« Of the Being –
I am universally black
In the point of this pencil
In the depth of this soul
I am universally free
In each corner
Of this race
In every labyrinth of this prison. »
Ele Semog, Atabaques,
Rio de Janeiro 1984.
We know that black presence in Brazil results from the slave trade. But we are less aware that many freed slaves took the path back home to Africa. Take, for example, the Agouda from Ouidah in Benin, the old slave-trading port. They no longer speak Creole, but have kept up traditions such as the aborian carnival dance. They have even passed on the kaleta, a Christmas masquerade set to festive rhythms that also recall the carnival. On return from Brazil, after the most dehumanizing experience on earth, the former slaves gave their society the rhythm, song and dance that would help it activate its ability to resist, to adapt to the environment, and to motivate the community. In short, they gave it the conditions of its freedom.
By regularly devoting Africultures dossiers to the American continent’s black cultures (African
Roots in Caribbean Music, Black Cuba, and soon Haiti and other Caribbean islands), we too make the return journey. Or rather, an essential detour across the ocean.
For the black traces to be found in America’s cultures, and the role their blended forms play in their « host » societies are revelatory. No doubt because this culture, which is still in the minority today and is confronted with racist prejudices and all forms of exploitation, has to find the values which enable it to resist and survive at their source. Not so as to play out some kind of immutable identity, but to affirm a spirited difference beyond the norms, in which rhythm, song and dance manifest a certain way of being in the world, ethical and aesthetic values which form a different being.
This dossier therefore places the accent on all the cultural elements behind this capacity, be they religious, daily, musical, artistic, or creative. Cultural elements which, linked to economic struggles for equality, give rise to a fascinating affirmation of freedom. Capoeira means « the maquis » in Portuguese, and it is no accident that this fight-like dance, this dance-like fight, is so popular today.
Indeed, we all really need to find « our internal growth line » as Sônia Uchôa, mother of Saint Candomblé, put it.
///Article N° : 5477