The History of the Brazil House

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Text for the Daily Graphic, Accra, Ghana, 09 Apr 2005

The History of the Brazil House

The History of the Brazil House is closely related to the History of the Tabom People, who returned to Ghana from Brazil in 1836. It is maybe the biggest material symbol of the importance of the Tabom People and a symbol of their History in Ghana. This becomes very clear when we look at its privileged location, in the Brazil Lane in Old Accra, facing the sea, straight in front of the old port, for a long time the gate from and to the world.

A chat with Mr. W. L. Lutterodt, a Tabom Senior and the accredited head of the Mamah Nassu family with authority to represent the family in all matters pertaining to Brazil House, reveals a lot of the History of the Brazil House.

When Mamah Nassu arrived together with six other families in 1836 from Brazil, he was the flag bearer of the clan. He bought that land in the Brazil Lane and built a house there for his family. He was married to Naa Supiana and had a daughter called Naa Chercher, who later married a royal from the Nii Oto Din family of Otublohum. This marriage is a clear sign that the Tabom People were welcomed and accepted within the Ga State. Naa Chercher had four children: Okanta Acquah, Kofi Acquah, Florence Acquah and Mary Acquah. Her son Kofi Acquah became a professional cook. He went to Warri in Nigeria and worked there for some years. On his return to the Gold Coast he demolished the old family house built by Nii Mama Nassu and replaced it by the present two storey house as a family house for himself and his sisters.

For a considerable number of years the late Kofi Acquah leased the house to various European businessmen and companies. One of these companies built a warehouse on the land, which they used for their business.

From the year 1942 however the house was no longer rented out and the family went to live there. The warehouse was converted into dwellings and let out to outsiders. A few surviving members who are direct descendants of Kofi Acquah are also living in the house.

Since the Brazil House is in state of disrepair, the Brazilian Government had together with UNESCO and the Tabom People the idea to rehabilitate it. Apart from these institutions, the Government of Ghana is also supporting the project within the so called “Old Accra Integrated Urban Development and Conservation Framework”.

The Brazil House will serve as a cultural space where Brazil and the Brazilian community in Ghana will be able to interact with the Tabom People and the general public, and it will serve as the Official Hall of the Tabom Mantse. Most of the people currently living on the premises will remain on the site and will see their dwellings refurbished in the context of the project.

The Tabom Mantse’s Official Hall will highlight the Brazilian roots of the Tabom People by establishing a documentation centre and an exhibition space where the Tabons will have a chance to learn more about their History and its linkages to Brazil.

It is interesting to note that the rehabilitation of Brazil House deals with an interesting aspect of the Slave Route Project: The return of descendants of former slaves from Brazil to the continent of their ancestors.

The announcement made yesterday by Mr. Lula da Silva, President of the Federative Repubic of Brazil, donating a considerable amount of money to the Tabom foundation for the rehabilitation of the Brazil House was a great step by Brazil in supporting the Tabom People in its efforts to have a cultural centre that shows their History. On the other hand, very good news came from the private sector for the Tabom People: Coral Paints (M&K Ghana) released the information today that they will also donate money for the named foundation, completing the needed funds for the rehabilitation project to become a reality.

Source: some of the information used here are in the brochure “Brazil House Rehabilitation Project”

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel
Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana

Attached: picture of the Brazil House in the Brazil Lane in James Town

The African contribution to Brazilian Football

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SCHAUMLOEFFEL, Marco Aurelio. The African Contribution to Brazilian Football. Graphic Sports – Weekend Edition, Accra, v. 2289, p. 10 – 11, 08 abr. 2005.

 

The African contribution to Brazilian Football

To think of Brazilian football without African contribution is virtually impossible. We are the only nation that participated in all the World Championships ever organized and are five times World Champions (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002). One of the biggest factors for this feat is undoubtedly the African characteristics brought into our way of playing this game.

Football was introduced in Brazil by the Brazilian Charles Miller in 1894. He was the son of an English couple, studied in England and played in the team of Southampton as a striker. When he returned to Brazil, he brought two balls and could hardly imagine what a sensation he would cause in our country. The first official team in Brazil was Sport Club Rio Grande, founded in 1900 in the South of Brazil by guys of German, English, Portuguese and Brazilian ascendancy. Soon after that all the other, today famous, clubs like Sao Paulo, Corinthians, Flamengo, Fluminense, Gremio, Santos and Palmeiras were founded.

