There are two things I couldn’t leave the UK without doing – getting my mum’s blessing (I love it when her eyes light up when I share another travel project with her!), and voting. Yesterday I did both – my journey to Uganda can officially begin!
It’s interesting that when I was introduced to Andy Ayo Akinwolere just a couple of weeks ago at the Children of the Gap exhibition launch, my initial star-struck coyness was soon put to bay when we shared our mutual love for travelling… So without further hesitation, I invited Andy to be part of a panel discussion I’m organising and speaking at (along side renowned artists; James Barnor, Mariana Gordan and Paul Iwala – I’m humbled!) “Exploring Personal Growth From Cultural Experiences Through Travel“ Continue reading
It’s been a super slow start to the year, and I guess with this being my first post of 2016 I have to extend a Happy New Year to you all!! (Sorry for the tardiness -I’ll fill you in on the dramas, losses and gains in another post!)
Interview with Socio-Cultural Movement for Haitian Workers (MOSCTHA) human rights lawyer Genaro Rincón (Spanish), with proposal writer and translator Zahid Alan Perez.
If making contacts – and keeping (the important part!) was my forte over the past decade, I probably wouldn’t have come up with the idea to start a blog which essentially taps into why I’m pretty s*** at keeping in touch – even though I’m the type of urban girl who wants to know ANYONE and EVERYONE of relevance! Any evidence that suggests otherwise is Continue reading
Very excited to be back behind the camera… And back in my heels (I guess I still have the model-in-me)!
Look out for the full editorial fusing fashion with travel for Fuse Magazine – my first fashion editorial.
I’m in Ghana later this week… Travelmakerkai is back! #SpotlightAfrica
Designs by Harmattan. Join the Facebook page
“Ongoing demonstrations, the upcoming World Cup, preparations for the Olympic Games and approaching elections – 2014 is considered to be a very important year for Brazil. Consequently, many stories are out there waiting to be covered. Beyond Your World would like to make a big contribution with this special project and needs your help!”
On the 10th of January 2014 at 16.26 I pressed a button that could change my student life forever!
As a mature student aged 28, it won’t be long before I will can no longer apply for opportunities given to young people(18-30). Time isn’t on my side, and in many ways, I’m feeling the pressure. So with this in mind, and just 34 minutes before the 17.00 deadline, I said a short prayer then clicked the send button to submit my application to for the“Beyond Brazil – Brasil Além” project.
This is an opportunity I can’t afford to miss!
I left the application process a little late as I was away for one month in the Middle East (Egypt, Israel and Jordan) returning just days before the deadline. However I’m optimistic that I expressed how much this opportunity would mean to me in the limited time I had without sleep to work on my motivation letter, CV and select work for my portfolio before the deadline.
I could be one of 3 young reporters chosen from the UK to cover social development issues in Brazil as the eyes of the world focus on Rio de Janeiro for the World Cup later this year… Beyond Brazil!
Here are a few of my blog posts during my stay in Brazil this time last year when I counted my blessings and subtracted failure to unfold confidence within myself!
Maid in Rio I got a taste of the harsh reality of many working class Afro-Brazilians as I offered to go to work with my friend Patricia, from the humble suburbs of Nova Iguaçu to the upper class apartments of Copacabana
Kai Li’s Tabom project An introduction to an on-going project I have been working on from 2010. I have since traced my ancestry, and learnt about my ancestor who left Salvador Bahia as a single mother to return to the ‘unknown’ for a better life, after the Male Revolt of 1835… Her strength and courage resides in me!
Another diaspora This was the beginning of my project to interview and share the stories of Africans living and working in Central.
Tour Guide to Rio de Janeiro I feel like I know Rio like the back of my hand now… Well at least all the places marked in the guide book thanks to an exclusive tour by Rodrigo Pires I tagged along to with Italian travel journalist, Alberto Corpo!
Central Street Success My photography project of 7 Africans making a living for themselves on the streets on Central. What does ‘home’ mean you you? Each one had a simple answer to offer.
A lighter shade of Black I was inspired to write about my personal observations of Brazil whilst I chatted to a friend on Facebook. How could I describe to him that despite all the wonders he had heard of Brazil being a ‘rainbow nation’, racism lurks in its illusion… Many would could it ‘classism’. A rose by any other name, is still a rose – even if it doesn’t smell as sweet! Denying that racism doesn’t exist isn’t helping society.
This post is still one of my most viewed on my travel blog. It was written just two weeks into my three-month stay… Written freely. How I felt that very moment – from pen to paper.
I saw this a thought – wow! When a picture of a Black woman on the cover of a magazine grabs my attention to make me think “wow”, there is something not quite right. Brazil has the largest population of black people after Nigeria, yet the media and many aspects of society doesn’t represent this percentage.
