity is always a sui generi historical product and a sui generi producer of history – a creation and a creator. How such historical creativity takes place in the Atlantic was also one of the questions, complex as it is, we wanted to explore. We thought that, while there has been much excellent historical and geographical work on the Atlantic, we could contribute to the understanding of its specificity as a place of human encounter and human creation by looking at it through our ethnographic eyes. Without wanting to create one more ‘anthropological area’, rather the opposite, by questioning the continental regionalization of anthropological inquiries, we hope readers will find this book inspiring and will keep on finding questions and answers so as to further investigate the anthropological relevance of this place of historical exchanges. We are sure many other things could have been said had the questions been asked differently, or had the answers been approached from other angles. But as my friend would tell you, it all depends on your point of view. Ramon Sarró is a social anthropologist at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford. He has conducted fieldwork in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of Congo,


Ramon Sarró

Angola and Portugal on prophetic movements and their legacies. He has published many articles, and is the author of the monograph The Politics of Religious Change on the Upper Guinea Coast: Iconoclasm Done and Undone (International African Institute, 2009).

Note 1. ‘The eye that you see is not an eye because you see it, it is an eye because it sees you’.


abolition, 210–11 action, 84 faith and, 116 actors, 175, 256 ADCT. See Temporary Constitutional Provisions Act AEMINPU. See Evangelical Association of the Israelites Mission of the New Universal Pact aesthetics, 103–4 aesthetic formations, 10 Baroque as, 168–70 cornucopia, 162, 163 curls, 162–64 lace, 155–57 Africa, 209. See also West Central Africa Christianity and, 102 history and, 33–34 Africanisms, 161 Afro-Baroque, 166–67 Afro-Brazilian religions, 147n17 across the Atlantic, 129–46 Candomblé as, 38–40 Afro-Caribbean spirituality, 172 Afro-centrism, 34 Afro culture (cultura afro), 105 agency, 58

Alcântara, 66–68 altars, 132, 138 cornucopia and, 162, 163 details from, 169 amulets, 241 Ana Joaquina palace, 223, 224 ancestors, 22, 176, 192n2 genetic ancestry and, 180 rituals and, 200 ancestral hamlets, 254 Angola, 11, 228n1 heritage in, 249–61 places of no history in, 215–28 Ani, Marimba, 186 anthropology, 265 quilombos and, 74 Antonines, 36–37 Appadurai, Arjun, 175, 192 appropriation, 136 archetypes, 133, 136 Armstrong, Louis, 181 art, 213n1 ceramic sculpture, 202 history and, 201 Mbari funerary art, 218–19 meaning and, 203 mural sculpture, 227 Assemblies of God, 72, 87n12



the Atlantic Afro-Brazilian religions across, 129–46 friction and, 7–10 gaze of, 10–12 history and, 59 authenticity, 130, 147n12 emergent, 183–85 syncretism and, 185–86 Umbandas and, 137–41 Bahia, Brazil, 2, 92–107 131, 167 Bahú, Helder, 228n1 bara dji, 240 Baroque Atlantic, 152–70 Bastide, Roger, 147n11 on tam-tam, 158–61 bath (maionga), 39 batuque, 81, 83 Baumann, Gerd, 3 Bazémo, Maurice, 233, 236 belief, 43, 108n2 Belko, Sambo, 238 belonging, 101 Bentiaba, Angola, 216–20 Bible, 102 biblical hermeneutics, 101 biblical literalism, 50, 61n1 Binnon-Cossard, Giséle, 38 The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Gilroy), 3 black Atlantics, 3 Angolan Atlantic and, 222–25 Black Evangelical Movement of Bahia (MONEBA), 96 Black Evangelicals, 92–108 Black movement, 71, 93–107 black slaves (prestos-velhos), 133 blacksmiths, 162–64, 241 Blanes, Ruy Llera, 55, 184, 265 Boas’s acculturation theory, 144 Boobola land (Bwa-land), 238, 239 Bourdieu, Pierre, 198 branchements, 4 Braudel, Fernand, 2 Brazil, 2, 125n2 Bahia in, 2, 92–107 131, 167 Black Evangelicals in, 92–108 identity and, 114

