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 1 Nurturing Bantu Africanness in Bahia Patricia de Santana Pinho Food became a very important symbol in this moment of our journey. The cosmovision of African origin establishes a transcendental relationship with food. In this manner,food was the motivating instrument in the struggle for citizenship and in the continuity of steps in the direction of the neediest in the neighborhood, independently of religion, ethnicity/race, personality. “ACBANTU e Rede Kôdya: Breve Balanço das Atividades,” NKAANDA, June 29, 2007, 2, emphasis in the original. Food is at the heart of Candomblé, a religion that envisions the world as a“giant mouth” where“everything and everyone eats” (Lody 1995, 65, quoted in Johnson 2002, 36). Food is offered in rituals to the gods and goddesses both in temples and at natural sites that correspond to their essences. Food is also handed out in abundance to devotees and visitors during the sacred festivals of any Candomblé terreiro.1 Grounded in the logic that food distribution is central to Candomblé, the Cultural Association for the Preservation of Bantu Heritage (ACBANTU) persuaded the Brazilian federal government that Candomblé terreiros should become key participants in Fome Zero, the highly successful Zero Hunger program implemented by the Lula administration to reduce starvation in one of the world’s most unequal countries.2 In 2003, approximately 46 million of Brazil’s approximately 170 million people (Belik and Del Grossi 2003) were living in a situation of food insecurity.3 As a partner of the Zero Hunger program since 2004, ACBANTU has distributed over a thousand tons of beans, rice, corn, manioc flour, sugar, and other foods received monthly from the federal government , food that has benefited over 30,000 families in the greater Salvador area.4 Feeding the hungry has been one of ACBANTU’s major purposes since its creation in December 2000. The association views this task as twofold. On the one hand is the concrete need to reduce famine by distributing food to the malnourished. On the other it is about filling another kind of void besides the 22  Patricia de Santana Pinho empty bellies of individuals: the widespread unawareness of the Bantu presence in Brazil. Thus, to feed the hungry is also a metaphor for the group’s goals of informing, teaching, and raising awareness about other black identities that have been marginalized in Brazilian history and society. This chapter examines the reconstruction of Bantu identity and the reinvention of the meanings of Bantu culture in Bahia in the last decade. This is not a historical analysis of the Bantu peoples in Brazil, nor is it strictly an anthropological approach to studying black culture. Employing cultural studies theories, I shed light on discourses about and representations of Bantu tradition by focusing specifically on the work carried out by ACBANTU.5 My purpose here is not to examine the “accuracy” of the term Bantu or its “loyalty” to African origins. Instead, I seek to demonstrate how the current reinvention of Bantu culture has served to empower a segment of the Afro-Brazilian population. Stemming from Candomblé terreiros yet extending beyond the realm of religion, a recent employment of the term Bantu has taken place in Brazil, more specifically in Bahia, where capoeira schools, quilombos (settlements of runaway slaves), and music and dance groups have joined forces with several Candomblé terreiros in order to celebrate their Bantu origin in a context dominated by the glorification of Yoruba culture, language, and religion. I look at the discourses and representations produced at the heart of ACBANTU as permeated by the material circumstances of the daily lives of the people with whom the association works and for whom it seeks social inclusion. More than intimately connected realms, the material and the symbolic constitute one and the same reality in the work of ACBANTU. Bantu Africanness in Bahia The terms“Bantu” or“Yoruba” are not meant here to be precise designations of identity groups on the African continent or in the Americas. Both terms have been used to refer to groups that spoke the same language or languages within the same linguistic family. Scholars of slavery and black culture in Brazil divided the enslaved African peoples brought to the country into two main generic designations : Bantu and Sudanese (Freyre 1990; Rodrigues 1932 and 1935; Ramos 1940, among others). According to this division, the Bantu include Central and Southwestern African groups that speak “Bantu languages,” a broad label that includes over 400 dialects considered to share a linguistic core...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813042695
Related ISBN
9780813037561
MARC Record
OCLC
793166733
Pages
382
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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