Irreverence, Colors and African Heritage in Carnival in Salvador

As mentioned in the previous article about Carnival in Salvador, some blocos don’t have abadás but special costumes related to a theme. Here are some of them:

The afoxés appeared around 1895. People who take part in blocos afoxés (or simply Afoxé) are usually related to Candomblé, an afro-brazilian religion quite popular in Salvador. They wear African-inspired costumes and sing and dance to the sound of a rhythm called Ijexá. The songs generally praise candomblé deities and are played with musical instruments such as atabaque and agogô. Before the beginning of their Carnival parade, the blocos afoxés celebrate some religious rituals of Candomblé.

One of the most popular Afoxé is the “Filhos de Gandhy” (Sons of Gandhi). As the name suggests, this Afoxé is a tribute to the Indian pacifist Mahatma Gandhi. Around 10,000 men take part in this bloco (women are not allowed to do so). They wear white turbans and costumes and necklaces made of white and blue beads. People who are not from “Filhos de Gandhy”, especially girls  go crazy trying to get one of those necklaces, which are a symbol of peace and blessings during the year.

This bloco is composed by men who go through the carnival parade dressed as women. They are not transvestites and only cross-dress during carnival for this specific organization. The official day of the blocos travestidos in carnival is Saturday. They are usually formed by groups of friends and acquaintances and have about three thousand members – the most famous of them is As Muquiranas. Its members have paraded dressed in the most irreverent costumes, such as the cartoon female hero She-Ra.

Blocos Afro represent the African culture which is so outstanding in the city of Salvador. Through their dances, music and costumes they demonstrate and pay homage to the important contributions made by African people to Brazilian culture and identity, fighting back prejudice and racism.

Several blocos Afro are known worldwide either for their parades or for the bands that represent them. The oldest bloco Afro is Ilê Aiyê, founded in 1974. It is sung by Daniela Mercury as o mais belo dos belos (the most beautiful of all) in a pretty song you can listen to here. Other blocos Afro are Araketu, Olodum, Malê Debal, Muzenza and Cortejo Afro. I’ve been in Cortejo Afro for the carnival some years ago – its energy is amazing and its costumes are greatly designed by the talented artist Alberto Pitta.

Have a great time and enjoy yourselves in Carnival!


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