Archives for posts with tag: Iemanja

To the north of Salvador da Bahia the beaches stretch out along the coast below the toll road up on the ridge known as the BA099 or the Estrada do Coco. Growing coconut palms is still a major agricultural activity here. The beaches are famous too – Porto da Barra and our destination, Itapoã or Itapuã, have been immortalised in song.

The coast suffers from classic characterless ‘ribbon’ development, but it does boast historic landmarks like the lighthouse fort at Barra, built on a rocky spur which catches the breezes.

The Farol da Barra or Farol de Santo Antônio 

Since 1686, the lighthouse warns of a sandbar (barra) where a galleon was wrecked.

Entrance to the Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra

These days the message is a warning of another kind. Here’s the mascot for the FIFA 2014 World Cup, an endangered three-banded armadillo from the North-East which rolls itself into a ball when threatened.

Living statue and ‘Brazuca’

Organisers plan to use one of three names for him, to be announced in November, but an Adidas-sponsored FIFA survey suggests that he will be known as Brazuca, an informal word for Brazilian national pride.

The Atlantic coast or orla signals a discernible change in climate, cooler and windier than in the lee of the Bahia de Todos os Santos.

Along the orla

At Itapoã there are other attractions besides the beach. The Lagoa de Abaeté is a freshwater lake set in sand dunes not far from the coast. For followers of candomble, it’s an important place for the goddess Iemanja who rules the sea and bodies of water.

Lagoa do Abaeté with white horse – abaeté meaning ‘real man’ in indigenous Tupi 

More prosaically, it’s also been a spot for washerwomen to carry out their work since the days when it was a small fishing village. In the late 1970s regulated and unregulated development grew, and people took sand for building work or actually lived in the dunes. The lagoon and dunes, and a washerwomen’s association, were made a metropolitan park in 1993.

At the Abaeté gazebo, with keyboard player and roving singer left

The park includes a gazebo which overlooks the lake. It’s open on all sides, with canopies over tables and chairs, and a good number of cafes and purveyors of food and drink. Every cafe has its own musical entertainment – food, drink and especially live music are essential for an enjoyable time in Brasil. As always, the audience of regulars knew the words and sang along.

Shady side of the gazebo, with seafood-sponsored musicians

Judging from a glimpse of the favelas in the back blocks of Itapoã, this was a clearly more pleasant place to spend a hot Sunday afternoon.

The usual vendor of refrigerantes or cold drinks – taped styrofoam box full of ice and cans – with message on kiosk: “Jesus leads to truth and life”

The Bahian speciality acarajé made with ground black-eyed peas deep-fried in palm oil is cooked and sold around the gazebo. A staple of Bahian cuisine said to be the Yoruba inspiration for Arabic falafel, it’s offered to the gods in candomble ceremonies.

Legend in her own lunchtime, vendedora de acarajé Ana

We had driven very slowly up to Abaeté past a school which was serving as a polling station, since the state elections were being held that day. The school was thronged with people who had been bussed in by the political parties to vote, and the footpaths were a blizzard of voting cards.

Drifts of election cards along the footpaths, thrown out of trucks in handfuls

Officially alcohol can’t be sold on election days until the voting has closed, but in Bahia the restriction is not taken seriously. In the balmy air, warm with the occasional breeze, scented with the blossoms of the park, sitting in the shade with a drink and live music to enjoy, the travails of politics seemed to retreat to their proper perspective.

Flowers vivid against Bahian sky

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.

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.  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

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 ) , 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

Keeps turning up in Brasil, the goddess of the sea; here she is as a mermaid in the Museu Internacional de Arte Naif in Rio, at the foot of Corcovado, where Cristo Redentor above spreads his arms wide.

Mermaid, papier mache, Museu Internacional da Arte Naif, Rio

Inside the Cristo Redentor statue, a shrine to Nossa Senhora Aparecida, patronne of Brasil, expectant mothers, newborn children, gold, honey, beauty, rivers and … the sea.

Banner, Restaurante Sobrenatural

And here she is (twice) in the excellent Rio fish restaurant Restaurante Sobrenatural.

Shrine to Iemanja, Restaurante Sobrenatural

Altar, exhibition on Mario Andrade, Museu Afro-Brasil, Sao Paulo

Blog followers may recall that she turned up at the Sao Paulo exhibition about Mario Andrade in a previous post.

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