Note from BW of Brazil: The release of a recent children’s book about the African deities known as orixás, or orishas, is important for a number of reasons. But the two reasons that I want to feature this book release today are the following. 1) Attacks on African-derived religions such as candomblé and umbanda are still a huge problem in Brazil. Misunderstandings and stereotypes about these religions have lead to violent assaults that have lead to the destruction of religious temples and accessories, injuries and even death. 2) With the recent international success of the Black Panther film as well as the works of black artists using comic books to tell Afro-Brazilian history as well as using candomblé mythology to turn orixás into superheroes, there is enormous potential that could be another great idea for film or a mini-series of some sort.
Orixás for children
By Pai Rodney
In launching the collection Livro dos Orixás Para Crianças (Book of Orishas for Children), Arole Cultural makes its debut in the children’s universe and introduces a new literary format, in which writer and illustrator compose together and hope to conquer the reader through text and images, which also convey a discourse and help those who do not yet have the mastery of reading to understand meanings and construct positive representations on the subject.
Conhecendo os Orixás – De Exu a Oxalá (Knowing the Orixás – From Exu to Oxalá) is the first volume of the series, composed of 18 titles, and already comes with the responsibility of opposing the logic of cultural appropriation, returning the deities of candomblé to their black origin and valuing work of authors with a solid technical and academic background, but who also practice and live the religion, knowing very well the need to establish respect and to fight against intolerance and prejudice.
In a didactic and illustrative way, the first volume presents the universe of Afro-Brazilian culture and each of the orixás (orishas) to children and young people, but it serves adults perfectly. Written by Waldete Tristão, the collection’s coordinator, and by the designer and illustrator Caco Bressane, the book helps to know the characteristics, colors, preferred foods, domains and social function of the deities.
These peculiarities of the orixás most worshiped in the Afro-Brazilian religions here have survived by meeting the needs of the enslaved peoples and their descendants, both in invoking the forces of nature, such as rains and storms, and in the success of agriculture and hunting.
Waldete Tristão holds a Ph.D in Education from USP (University of São Paulo) and a Master’s degree in Education: History, Politics and Society from PUC-SP. She has worked professionally for more than 30 years in municipal public education in São Paulo, in nursery schools and day care centers, as a teacher, pedagogical coordinator and trainer of teachers and managers in basic education.
By understanding stories as powerful tools in the formation of people, the author, who is also initiated into the candomblé and percussionist of the “Ilu Obá de Min”, values the literary production of the povo negro (black people) and reiterates the need to combat cultural appropriation and religious intolerance, demonstrating that the education of children and young people to respect diversity is fundamental for the construction of a more just society.
Caco Bressane holds a degree in Architecture and Urbanism and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, but has always dedicated himself to illustration. He currently runs a studio for illustration and graphic design.
He worked for major publishers in publications of various segments, with emphasis on textbooks, infant’s and children’s books, in addition to newspapers and magazines.
The experience in the terreiros of Salvador and São Paulo already inspired other works of Caco Bressane and made possible his good meeting with Waldete Tristão. The strokes and colors of the book match perfectly with the words and vice versa.
The text allows the construction of images and the images also speak for themselves, bringing in their vibrant tones and significant details all expressiveness of the orixás.
In the other volumes of the collection, other writers and illustrators will compose the authorship and lead the readers in 16 adventures inspired by the sacred stories (itans) – the African myths – in which some orixás will be protagonists and others, in supporting roles.
By reviving them in a playful way, the authors seek to win over children in their first years and in the literacy phase, as well as young people and adults, who also lack information and deeper knowledge about the traditions preserved in the terreiros.
The collection certainly surpasses the educational character, but intends to be a relevant instrument for the strengthening of the Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (LDB), amended by Law 10.639/03, which makes the study of African and Afro-Brazilian culture and history mandatory, as a constituent and former of Brazilian society, in which blacks must be considered historical subjects.
Connected with Opinion No. 4 of the National Education Council, approved in 2004, when the National Curricular Guidelines for the Education of Ethnic-Racial Relations and for the Teaching of Afro-Brazilian and African History and Culture were established, the collection values the Afro-Brazilian historical-cultural heritage.
It recognizes and affirms rights with respect to education, insofar as it collaborates to bring children closer to Afro-Brazilian and African history and culture, in the perspective of religiosity as a cultural heritage.
The books collaborate so that an important part of Afro-Brazilian and African History and Culture is present in the curricula of Basic Education as another way to value the população negra (black population).
Not restricted to this group, to the contrary, it wants to reach all Brazilian children, since all must be educated as citizens acting in the direction of a society that recognizes the different and diverse nature of their formation, to be able to build a democratic nation.
Source: Carta Capital