Orisha statue is a target of vandalism in in Salvador, Bahia; a symbol of deities, it is the latest violent assault on African religious symbols

Orixá statue with one its arms missing

ESTÁTUA DE DIVINDADE DO CANDOMBLÉ

Candomblé divinity statue is a target of vandalism in the Dique do Tororó

The assault on representations of African origin religious symbols continues. I have to admit, when I first read about the suppression and demonization of Afro-Brazilian religions in the early 2000s, I had no idea that nearly two decades later these obvious assaults and acts of violence and vandalism could come to this point. Although every attack should be understood as exactly what it is, some of them really make me pause when read about the details. Just a few occurrences will suffice to make my point.

For example, the 11-year girl who was struck in the head with a rock. Or the adherents to these religions who were forced at gun point or under the threat of violence to destroy their own religious symbols. Then we have followers of Candomblé or Umbanda who are forced or choose not to wear their religious attire due to or under the threat of violence or death. We also have the numerous destructions of Afro-Brazilian religious temples. I present today’s report just a few weeks after a woman was recorded hacking a statue of the African goddess Iemanjá with a hammer in the city of Florianóplis in the southern region of the country. Now, we have reports of another act of vandalism on a statue of an African deity.

I have made various references to the northeastern city of Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, as well as its importance to Afro-Brazilian culture and history. It is Brazil’s first capital city, is considered the black capital city in the Americas and is the fourth largest city in the country. I often describe my first journey to Salvador back in the year 2000 as magical. I stayed for three weeks that first trip and still have a certain nostalgia for the city that I have when I visit my own family in Georgia in the south of the United States.

Among the many sites that made that first trip so memorable was when a friend who I referred to as “Danielle” in my post on that first trip took to a neighborhood in the city known as Tororó. The neighborhood didn’t strike me as being anything different from the other neighborhoods I had visited on that first trip….that is until I saw the breathtaking view of the Dique de Tororó. Dique do Tororó is a lake (or dam, as this is what the word dique actually means) that is Salvador’s only natural spring.

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Situated in the middle of the dique are eight statues that stand about 23 feet high representing eight African orixás (orishas/deities). There are also four of these orixás located on land, making a total of 12. My first trip was in September of 2000 and I didn’t know it at the time, but the statues had only been erected two years prior, in 1998.

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Looking at these statues from a distance is already a spectacular site, but even more wonderous when they are lit up in various colors of light at night or if you take the boat ride onto the lake where, within a few minutes, you can see them up close.

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The deities represented on the dique are Xangô (orixá of fire, thunder, lightning, and justice), Ogum (orixá of war), Nanã (lady of death and resurrection), Iansã (orixá of lightning and fire), Oxum (orixá of fresh water, prosperity and wealth), Oxalá (father of all orixás and mortals), Iemanjá (orixá of salt water) and Oxossi (orixá of the hunt and of abundance). On land, the four remaining orixás are Ewá (orixá of beauty and mysteries), Oxumaré (orixá of rain and riches), Ossanha or Ossain (orixá of sacred leaves) and Logun-Edé (young orixá of the hunt and of fishing). All of sculptures by Bahian artist Tatti Moreno, stand in the position known as Xirê, or the Circle of Orixás.

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Although these are some of the more well-known orixás, there are in fact at least 100 orixás with each representing a certain force of nature and matching up with characteristics of the human personality. As many Africans taken to the Caribbean and Latin America fell under Spanish and Portuguese dominion, they were forced to adapt to the Catholic religious faith. But in Brazil, like Cuba and Haiti, Africans hid their continued worship of the orixás by deceiving the Portuguese and Spanish colonizers into believing they were actually worshipping Catholic saints with which they matched to their deities according to specific characteristics that they found to be similar.

The origins of the religious systems can be traced back to the Yoruba and Ewe-Fon people of Nigeria and Benin in West Africa. These traditions were maintained during the transport of millions of Africans to the Americas in Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade of the 16th to 19th centuries. The traditions would become Candomblé in Brazil (Tambor de Mina in the northeastern state of Maranhão), Santería in Cuba, Vodum in Haiti and Voodoo in the United States in the southern state of Louisiana. Other countries where the traditions or elements of these traditions took shape are Shango in Trinidad and Pocomania in Jamaica.