independence for, 223 quilombos in, 65–85 Bremer, Stanley, 201, 202, 213n2 bridges, 111–25 brujería, 23 bruxos, 139 Burkina-Faso, 11 heritage and, 233–46 hinterland of, 11, 233–45 Caboclo, 39, 42, 133 in Braga, 134–35 Cabrera, Lydia, 21 Calabrese, Omar, 153–54 caminhada (walk), 121 campino, 134 Campos, Roberta, 74, 75 Campt, Tina, 207–8 Candomblé, 5, 146n4 Afro-Brazilian religion of, 38–40 Angola, 41, 131, 142 cosmology in, 157 groups of, 132 Jeje-Nagô, 41–42 symbolism and, 95 Cão, Diogo, 255 capitalism, 71, 73, 116 Capone, Stefania, 180 de Carlvalho, Ruy Duarte, 219 case studies, 130–31 Castro, Raul, 24 Catholic Church, 44, 250 Catholicism ethnography and, 71–72 Evangelicals and, 84 homogeneity and, 125n6 land rights and, 65–85 popular, 65–85 CEBs. See Ecclesiastic Base Communities celebrations, 244 cemeteries, 220 centrifugal missionization, 99–104 centripetal missionization, 99–104 ceramic sculptures, 202 ceremony, 159 chains, 241 sound of, 242 weaponry and, 244


charity, 141–44 Chico, Seu, 73 childhood encounters, 38 Childs, Matt, 6 China, 18, 29–30 Choctow Nation, 187 Christian Atlantic, 4–7 Christianity, 60 Africa and, 102 blackness and, 98 Kingdom of Kongo and, 35–37 Christian Lusophone Atlantic, 6, 223 chronotypes, 29 in Cuba, 20, 23 muertos Chinos as, 9, 20, 30 churches, 164, 189 citizenship, 258–59 cityscape, 253–56 civil associations, 96 coda, 168–70 Code Noir (Black Code), 176–77 Cohen, Erik, 183 Coliseum of Porto, 112 collaboration, 106 colonialism, 147n18, 222 concentration camps and, 215–17 conditions during, 251 independence and, 25, 199 Portugal and, 140 process of, 54 slavery and, 176–77 society and, 131 column, 159–61 commemoration of abolition, 210–11 community healing through, 172–92 slavery and, 197–213 communitas, 191 community healing through commemoration, 172–92 imagining of, 138, 141, 175 terreiro as, 139 concerns, 168 Congo Square, 172 ancestor meditations in, 176 Bamboula 2000 in, 173 history of, 179–81 Congo Square Preservation Society, 181


congregation, 51 Conte Comigo website (Count on Me), 119 contiguities, 26–29 continuous revelation Afro-Brazilian Candomble and, 38–40 West Central Africa and, 34–37 contrast, 168 conversion, 97 fame and, 103 repudiation and, 77–78 coolie trade, 23 cordón espiritual, 26 corridinho dance, 134, 147n10 crente, 80 Cristo na Coluna (Christ Tied to the Column), 164, 165 Cuba chronotypes in, 20, 23 Espiritismo in, 9 history and, 17–30 cult leader (pai de santo), 138 discourse of, 142 cultural nationalism, 3 culture, 241 diaspora and, 185 meaning and, 267 Cush tribe, 101–2 Cuxi, 96, 98 Damonte, G., 53, 54 data, 74 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 250 Angolans in, 252–53 demographics, 67 religion and, 83 demonology, 107 denominations, 121 deportation, 237 descendents, 27 desire, 169 Diabo, Zé, 163 Diallo, Youssouf, 236, 239 diaspora, 24, 57 African, 196–212 culture and, 185 imaging and, 196–213