Initially it was only played by people of the highest social standing, being considered a “noble” sport like golf, tennis or yachting. But soon people started to improvise the game with e. g. balls made of leather and stuffed with old paper or rags. Any vacant lot, sand area, river bank or even in the middle of the street is an appropriate place to play an amateur match, that we call “pelada”. Pelada is for everybody who enjoys to play football, poor and rich, black and white. It is maybe the most democratic popular institution in the world. Apart from that, it is certainly the birthplace of the biggest new Brazilian football stars. Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho Gaucho, just to cite a few, started their careers in the streets, before they could play in the largest football stadium in the world, the Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, which can hold a crowd of over 200,000.

Everyday I can see peladas in various parts of Accra, which I’m sure is pure fun and certainly also good grounding for new Ghanaian football talents.

Since football was considered a sport for “special” people in the early 1910’s, the Afro-Brazilians were initially not allowed to play in the clubs. But it was inevitable to notice their abilities for the game. Soon football worked as an emancipation instrument for poor black, mullato and white people. In 1923 the team of Vasco da Gama won the cup of Rio de Janeiro, with a team basically composed of Afro-Brazilians rejected by other clubs, causing the admiration of football fans. The club “Gremio” of Porto Alegre, founded in 1903, e.g. only in 1952 decided to end with racial selection of players, contracting the first Afro-Brazilian player. It was the forward Tesourinha, a football genius (less than 10 years ago Gremio produced the Afro-Brazilian Ronaldinho). The natural skills of the Afro-Brazilians in football, the malleability and cadence, sense of improvisation, the spectacular dribbles and control of the ball were finally recognized.

If the theme is Brazilian football, we can not forget the ever greatest player. We call Mr. Edson Arantes do Nascimento simply “Rei Pele” (King Pele). Between 1956 and 1977 Pele scored 1,279 goals, becoming the player ever to have scored the biggest number of goals in official matches. His 1000th goal was scored in his 909th match. And these are only the official figures, without all the goals scored in unofficial matches, in which he took part, just to give an idea. Because of him and his Santos Futebol Clube, we have today, amongst others, teams in Guyana, Jamaica, South Africa, Namibia, Burkina Faso and in the second division in Ghana with the name “Santos”. One of the best and most famous Ghanaian players gave himself, not casually, the nickname Abedi Pele.

The same qualities can be said of the Afro-Brazilians in the women national team. In this modality Brazil has to learn a lot from other national teams. It is a relatively new modality, so that we can not have legends like Pele in women football, but one of the most famous players of the team is the Afro-Brazilian striker “Pretinha”, who is only known by her nickname which makes very clear her origin, for “Pretinha” is how we call, with affection, a small back girl.

Apart from all the abilities of the Afro-Brazilians, we also show the world what we inherited from the Afro-Brazilians before the beginning of each match due to our association of sport and religion. Many players make the sign of the Cross and practise mystic rituals, in the hope to disarm the adversary. The majority of sports lovers, especially football players, managers, coaches and fans, show a kind of superstition, a kind of mixture between Catholic belief and Afro-Brazilian rituals. If somebody really wants to protect his team, he performs or orders a voodoo session that we call macumba, which can be seen in some cities at street corners in the early morning.

From the national selection of 2002, which won the World Cup in Korea and Japan, 15 out of 22 players selected for the Brazilian national team were Afro-Brazilians, figures that show the importance of the contribution of Afro-Brazilians in our football. Since the 1930’s Brazilian football players, especially Afro-Brazilians, who enjoy a good reputation, were sent abroad, to play in the most famous European teams. Under a European team scheme, they have contact with more rigorous planning and tactic organization. Today, Brazilian players can be found in all the continents. Tunisia, the African Champion of 2004, for example, naturalized two Brazilians to play in their selection.

And it is just the mixture of the African abilities with the European discipline, the severe schemes, straight and without any creativity, that created the Brazilian football, admired all over the world. The best example of good results and profits of a sport globalisation is a Brazilian player with roots in Africa, who goes with all his creativity and innuendos to Europe to learn all about the boredom of planned everyday life in sports. The result, as we know, is superb.

