Note from BW of Brazil: How is it that the universe came into being? I’m sure most of us have pondered the question and in the West, most are familiar with Christian mythology, which itself is based on numerous other fables from other cultures, but how many of us have ever heard African interpretations of creation? One dance group is presenting just that at the Teatro Municipal Carlos Gomes (Theater) in Rio de Janeiro until tomorrow in a spectacular that has already been playing for audiences for several seasons. For dancer, teacher of African dance and one of the show’s creators, Aninha Catão, “Afro-Brazilian culture works as an educational tool and the redemption of the identity of the black population of the country”.
And as African and Afro-Brazilian History and Culture have been so long demonized but yet so important in the construction of Brazil and its people, the spectacular represents an excellent opportunity to look beyond the stereotypes and understand that no one culture’s spiritual, belief system or mythology should be given more prominence than another. This point cannot be stressed enough with the ongoing destruction of various Afro-Brazilian religious temples of worship by those obsessed in their allegiances with and beliefs in religious systems that are considered the mainstream in the West. Check the report on the spectacular below as well as the videos which can be automatically translated into many languages via YouTube.
African dance spectacular “African Cosmogony – The World Vision of the Yoruba People” presents the myth of the creation of the world from the perspectives of the Yorubas
Based on the work of Marcelo Monteiro, the African Cosmogony spectacle goes back to the creation of the world according to Yoruba culture.
Developed by Aninha Catão and put on by the dance group Tambor de Cumba, the spectacular “Cosmogonia Africana – A Visão de Mundo do Povo Iorubá” (African Cosmogony – The World Vision of the Yoruba People) intends to present the myth of the creation of the world from the perspectives of the Yoruba people (African ethno-linguistic group whose territory expands through the countries of Nigeria, Togo and the Republic of Benin) reaching the cult of the Orixás, first as elements of nature and later as prestigious ancestors deified by their people and now recognized as a living representation of these elements of nature. These Orixás were brought with the negros iorubás (black Yorubas), by the African diaspora, along with their culture and were able to directly influence the formation of the identity of the Brazilian people.
In an interview, dancer Aninha Catão, artistic director and choreographer of the show, highlighted the educational character of art by awakening the public’s imagination. “Art democratizes, makes it playful, through pleasure and fun,” she informs. It was a long path of research and dedication, but all for the sake of our people and the rescue of our cultures, empowerment as povos pretos de matriz africanas (black people of African matrix). People will be able to reflect on those ancestors, orixás as people who existed and had their way of life, cultural habits,” she explained.
By understanding the Afro-Brazilian culture as a tool for education and redeeming of the identity of the country’s black population, Aninha Catão elaborated this project with the purpose of highlighting the impacts of the diáspora africana (African diaspora) in Brazil. Thus, along with its artistic group, Tambor de Cumba, the spectacle awakens in the imagination of the spectators how the first forms of life happened through the Yoruba perspective.
To the sound of drums, typical choreographies of Afro-Brazilian culture explain the role of the elements of nature, such as fire, earth, air and water, as well as the ancestors of this African group, which are related to such elements – the orixás. The African Cosmogony – The World Vision of the Yoruba People is based on the important work, homonymous to the initiative, of Marcelo Monteiro.
“The great importance of watching Cosmogonia Africana – A Visão de Mundo do Povo Iorubá is this opportunity to learn about the ancestral history of the Africans enslaved here in Brazil. This is the chance to know a little about ourselves, our origin and our culture. So the spectacular has the role of evidencing the existence of a magnificent cultural wealth in Brazil, inherited from the African continent, especially the Yoruba people. This spectacular has reached the public in the most democratic way possible, by means of mythological gesturality, not only entertaining it, but also informing. We also propose the deconstruction of the marginalization of cultura negra (black culture), highlighting the protagonism of black people and their ways of re-creating their own existence, with symbols, forms and recognition,” Catão.
The show is staged by six dancers who represent the elements, fire, water, earth and air, which by Yoruba tradition, gave rise to life in Àiyé (our world). The Orixás are also represented on the scene.
For Marcelo Monteiro, the spectacular represents much more than simply a stage production. For Cosmogonia’s researcher, “It’s important that the world knows the vision of the Yoruba people who contributed so much to the existence of the identity of the Brazilian people. Cosmogonia is a historical survey that seeks to raise the self-esteem of the peoples of African tradition and matrix, especially the Yoruba. Aninha was able to translate this feeling through choreography,” he said.
Aninha Catão, a dancer and teacher of African dance, is also initiated in Candomblé by Doné Zoraia de Ògún, for Ọ̀ṣun and Ọdẹ. Aninha revealed to how the beautiful history of Cosmogonia Africana came about.
“I became a santo in 2012, but I’ve been from axé since I was very young, because a lot of my mother’s family is from the terreiro. Since I was a child I went to Candomblé. The idea of the show came in 2013, when I met Bàbáláwo Marcelo Monteiro who initiated me in Ifá in 2015. Bàbáláwo Marcelo Monteiro is a researcher and scholar of black culture, especially that of the Yorubá culture. He teaches various courses and lectures on the subject, and it then that I heard in one of his lectures about the African Cosmogony – The World Vision of the Yoruba People. It parallels the myth of the creation of the world according to the Yoruba tradition, and at the same time legitimizes the facts, with events revealed by them. I was delighted with everything, I became friends with Bàbáláwo, and in one of our conversations in 2014, we had the idea of turning the lecture into a dance spectacular that has now become a reality.”
The spectacular lasts an hour and 30 minutes in partnership with Grupo Tambor de Cumba, a pioneer in cultural activities in Cais do Valongo. After the staging, there is an interactive moment with a circle of conversations with Aninha Catão and Bàbáláwo Marcelo Monteiro.
Text and research: Marcelo Monteiro
Art Direction: Aninha Catão
Technical direction: Marcelo Reis
Choreography: Aninha Catão
Dancers: Aninha Catão, Lucimar Brito, Layza Soares, Marcos Cotta, Matheus Mello and Maurício Souza.
Guest dancer: Carlos Mutalla
Musicians: André Aladê, Dinho Santiago and Alexandre Munrha
Song: Nina Rosa
Production: Aninha Catão
Production Assistant: Chris Mendonça, Layza Soares and Joyce Lima
Casting: Ledjane Motta
Scenery and lighting: Zindi Gonzaga
Audiovisual: Luis Gomes
Designer: Mariana Gomes and Toni Sales
Press Agent: Joyce Lima