dictatorships, 71 diffusionism, 144 discourse, 50 cult leaders in, 142 frustration and, 221 site of heritage in, 216 void in, 95 displacement, 253–54 diversity biodiversity, 261n2 interconnectedness and, 182–83 in voodooscape, 174–76 doctrine, 51 domains of filiation, 105 doomsday, 50 doppelgänger, 266 doubt, 81 Douglas, Mary, 259 DRC. See Democratic Republic of Congo drums, 103, 135, 143 drum circle, 187, 190 Durán, Simal, 59 East (Oriente), 51–53 Ecclesiastic Base Communities (CEBs), 70 economy, 192 plantation system and, 177 Eden, 209 edifices, 223 Edwards, Elizabeth, 197, 208 embodiment, 245 emergent Atlantics, 92–108 emergent authenticity, 183–85 empowerment, 143 environmental history, 249–61 Espiritismo in Cuba, 9 essentialism, 153, 185 Estado Novo construction, 144 ethnicity, 218 ethnography, 92, 265 Catholicism and, 71–72 indigenous heritage landscape and, 234–36 mask project and, 198 perspectives and, 1–12 Evangelical Association of the Israelites Mission of the New Universal Pact (AEMINPU), 48

doctrine of, 51 territory and, 56 Evangelicals Catholicism and, 84 lands of Santa Teresa and, 72–74 Evans, Janet, 187 exactitude, 207 exoticisms, 146 fado singers, 129, 143 faith action and, 116 sacrifice and, 123 Falola, Toyin, 6 Fátima, 115 in Brazil, 129–46 pilgrimages to, 121, 123 fazenda (farm), 218 fazenda Tamatatiua, 69 ferramentas de santo, 163 festa, 9, 83 Roxo on, 79–80 festivity, 50 fetish, 10 Feyre, Gilberto, 145 field research, 234, 246n1 Fogueira Santa (Holy Fire), 122 folklore, 134 forests, 253–56 foro, 82 fraccionismo, 226 Frechal quilombo, 79 friction, 7–10 Gamonal, Ezequiel Ataucusi, 8 Peruvian Israelites and, 48 on saints, 49 gaze, 7, 159 the Atlantic, 10–12 geléia geral, 165 genetic ancestry, 180 geography, 59 new moral geography, 92–108 Germano, Reginaldo, 96 gift, 35 Gilroy, Paul, 3, 209 gira, 133, 135 gods, 27, 131


Goffman, E., 124 Gombrowicz, Witold, 1 o grande comedor caracol (The Big Snail Eater), 157–58 Gray, Luther, 181 Hacha, Carmen González, 8 Hannerz, Ulf, 174 haptic images/objects, 207–8 Harris, Victor, 188 healing, 172–92 healing traditions, 187, 192 heaven and earth (orun and aye), 157–58 Heloisa, Dona, 82 help, 142, 146 Hendrik, Prins, 201 heritage, 216 in Angola, 249–61 Burkina-Faso and, 233–46 cultural, 196–212 divergence of, 220–21 landscape, 234–36 Herskovits, Melville, 185, 193n6 hierarchy, 237 UCKG and, 124 Hilton, James, 145 historiography, 19, 53 history, 5, 66 Africa and, 33–34 Angola and places of no, 215–28 art and, 201 Atlantic and, 59 of Congo Square, 179–81 Cuba and, 17–30 curation of, 235, 243 as embodied practice, 11, 92–93, 235, 236 of empowerment, 143 slavery and, 227–28, 233–46 Umbanda and, 135–37 victorious, 3, 11, 225, 228 voodooscape and, 176–79 holocausts, 50, 61n2 homicide, 24 horror vacui, 161–62 houses of cults, 41, 77 language and, 131, 146n1 human mobility, 57–58


Hurricane Katrina, 178–79 hurricanes, 177–79, 193n3 identity, 70 national identity, 114 religion and, 77 Iemanjá, 129–46 imaging and imagining, 11, 259 of community, 138, 141, 175 diaspora and, 196–213 muertos Chinos, 9 17–30 stigma and, 117–20 immigration China and, 18, 29–30 migrant population and, 140, 146n7 migration and, 132, 251 inclusiveness, 187 INCRA. See National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform independence Brazil and, 223 colonialism and, 25, 199 Independência documentary, 216 Indians (caboclos), 39, 133 as owner of the land, 42 influence, 58 information, 116 INPC. See Instituto Nacional de Património Cultural inscriptions, 12 Instituto Nacional de Património Cultural (INPC), 222 interconnectedness, 182–83 interdependence, 174 interpellation, 103 intersectionality, 98 intolerance, 95, 100 Islamic jihads, 237 Israelite Worldview, 51–53 Itamatatiua village, 68 lands of Santa Teresa and, 69–72 Johnson, Paul, 17 joia, 78 contributions as, 81–82 Judaism, 101 Junior, Pereira, 70, 81