P.S.: I used here conscious the term “football” instead of the strange word “soccer”. In Brazil we ignore the violent American football, and I prefer to stay with “football” (“futebol” in Portuguese) in its original meaning, the art that combines “foot” and “ball”. Since football has world dimensions and is not restricted to a few societies, I believe that we have the right to keep it with its original meaning.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel
Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana

Dash me more palaver: Portuguese words in Ghana

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A Brazilian in Ghana – IX

SCHAUMLOEFFEL, Marco Aurelio. Dash me more palaver: Portuguese words in Ghana. Daily Graphic, Accra, v. 149393, p. 16 – 16, 02 abr. 2005.

“Dash me more palaver”: Portuguese words in Ghana.

It’s amazing to see, how many words from the Portuguese were borrowed to various Ghanaian languages. Last year, I wrote a short article in the Graphic about some words used in Ghana that come from Portuguese. But deeper research has shown a large number of borrowed words, so that I decided to “dash you more palaver” on it, to be very clear in good Ghanaian Pidgin English.

As we already know, the influence of the Portuguese language in Ghana is related to the arrival of the Portuguese as first Europeans on the Gold Coast in 1471, to the close links between West Africa and Brazil during the terrible time of slave traffic and to the Afro-Brazilians who decided to come back to Africa after they were freed or bought their freedom in Brazil. In Ghana these returnees are called “Tabom People”, they arrived here in 1836 under the leadership of the Nelsons, still a well known family in Accra.

Apart from words and expressions like “dash me”, “palaver” (Pidgin), “sabola” (Ewe) and “paano” (Fanti) that I explained last time, plenty of other words are of Portuguese origin. Especially the words related to food are productive. So, when you refer to “abolo” (Ewe and Ga), you are using a word that comes from the Portuguese “bolo” (cake), or “ayo” (Ewe, Ga) means in Portuguese “alho” (garlic), “komidzi” (Fanti) for “comida” (food), “keesuu” (Akan) from “queijo” (cheese). The Names of some fishes come straight from the Portuguese: “barracuda”, “tilapia” and “grouper”. This last one is called a bit different in Portuguese (garoupa). Even “kafe” (Ewe, Ga, Akan) probably comes from our “cafe” and not from the English word “coffee”.

The same happens with words that designate a tool or an object. The Portuguese word “tabua” (board, wood) appears in Ghana as “tabo/tabu” (Ewe, Fanti) or as “tabua” (Twi). The Ewe “vele” (candle) is our “vela”, the Akan “safe” (key) comes from “chave”, the Fanti and Ga words “fononoo” and “flonoo” from “forno” (oven), while the words “akooble” (Ga), “kobere” (Akan) and “akobli” (Ewe) come from “cobre” (copper). The word “prego” (nail) was integrated into Fanti (“pregow”), Ga (“plekoo”) and Akan (“prekoo”). The Ga fishermen use a specific word for their needle with which they sew their nets, called “agulia”. It comes from “agulha” (needle).

The word “agua” (water) generated the Akan words “aguaree” (bath, wash – noun), “aguare” (bathe) and “guare” (wash – verb). Besides, I was told that in Ewe, Ga and Twi you ask for the bill in the restaurant or refer to a calculation with the word “akontaa”. The same happens in Brazil, where we request “a conta”.

It is also interesting to note that words used for some cutlery and kitchen objects are also from the Portuguese. It happened probably because the Portuguese brought these objects with them along to West Africa. In Ga we have “gafolo/gafojii” and in Ewe “gaflo”, which comes from “garfo” (fork). It is funny for me to see that “faka” in Fanti and Ewe can also mean “fork”, even though it comes from “faca” (knife), certainly caused by a confusion between the correct meaning of the words. Finally, a Fanti eats his meal from a “pretse”, which comes from “prato” (plate) and the Gas and the Akans drink from a “koopoo/kopoo”, from the Portuguese “copo” (glass, cup).

Also the clothing suffered influence from the Portuguese language. A Ga man can buy a “kamisaa” made of “seda” and a pair of “aspaatere”. “Kamisaa” comes from “camisa” (shirt), “seda” (term also common in Ewe) from “seda” (silk) and “aspaatere”, also used as “asopaatsee” (Fanti) or “asapatere” (Akan) from “sapato” (shoe).

