Archives for posts with tag: Museu Afro Brasileiro (MAFRO) Salvador Bahia

In the old centre of São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos (‘Salvador‘ or more often ‘Bahia‘), you can sense the fresh breezes from All Saints’ Bay (‘Bahia de Todos os Santos‘), but a view of it is more difficult. In the upper town or Cidade Alta, the two- and three-storey buildings block your view with a beauty of their own, while in the lower town or Cidade Baixa you glimpse it at sea level from between the buildings of the industrial waterfront, or right down on the beach.

Flying into the city of Salvador, third largest in Brasil

Elevador Lacerda between the high town and the low town of Salvador Bahia

Walking through Pelourinho on our first night, I was drawn to a restaurant which offered views of the bay from its terrace. A quick stroll along the Rua das Portas do Carmo confirmed that it was an attractive option – we visited the Mamma Bahia restaurant on the same street the following evening.  https://theproverbial.org/2012/10/13/salvador-street-life/

Hotel Casa do Amarelindo is a 10-room hotel in Pelourinho which also serves the public in its restaurant and at the panoramic bar let in to the roof on the fifth floor. The owners have restored this nineteenth century town house with care, preserving floor tiles, wrought iron and plaster-work, and decorating with imagination, in strong yellow (amarelo) and other colurs.  http://www.casadoamarelindo.com/  The view, even at night, is not its only attraction.

Trompe-l’oeil tiling at the entrance

Wrought iron grille to interior, original wood carvings in lobby

In the lobby they display and sell the work of woodcarver Miguel Morois, originally from Uruguay though a citizen of Bahia for the last forty years. He portrays the gods or orixas of the Yoruba candomblé religious tradition, sharing the space with figures which appear more Western. More at   http://brasilart.org/2012/10/23/miguel-morois-brasilian-sculptor/

Xango, god of thunder and justice, his tool the double-headed axe, with
Iemanja, goddess of the sea and fecundity, her tool the silver mirror

Once more you see the cross-fertilisation of the Portuguese Christian and the Yoruba candomblé traditions: these figures bear more than a passing resemblance to the carved saints of the Catholic churches.

Jesus, saint and angel in the Catedral Basílica de Salvador

If you look carefully, you see the African influence in the Christian tradition too. Some painters and wood-carvers of the baroque Bahia churches were indigenous and African, the traces evident in their work.

Carved and gilded images in the nave of the Catedral Basílica de Salvador

It’s no surprise that the figures being created now have mixed characteristics. This is the Archangel Michael of Chrisitian, Jewish and Muslim tradition, weigher of souls and defeater of Satan.

Archangel and fallen angel

She is the African goddess Iemanja (see also https://theproverbial.org/2012/07/10/mermaid/ ) , her colours light blue, pink and white. Is that why she is so pale in this figure from the Afro-Brasilian Museum (MAFRO) in Bahia?

Figure of Iemanja in the Museu Afro Brasileiro

We take the lift to the roof terrace to soak up the fresh night air from All Saints’ Bay and to taste a caipirinha made with best local cachaça (sugar cane spirit) and maracuja (passion fruit) juice.

Panoramic terrace bar at Hotel Casa do Amarelindo

The restaurant downstairs serves an excellent moqueca (seafood stew).

View from restaurant to lobby

I reflect that in Bahia it seems to be possible to have the best of both worlds, a happy combination of old and new, of African and Portuguese, in a beautiful setting. Long may it be so.

Yoruba child god twins (ibejis) / Portuguese Saints Cosmas and Damian

In the centre of Salvador (São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos), capital of the state of Bahia and of Brasil until 1763 – before Rio, before Brasilia – life on the street is very lively.

Thunderous drumming from the top floor

Its architecture is two- and three-storey baroque town houses, religious buildings and open squares.

Church under renovation, Largo Terreiro de Jesus

The historic Pelourinho core is cobbled though not pedestrianised. It is named for public pillories or whipping posts (now removed) used in the past to punish slaves. The slaves, many of them Yoruba speakers from West Africa, were quartered in the basements of the houses – you wonder how they fared during the brief but heavy downpours here.

Tourist family posing for the camera in borrowed Afro-Brasilian costume

And though the streets are thronged with people, it’s disturbing on a number of levels that you can walk the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site because the Afro-Brasilians who lived here were displaced to outlying suburbs, and because of a visible armed police presence.

Hillside village (favela) with not a square inch unused

The Afro-Brasilian heritage is evident from the moment you arrive. Better known as Bahia, Salvador is one of the largest population centres for people of African origin outside Africa – about 80% of the city’s 2.5 million people  are of African or mixed heritage, according to the 2010 census. There seems little racial tension, although the poor, service staff and entertainers are overwhelmingly black, just as in other parts of Brasil.

Sweet-voiced samba singer in the excellent Mama Bahia restaurant, Rua das Portas do Carmo …

… where he looks on from under the street light

Bahianos are well aware of their cultural heritage, whether displayed in the excellent Museu Afro Brasileiro  http://www.mafro.ceao.ufba.br/  (MAFRO), or in public monuments like this bronze of Zumbi dos Palmares  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zumbi  in Largo do Pelourinho.

Spear-wielding seventeenth-century African Brasilian resistance leader, with boarded-up cinema behind

They also know about the non-African Bahiano heritage – a policeman identified for us with pride the building now housing MAFRO as the first medical school in Brasil (in 1808 when the Portuguese Court moved to Brasil, I discover). At the time of the expulsion of the Society of Jesus from Brasil in 1759, it was the largest Jesuit college outside Rome.

Now MAFRO, ex-Jesuit College, ex-Royal Military Hospital, ex-medical school

Circular (lecture?) room behind ex-medical school, over-run now by stray cats

Just down the street we found health services of a more popular nature.

The Old Black snuff (rapé), good for colds, sinusitis, headache, migraine, asthma … and snoring? (roncaria)

An appealing aspect of this historic centre – and characteristically Brasilian – is the mix of high and popular culture. Like the local moqueca (fish stew), it makes for a delicious whole. And there is much more to sample on the Bahiano menu.

Quilt in fabric craft shop near Terreiro de Jesus

Floor of sacristy, Catedral Basílica de Salvador

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