Kabra mask, 199–212 Kardecism, 135 kidnapping, 240 Kimbanguism, 37 Kingdom of Kongo, 228n2, 259 Christianity and, 35–37 ruins of, 250 kin relations, 19 knowledge, 19 Kulumbimbi, 250 lace, 155–57 lack, 169 Lake Pontchartrain, 178 land custodian (encarregado/a da terra), 70, 73 land rights, 87n13 Catholicism and, 65–85 land struggles and, 67–68, 86n5 land titles and, 67, 68, 76, 84, 86n6 lands of Santa Teresa, 87n11 Evangelicals and, 72–74 Itamatatiua village and, 69–72 language, 28, 192n2, 265 houses of cults and, 131, 146n1 Latour, Bruno, 77 Law, John, 154 Law for Religious Liberty (2001), 113 Leal, João, 144 Lefebvre, H., 82 legitimacy, 55 construction of, 111, 113, 120 power and, 56 Lezama Lima, José, 152, 170 libation, 100, 106, 211, 242 lost constituency, 95–96 Lost Horizon (Hilton), 145–46 Louis Armstrong Park, 179, 181 Lower Ninth Ward, 178 Lukumi, 182, 193n7 Luso-tropicalism, 140 Maafa commemoration, 179, 180, 186–89, 191 Macedo, Edir, 115–16 Machu Picchu, 52 magic, 143 amulets and, 241


Chinese and, 21, 23 technology and, 207 Mahmood, Saba, 101, 106 maize, 255 Mali, 245 Mama Aisa, 210 mambi, 25 mammals, 252 Manila galleon trade, 30 Mardi Gras Indians, 193n8 Fi Yi Yi tribe of, 188, 189 Markelo, Marian, 200–211 maroons, 29 marriage, 245 Marti, José, 25 masks, 11, 198 Kabra mask, 199–212 materialities, 239–42 Matory, J. Lorand, 5 Mbanza Kongo (Zaire province), 221 Mbari funerary art, 218–19, 229n6 Mbembe, A., 105 meaning, 203 culture and, 267 mechanisms, 260 media, 116 mediumship, 137 Melville, Herman, 1, 4 memory, 180 collective, 135, 147n11 environment and, 252, 254 narratives and, 12 Messianic Church, 114, 125n4 mestiçagem uertosa 11a, 94, 145 Metamorphose van de Barok (Reijnders), 154 Meyer, Birgit, 266 migration, 132, 251 Milagre de São Roque, 40 milagres, 44 millenarianism, 125n4 mimicry, 29 Minhotas, 133–34 minorities, 97 religions as, 112, 119 Mintz, Sidney, 185 miracles, 33–45 missionary journeys (travessia missionária), 60


Mississippi River, 178 side of, 189–91 mnemonic devices, 244 MNU. See Movimento Negro Unificado Moby Dick (Melville), 1 mocambos. See quilombos models, 204 of theology, 75 modernity, 44–45 MONEBA. See Black Evangelical Movement of Bahia money, 115–17 El Monte (Cabrera), 21 de Moraes, Zélio, 136, 142 moral circumscription, 54–55 Morgan, David, 10 movements, 152–70, 229n4. See also specific movements Angola and socio-cultural, 220 branchements and, 4 enrollment in, 226 movimento negro, 79 Movimento Negro Unificado (MNU), 94 MPLA. See People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola Mucubal tribes, 218, 219 muertos Chinos chronotypes of, 9, 20, 30 imaging and imagining of, 9, 17–30 nganga and, 28 Muhammad, Jamilah-Peters, 181 murals, 227 Museum of Slavery in Luanda, Angola, 222 music, 197 mythology, 42 narratives, 236 Damonte on, 53, 54 heritage and, 221 memory and, 12 recognition of, 113–15 National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), 86n6 nationhood, 29 Native Americans, 179, 187, 193n8 negreiro vessels, 223