The religions of Canbomblé and Umbanda and its followers continue to be persecuted today in various ways. For example, in 2014, a Pastor Elionai Muralha, a candidate for federal congressman in Bahia, became the center of controversy when he wanted to have the orixá statues removed from the dique and placed in local terreiros, the religious temples of Afro-Brazilian religions. For him, having these symbols in public offices, rivers and lakes is contrary to constitutional rights and could not be tolerated. He also stated that having the orixás there impeded persons of other faiths from attending sites, as according to him, Evangelicals had already stop frequenting the area.

I wouldn’t doubt this. It is well-known that Evangelicals are some of strongest denouncers of Afro-Brazilian religions. It is quite common to discover that when some terreiro, symbol or follower of the Candomblé or Umbanda is assaulted, often times it is discovered that the assailant considers himself an Evangelical, like drug traffickers who are known to commit such heinous acts “in the name of Jesus”.

It will be intriguing to know who might be responsible for this latest attack. According tpo reports, a sculpture representing the orixá Oxumaré in the Nagô religious tradition, Inquice/Nkisi/Angorô for candomblé Angola and the vodum Bessem for the jeje people – deities that represent the junction between the masculine and feminine – were the target of plunder at the Dique site. In images circulating on WhatsApp, you can verify the absence of the statue’s arm. The date of occurrence, however, has not yet been confirmed.

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Arm of orixá statue vandalized in Salvador, Bahia

The Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality (Sepromi) reported in a statement that the organ was not officially sought and also found that no complaints had reached the Nelson Mandela Reference Center to Combat Racism and Intolerance, an agency maintained by the secretariat. Sepromi, however, will officiate, the Bahia State Urban Development Company (CONDER), among other agencies involved in maintenance and safety, in an effort to contribute to the resolution of the problem.

In networks, people are treating the case as vandalism. For the historian, master in Social Management and Development and founder of the Coletivo de Entidades Negras (Black Entities Collective) (CEN), Marcos Rezende, it is necessary to establish “more systematic channels of dialogue with Dique managers, as with Conder, which is the state agency responsible for managing the site,” he said.

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Orixá statue with one of its arms missing

“As soon as I heard about the information on the network, I called Conder, who immediately set up a meeting to discuss it today (Monday, 21) at 3 pm. I hope that from this meeting we can have more pleasant news for our people,” he added.

Ojuobá and Ogã de Ewá of the House of Oxumaré, Rezende recalled that, next Saturday, 26, at 9am, the Coletivo de Entidades Negras, a national institution of the black movement, together with several other religious institutions, will perform a Religious Act at the site, followed by cleaning of the Dique. In a statement, Conder reported that it’s working with the strong suspicion that acts of vandalism caused damage to Oxumaré’s sculpture in the early hours of Monday (21). He also stressed that the measures aimed at the recovery of the work of art are being studied.

“This fact in the Dique do Tororó cannot be seen as a simple act of vandalism. It is evidently an action of religious intolerance, which must be fought not only by those who are directly victimized. That is, it should not be viewed as a problem only by those who profess the religion of the Orishas, but by all who, regardless of their faith, believe in God as the great creator who preaches harmony, peace, love and above all respect for others. I regret and repudiate this and any kind of act of intolerance!”, pointed out the babalorixá of Casa de Oxumaré, Silvanilton da Encarnação da Mata, known as Babá Pecê.

For Baba Egbé Leandro, from Casa de Oxumaré, the situation is “more critical than it seems.” “Some religious denominations, contrary to the principles of faith and love that exist in any cult, practice intolerance and hatred, as well as spread such feelings to their faithful, thus creating vandals that disrespect other cults in order to defend their beliefs absolutely and at any cost,” he said.

“Evil must be cut, because each time it is practiced, not only is one religion harmed, but it is humanity that is moving backwards, there is no progress, but only a return to the primitive stage of a society”, added Leandro.

Deity

Oxumaré, Angorô and Bessem are deities, each in their own tradition of candomblé, linked to transformation, responsible for the earth’s rotation movement. They are represented by the snake, which engages the planet to make it spin, and the rainbows, which represent diversity, but especially the connection between the spiritual world and the carnal world. These Gods are responsible for the existence of everything that is dubious, such as the masculine and the feminine. And it is they, owners of the power of transformation, that cause the process of evaporation of water to cause rain. When the rainbow is present after the rains, it is through it that these deities connect the human with the divine.

With information from Mídia 4P

 

About Marques Travae 3221 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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