Note from BW of Brazil: This sounds like an exciting project and I am definitely look forward to seeing its results! Brazil, in a very general way, has a problem with the importance of its African-derived legacy and this cultural heritage is often a source of embarrassment and shame for those who have been indoctrinated with negative stereotypes that have been passed down from one generation to the next. One glaring example of these negative stereotypes is the ongoing assault and demonization of Afro-Brazilian religions. Of course one project by an NGO can’t possibly turn around centuries of prejudice disseminated throughout Brazilian society, but it’s good step in helping some young people learn the importance of this legacy.
Publication maps African practices in Mangueira
Courtesy of Brasil 247 and O Globo
A survey conducted by the NGO Arte de Educar will be released on the 16th, during the Semana Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia (National Week of Science and Technology or SNCT). Mapping was performed by students 7-16 years of age who interviewed residents who helped tell the story of African influences in the slums of Rio’s North Zone. Sung often in the lyrics of Samba composers from Mangueira, orixás (deities), capoeira and acarajé – elements of Africa incorporated in Brazil, the young people met mães de santo (holy mothers) mestres (masters) of capoeira.
The publication Cartografia das Práticas Culturais Africanas na Mangueira (Mapping of African Cultural Practices), which brings together reports, interviews and photos telling the emergence of the north zone Rio community, besides redeeming Afro-Brazilian culture, will be launched on the 16th, during the National Week of Science and Technology (SNCT). An initiative of the NGO Arte de Educar, the survey was done by students ages 7-16 who mapped and surveyed personalities that help tell the story of African influences in Magueira. The junior researchers also attended and participated in conversation tables with representatives of African religions. “It’s a way to promote religious diversity in education,” says the project manager of Arte de Educar, Lolla Azevedo, in an interview with Agência de Notícias das Favelas (News Agency of the Slums). In addition to publishing, the NGO also made a mapping of socio-environmental challenges discovered and a video of the existing popular technologies in the favela.
By Agência de Notícias das Favelas
Students release mapping of African culture in Mangueira
Residents of the Mangueira favela, north zone of Rio, may know many hidden stories about their African origins, which go far beyond the samba. The publication Cartografia das Práticas Culturais Africanas na Mangueira, produced by Arte de Educar and students, gathers reports, interviews and photos that tell the emergence of the community and redemption of Afro-Brazilian culture in the region. The release will be on October 16, during the National Week of Science and Technology (SNCT), in Quinta da Boa Vista.
In the daily routes and alleys, different locations and homes of Mangueira, students of Arte de Educar, from 7-16 years old, mapped and interviewed personalities that help tell the story of African influences in the community. According to Lolla Azevedo, project manager of Arte de Educar, the survey values the local culture and brings children and youth closer to learning. “We value the differences and, through them, we create dialogues. We learn from the different. With our work we seek to train curious, observing people who can transform their own realities.”
About 150 students participated in the survey. Besides the book, of which 300 copies will initially be printed run of 300 copies, they developed other activities related to the subject, like a game of questions and answers on religion, slavery, quilombos (maroon societies) and food related to Africa. Students also participated in round table discussions with representatives of African religions. “It’s a way to promote religious diversity in education,” said Lolla.
“The majority of the population of Mangueira is black, so we have appreciated blackness among students. To do this we work with them on what it means to be black in Brazil, in Rio, in Mangueira,” argues Azevedo. The NGO offers activities opposite the school day.
From healers to midwives
In the field research, the students discovered that Mangueira still keeps alive an ancient belief: taking care of health with “blessing”, an ancient way of treating various diseases with amulets, teas, potions and medicinal herbs, used since the Middle Ages in Europe.
Passing from generation to generation, the mourners, healers and faith healers are like guardians of the memory of a popular African culture that propagates itself. Dona Ivanise, known as Dona Neném in the community, is the one who explains: “When a woman becomes a mother, she learns to pray for her own children.” She claims that she always cared for children with medicinal herbs, as learned from her mother. Highly sought after and known in the community, Dona Neném explains that she is a healer, not a chanter. “The healer does not chant, she works with herbs.”