Curves of Architecture Niemeyer’s legacy is still evident in Brazilian society. I interviewed Italian Architect Sergio Giogini during his visit to one’s of Niemeyer’s most renowned master pieces and popular tourist site; Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Niteroi.
Fears of a Travel Addict I questioned my right a wo(mb)man, traveller and where exactly children will fit in…
Press stop – Pelourinho! I got my press pass to cover the Carnival in Bahia… My dream of experiencing carnival in Brazil – achieved! I met Maira Araújo; the social media coordinator for the Secretary of Culture of Bahia at the press office and she shared with me a few social media tips! Also check out Maira’s List: top 5 places to visit in Salvador!
Spike Lee captures carnival in Maragojipe! Accidentally meeting Spike Lee in Maragojipe 50km away from Bahia’s main carnival it’s capital Salvador just goes to show great minds think alike – we both happened to be covering the carnival of this small town! Go Brazil Gois the documentary Spike Lee was filming in Brazil. It’s due to be released in June. Look out for it!
Carnival da Bahia – Ouro Negro If you choose to be in Salvador for carnival, then you’ll experience black gold with the Pelourinho circuit!
Thank you to all those who followed, shared and supported me on this journey!
If it’s meant to be, I’ll be back in Brazil as a young reporter in a few months!
Have you checked out my new student blog The Educationally Frustrated Student?… Follow me on there also!
It might seem ironic that there should be a day dedicated to black consciousness in Brazil; a country with its history steep in the trans-atlantic slavery between 1594 to 1888 (the last country in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery). The seed of ‘black origin’ flourishes in Brazilian society today. Its DNA evident from the very curl in the hair to the way music is assembled, dance is expressed and cuisine prepared. So why should Brazilians have to be reminded once a year to be ‘consciousness‘ of their ‘blackness’ , if it’s part their everyday life?
Our stroll through downtown Rio de Janeiro within close vicinity to the world-famous Sambadrome, home to Rio’s carnival, lead us to a statue dedicated to the memory of the legendary Quilombo (settlements consisting of African runaway slaves) leader, Zumbi dos Palmares (1655–1695). He is remembered as a leading figure in the black resistance to slavery in Brazil. Standing in front of her icon, Patricia told me:
“The problem in Brazil for afro-descendants is they do not know the history of their ancestors. Imagine yourself, would you be happy to know that you descend from murderers and rapists who came to Brazil? Because this is part of the history of Brazil we learn about in school… I am African-descendant and proud. I am descendant of a warrior people. They survived the hardship of being enslaved. They fought for their freedom and succeeded! A beautiful story so exciting with a happy ending.”
Zumbi dos Palmares was born in the northeastern state of Alagoas in 1655. Believed to be descended from the Imbangala warriors of Angola, despite being born free, he was captured aged 7 and sent to a missionary. Attempts to purify him failed and Zumbi escaped to return to his birthplace.
Zumbi became the leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares. Despite freedom being offered by the govenor of the province of Pernambuco to runaway slaves of Palmares, Zumbi was against the agreement. It wouldn’t allow freedom of the Maroons and other Africans who remained enslaved. Zumbi continued the flight for freedom until he was betrayed by a member of his Quilombo. On the 20th of November 1695 he was captured and beheaded. The Portuguese transported Zumbi’s head to Recife, where it was displayed in the central praça as proof that, contrary to popular legend among African slaves, Zumbi was not immortal.
Today Zumbi’s legacy lives on. Homage is paid to him throughout Brazil with his statues erected in various cities, a symbolic reminder of the country’s ongoing flight towards equality. Zumbi is considered one of the great leaders of Brazilian history. A symbol of resistance and struggle against slavery. He fought for the freedom of worship, religion and practices of African culture in Colonial Brazil. The day of his death November 20, is remembered and celebrated throughout the country as the Day of Black Consciousness, also known as The Day of Black Awareness. It is a day on which to reflect upon the injustices of slavery, and to also celebrate the rich contributions of Brazil’s African heritage to society.
When I met Dionisis Kostakis on my second day in Rio de Janeiro in December last year, there was little about him, if nothing at all, that indicated his unusual hobby. With beach blond hair and subtly tanned olive skin, I took him to be yet another European who had ditched the struggling economy of Europe in search of the laid back surf-life that Brazil offers thousands of expatriates.
Even when Dionisis wrote his email address for me to keep in touch after I told him about my plans of visiting Salvador to research my Afro-Brazilian ties, I doubted the depth of knowledge the Greek videographer had about African and African-diaspora religion.
It wasn’t until weeks later, while strolling down the iconic paved pedestrian path of Copacabana beach, that I would be proved wrong when I was approached by someone holding with a doll in a gold dress to my face. Thinking it was a local seller, I politely (or not so politely I can’t remember however that detail is minor) declined and proceeded to carry on walking. But it was when I heard my name called, and turned around to take a better look…
There he stood, holding a doll of a Orisha in his hand. Dionisis had been filming the Yemanja event that took place on the beach in anticipation to the New Year.