Netherlands, 197–213 Neto, Agostinho, 226 New Orleans, Louisiana, 172–92, 193n3 nganga, 19–20 muertos Chinos and, 28 nkisi (inquice) (spirit objects), 36–37 nkita (inkita), 46n1 saints as, 35–36 Nossa Senhora da Conçeiçao da Praia, 152, 153 objects, 36–37, 197 of sorcery, 45 Oliveira, Soares de, 260 oral history, 251 Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Carmelites), 69 origins, 93, 94 Orishas, 100, 133 Ortiz, Fernando, 24 Ossio, J., 52 den Otter, Olphaerd, 202, 213n3 Our Lady of Fatima, Brazil, 129–46 Outline of a Theory of Practice (Bourdieu), 198 owner of the land (o dono da terra), 39 caboclos as, 42 paintings, 155, 158, 166 paleros, 20 muertos Chinos and, 20–26 Palmares Foundation, 66 Palmié, Stephan, 2 on syncretism, 184 pardos (mixed-race), 93 parrhesiastic, 93, 103 Passéio Público, 167–68 past-relationships, 93 Paulo, Alfredo, 122 pay their promises (pagar promessa), 79 peasantry, 67 pelourinhos (pillories), 165 Pentecostalism, 87n12 dissolution and, 74–78 worship style in, 114 People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), 216 , 229n4



Pereira, Pedro, 123 performances, 180 display and, 9, 11, 241 spear in, 243–44 perspectives, 116 ethnography and, 1–12 present as, 43 Peru Incas and, 49, 52 privileged, 50, 53–57 Peruvian Israelites, 48–61 photography, 197 as haptic, 208 photo essays, 155, 215–20 symbolism and, 204 pilgrimage, 121 pilgrims and, 119 plantations, 30 plantation system, 177 pluralism, 97 non-ecumenical, 104–7 pontos cantados (songs), 135 popularity, 183 population, 84 census and, 94 of migrants, 140, 146n7 Portugal Braga in, 130 colonialism and, 140 UCKG in, 111–25 Umbanda in, 132 Vatican and, 126n3 possession, 17, 28, 35 poverty, 71, 138 power, 56 practices, 76, 125n5 voodoo and, 182, 191 prayers, 97, 156 pretos (blacks), 93 primordial grounds, 144 processions, 87n16, 190 project communities (agrovilas), 67 Promised Land, 59 prophecy, 37, 45, 51 prophetic enclave, 249–61 prophetic movements, 43 prosperity, 116 Protestant ethic, 73

provocation, 104 publications, 141 Público newspaper, 117 public sphere, 124 Angola and, 217 quilombos, 86n2, 86nn5–7 clause for, 66–68 land rights and, 65–85 racialization, 26 reflexivity and, 107 racism, 199 in Brazil, 98, 100 Ramadan, 243 reading, 97 Real Cedula code, 177 re-coding, 143 reconstruction, 120 re-creation, 33–45 reflexivity, 107 refugees, 252, 262n1 Reijnders, Frank, 154 Rekdal, Ole, 145 religion Afro-Brazilian, 129–46 as Afro-hyphenated, 5 appropriation of, 136 blackness and, 93–99 demographics and, 83 human mobility and, 57–58 identity and, 77 land ownership and, 76 minority, 112, 119 syncretism and, 184 religious activism, 80 religious heritage, 249–61 resentment, 256–60 resilience, 261 respect, 183 responsibility, 27 revelation re-creation and, 33–45 tradition and, 41–42 reverse colonization-evangelization, 111 rincón del muerto, 26 risk, 106 ritual pan-Africanism, 180