Dona Esmereciana Santos de Sena, 68, besides being a chanter/healer, was also a midwife. Better known as Dona Diara, she also learned to pray with her mother and has never stopped. She still prays and currently teaches her two grandchildren, so that this activity is not lost in the community.
Dona Luzia is one of the oldest prayer/healers in Mangueira. 95 years old, she accompanied the growth of the community and the city’s development. In research with students, she recalled a fairly common practice held when someone fractured legs or arms. “It was common to heat egg whites and immobilize the fractured region with some bamboo pieces and soaked cloths. The immobilization time, she said, varied according to the age of the person. A child of 10 years, for example, wore the brace for 10 days,” she says.
Also featured are stories like that of Dona Bahia, as Maria Elenita de Souza is known. The mãe de santo was born in Ilheus, Bahia, and moved to Mangueira 50 years ago. It was there that she learned the teachings on Candomblé with Maria Baiana, a lady in the community known at the time that she considered her grandmother. Today, she also imparts knowledge to her biological grandchildren and her filhos de santo (children followers of Afro-Brazilian religions).
“Our religion has much to teach: about dances, songs and even the relationship with nature. We have to maintain our traditions. Here, we have parties such as the caruru dos erês, for example.
“Prejudice still exists”
Rose Carol da Silva, coordinator of the local NGO, explains that the search for the origins of the favela and its population could clarify doubts of the students on topics such as the religions of Candomblé and Umbanda.
“Redeeming our history we identify ourselves with the afrodescendência (African ancestry). We find that prejudice still existed among boys and girls. But facing this reality helped them to understand that these practices, as well as the prayers are part of their identity,” she explains.
Bolini Larissa, 13, participated in the mapping and confirms:
“I thought that what these religions did was wrong. But I understand that they don’t do evil. It’s good to know things in order not to criticize what you don’t know,” admits the girl.
Another ancient belief still preserved in Magueira, discovered the young people, is prayer. One of the personalities encountered by students was Diara, Esmediara Santos Sena, a folk healer who has lived in the community for more than six decades. She uses ingredients such as herbs, lemon, honey and garlic to make syrups used to treat residents suffering from respiratory and intestinal diseases.
“I learned the recipes from an aunt and I have practiced for 35 years. I already healed many people and still receive many visit requests. Some days there are so many calls that I can’t even stop to sleep,” she says proudly.
Professor Kong: struggle for the appreciation of capoeira
Carlos Silva, aka Kong, is currently one of the only teachers who propagates the practice of capoeira on the hill of Mangueira. A practitioner since 1986, in the Re-criança project, with the master Canguru, Kong trained with the quartermaster Corisco, the master Parazinho and is currently training with the master Bahia.
Working with comprehensive education in Arte de Educar, five years ago, Kong also performs a role in the condo Mangueira 2 with kids and adults of the location, involving socio-educative capoeira. “Capoeira is not highly valued in the community,” laments Carlos. “Because of being considered a dance and not fighting, many boys are not very interested.” Another prejudice touches on the issue of religious intolerance and the association between capoeira and African origin religions.
According to Kong, the stigma about capoeira and be a capoeiristas is changing, with appreciation of some African cultural practices, but there is still some prejudice, which affects not only capoeira, but all the cultural practices of African origin.
Innovation of teaching
The research of African cultural practices in Mangueira was conducted by the Núcleo de Memória da Arte de Educar (Center of Memory of the Art of Educating). In it, there are photography, video and text creation workshops with the objective of producing social-cultural reflections of the identities of the community in dialogue with other contemporary productions, through the eyes of the young for their reality are developed.
In 2013 and 2014, field research was also developed in dialogue with the experiences of two partners: the EMOP (Company of Public Works of the State of Rio de Janeiro), responsible for the works to be carried out in PAC 2, and a group from Argentina who visited Arte de Educar, Fronteras Migrantes.
In addition to publishing Cartografia das Práticas Culturais Africanas na Mangueira, Arte de Educar also made a socio-environmental mapping of challenges found and a video of the popular technologies found in the favela.