Now he had my attention!
And so it was a few days before the turn of the year that I showed up at his apartment off Avenida Atlântica geared with my note pad and pen, ready for a cultural religious lesson about Candomblé and Voudun. I can safely say, I’m yet to meet someone as passionate about African-diaspora religion and culture… And this is just his hobby!
“My interest in Haitian Voudun began when I came to Brazil. Voudun is the religion of the Fon people in Benin. It is also practised in parts of Brazil where the Fon were taken to during slavery. In Bahia the worship of the Voudun is Candomblé and in Sao Luis de Maranhao the worship of the voudun is called Tambor de Minas.
Haiti has always been looked down upon for being the poorest country in the western hemisphere, full of diseases and epidemics and political upheaval. Rumour has it that the Haitian Revolution began with a ritual for Ogun, the Orisha of metal associated with warfare, known as Gu in Fon Voudun. They are very similar deities, if not equal, and Ogun is worshipped in Haiti as a Loa/Lwa (there are two spellings).
My interest in Afro-Brazilian religions began in 2005. This was the first time I came here (Brazil)… I saw some figurines/statues in Sao Joaquim market in Salvador that caught my attention. They were images of red-skinned horned men with tridents in their hands, and red-skinned bare-breasted women in g-strings. I was told that they were sold to religious temples and to followers of “macumba”. People told me that the name for the men is exu and the women are called pomba gira.
I heard some negative comments from people from the south (of Brazil) about how Bahia is a backwards state because of macumba and the “things brought from africa, the dark continent”. I found the red statues to be quite European-looking, so I began to read about the religions and realized that there were actually two main ones; Candomblé and Umbanda.
The first stuff I read was written by non-Brazilian researchers, and they visited the religious temples that mixed both religions, so there was a mix-up which is also sometimes the case in Brazil today. Exu and pomba gira are part of the Umbanda religion that is an Afro-Brazilian religion with Bantu roots. It is part of espiritismo and began as a result of white espiritismo temples which shunned the spirit possession and worshipping of Amerindian and black spirits. The main idea behind this religion is healing, so Umbanda was formed in able to let the spirits continue their work.
The case of exu and pomba gira is the following: they are the less evolved of all spirits and perform deeds in exchange for offerings. They are the socially marginalized spirits (courtesans, thieves, prostitutes, etc). They are worshipped in Umbanda and some Candomblés, because these Candomblés were set up by people with an Umbanda background. Candomblé is the worship of the orixas (Yoruba deities), inkises (Bantu spirits), and vouduns (dahomean deities). I focus on the most dominant of all: Candomblé ketu, which is the worship of the Orishas (orixas in Portuguese, they are Yoruba deities).
The first to receive an offering in the Yoruba system is Eshu (Exu in portuguese). He was unfortunately identified by the catholic church as being the devil due to his trickster-like character. “Devilish aspects” involve a story of him devouring his mother after she had offered him all she could when he was very hungry one day, tricking people, loving to have sex, drinking booze etc. He is said to be the most human of all the Orishas. He is identified in this way in Brazil but has a more child-like appearance in Cuba, for example, where he was syncretized with two Catholic child saints: el niño de atocha and el niño de praga.
This is why I began to study this area. Because I could not see why something seen as African was actually of European influence. The exu and pomba gira characters do not have African features. Most of them are spirits of the dead that came from Europe. They were identified with Orishas Eshu (the yoruba deity) as a result of people from Umbanda initiating to Candomblé, and because they share these “devil-like” characteristics.
Similarities between Candomblé and Voudun (voodoo is seen as being a derogative spelling, originating in hollywood films depicting Voudun in Haiti as devil-worship) are; contact with ancestors, spirits, sacrifice, divination, and African-roots. Deities worshipped in both religions: Eshu (Candomblé) and Papa Legba (Voudun) are the keepers of the gates, lords of the crossroads. In Brazil Eshu is associated with the devil, in Haiti Papa Legba is an old man with a cane in his hand. Ogun/Gu, Shango (lord of thunder, both Yoruba and Fon people call him the same way. There are deities that are similar but are worshipped in different ways.”
Dionisis is currently working on his latest project that focusses on the change of look, from black to white and sometimes mestiza, of Orisha Yemonja. Something I observed quite blatantly both in Rio and even Bahia during the Yemanja festival in Salvador’s Rio Vermelho district. Yemonja is a Orisha, that in Yorubaland is a river deity and has been transformed into the owner of the ocean in Brazil… The Goddess of the sea.
The second series of ‘Drive-by shooting Haiti’ in pictures.
©Kai Lutterodt 2013
(No weapons involved)