rituals ancestors and, 200 inkita as, 38 proposals for, 121–24 Ró, Pai, 161, 162 Roberto, Holden, 256 Rodrigues, Amália, 133 Routon, Kenneth, 6 Roxo, Zé, 75–76 on festa, 79–80 sacred, 115 sacrifice, 243 faith and, 123 saints, 35–36 Gamonal on, 49 land rights and, 75 relationship with, 139 salt mines, 216, 217 Sánchez-Carretero, Cristina, 221 Sanctuary of Fatima, 115 Sanfancon, 27 Sansi, Roger, 8 Santa Teresa d’ Ávila (de Jesus), 65–85, 87n11 Santería, 22 Santo, Diana Espírito, 184 São Miguel Fort, 224, 225 São Nicolau concentration camp, 215–17 Schubert, Jon, 224 scientific method, 45 scissiparity, 104–5 Scott, David, 92, 101 sea, 152, 170 Selka, S., 95 shrines, 39–40 Sierra Leone, 234 silence, 115 simba, 35–36 slave raids, 238, 239–42 slavery, 29, 66 86n4 colonialism and, 176–77 commemoration and, 197–213 history and, 227–28, 233–46 intra-African, 234, 237 perceptions of, 245 punishment during, 164–66 Slenes, Robert, 41


social exchange, 107 social movements, 73 emergence of, 68 social projects, 106 social sciences, 60, 265 sorcery, 5, 21 objects of, 45 sovereignty, 76 reassertion of, 78 Spain, 60 spear, 243–44 spiritism, 132, 141 spirit possession, 17, 28, 35 Spiritual Help Centres, UCKG, 117–18 spirituality, 118 stigma, 233 bridges and, 111–25 imaging and, 117–20 popularity and, 183 Stolow, Jeremy, 207 stories, 80 succession, 51 suffering, 118, 261 suicide, 23 sui generi, 267 supernatural, 137 bond with, 139 Suriname, 199 African Surinamese, 197–212 surrealism, 159 Sweet, James, 34 symbolism, 82 Candomblé and, 95 gourd as, 240 photography and, 204 UCKG and, 118 Umbanda and, 143 syncretism, 95, 184 authenticity and, 185–86 Tamini, Pierre, 242 tam-tam, 158–61 Tanni, Amara, 238 tata (fortifications), 238 technology, 56 3D and, 203–7 Temporary Constitutional Provisions Act (ADCT), 66–67



terminology, 86n3, 161 ancestors as, 200 Baroque as, 153–54 Israelites and, 51–53 stigma and, 183 voodoo and, 172, 192n2 terreiros (temples), 98 as community, 139 importance of, 99 opening of, 131–32 territory, 8–9 AEMINPU and, 56 conceptualization of, 55 quilombo as, 68 texts, 52, 148n22 theology, 48 models of, 75 theories, 4 Umbanda and, 142 Thompson, Robert Ferris, 179 Thornton, John, 2 tithing, 115–17 Tokoist Church, 7 Tomb of the Unknown Slave, 189 touch, 198 trade routes, 236 tradition modernity and, 44–45 revelation and, 41–42 trance, 137 transculturation, 24 transference, 49 transnationalism, 3, 6, 146 transversion, 225 Tremé neighborhood, 181 St. Augustine Church in, 189 trickery, 240 truth, 44 Tundavala gap, 225–27 two pillories, 164–66 UCKG. See Universal Church of the Kingdom of God Umbanda, 130–31 authenticity and, 137–41 history and, 135–37

symbolism and, 143 theories and, 142 uncomfortable heritage, 221 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 221 proposals for, 224, 256 Union of the Peoples of the North of Angola (UPNA), 251 Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), 9 in Portugal, 111–25 University College London, 264 UPNA. See Union of the Peoples of the North of Angola van Berkum, Boris, 200–212 Vatican, 126n3 Visão magazine, 120 visibility, 113 visual culture, 197, 198 Vita, Beatriz Kimpa, 36–37, 255, 260 vodun (ancestors), 192n2 volkscultuur (folk culture), 196 voodoo, 11, 172–74 contemporary, 172, 174–76, 182–83 voodooscape, 176–79 The Walk of Faith, 122–23 wars, 155 returns and, 250–53 weaponry, 244 Wereldmuseum, 209 West (Occidente), 51–53 West Central Africa continuous revelation in, 34–37 prophetic movements of, 43 de Wildt, Annemarie, 211, 212 Winti religion, 11, 200–201, 208–9 de Witte, Marleen, 196–97 world-making, 7 World Museum Amsterdam, 212 worship, 112, 114 The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World (Childs and Falola), 6 Youngblood, Johnnie Ray, 186