When the Portuguese left by ship for the discoveries around the world, they normally had at least one Catholic priest along with them, because it was the official religion of the state. This is reflected nowadays in the Ghanaian languages. Some of the Ewes are “catolico” (Catholic, in Portuguese “catolico”), go to the “misa” (mass, in Portuguese “missa”), they read the “biblia” (bible, in Portuguese “biblia”, also used by the Gas) and believe in “Kristo” (Christ, in Portuguese “Cristo”, also common in Ga and Akan).

The story of the name of famous Tudu market area in Accra is also marked by Portuguese influence. In the 40’s the Portuguese established there some shops and started to rival with the traders of the Makola Market, explaining to people that only in their shops the costumers were able to find “tudo” (it means “everything” in Portuguese). Later the area was abandoned by the Portuguese, giving over to Syrians and to Lebanese traders. Nowadays the Ghanaians and the Chinese traders are dominating the area. Even though, the heritage of the Portuguese name of the place still lives on.

These are only a few examples of the words that I’m still collecting and it shows how precious the treasure of language can be. Some conservatives and purists might say, that the phenomenon of borrowing words from other languages corrupts the own culture, with which I cannot agree. All the languages pass through this process. In Portuguese e.g. we had and we still have influences of several African and Indian languages, Arabic, German, English, Spanish etc. The language stage shows a whole culture, its influences, its changes, its enrichment and improvement through the contact with other peoples and cultures.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel
Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana

The Afro-Brazilian Religions

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 A Brazilian in Ghana – VI


SCHAUMLOEFFEL, Marco Aurelio. The Afro-Brazilian religions. Daily Graphic, Accra, v. 149159, p. 9 – 9, 15 jun. 2004.

The Afro-Brazilian Religions

When the Africans were brought to Brazil as slaves, they were not only “human machines” that worked in the plantations, as maybe wished by the Portuguese colonizers, but fortunately they contributed in various aspects of the life of Brazilian society. Under those contributions are the creation of diversity in creeds and religions and the consequent modification and adaptation of them in Brazil. The biggest part of the Brazilian population is Roman Catholic, which doesn’t mean that they are “pure” Catholics. In the state of Bahia the way to act and to belief of a Catholic family is certainly quite different from a traditional Catholic family in Italy, since the African elements played a role in the worship, in the beliefs, in the superstitions, in the collective mentality and in the way to interpret the world.

From South to North of our country we can see Afro-Brazilian religions. Well call them so, because in Brazil the African religions suffered various processes of influences and interaction with Catholicism and Spiritualism. Apart from that, the diverse African religions influenced each other internally in Brazil, in a type of amalgamation of traditions from several African tribes and countries. This whole phenomenon we call “syncretism”.

Even though the Africans brought to Brazil were from different regions, from Sudanese people of the West and North to Bantu people from the Southern part of the Continent, the Nago (Nigeria) and the Ewe (Togo) had the biggest influences in different Afro-Brazilians aspects of life. Nago (ioruba) became a kind of lingua franca under the Afro-Brazilians and the mixture of various African elements, but principally Nago and Ewe characteristics, created the Afro-Brazilian religions. Catholicism was the official religion of Brazil from 1500 to 1889, which meant, that the other religions like Afro-Brazilian creeds were forbidden. With a lot of creativity and the instinctive sense to keep their beliefs, the Afro-Brazilians “masked” their Gods with names of Catholic saints, which helped to preserve their religion, but now under the support of the “official church”. Because of these, the Gods and the saints of the Afro-Brazilian religions normally have nowadays two names. So e. g. the orisha (divinity) called Shango (God of thunder and lightning) can be also called Sao Jeronimo and Iansan (Goddess of the water) is also known as Santa Barbara.

The structure of an Afro-Brazilian religion normally presents an almighty God called Olorun (originally “the sky”, also called Olodumare, Olerum or Lorum) and the divinities (Orishas) acting between Him and the ordinary human beings. Orisha is a designation from Ioruba, the same as Vodum for the Ewes. In Central and North America this term was distorted, so that the fetishist Voodoo is for them quite different from the original Ewe meaning of divinity or saint.

The Sudanese (people from West Africa) culture created in Brazil various religions that are very similar, but labelled with different names. So we have Candomble in the State of Bahia, Shango in Pernambuco. Tambor-de-Mina in Maranhao, Batuque (also called Nassao or Para) in Rio Grande do Sul, amongst others. With a bigger Bantu influence, we have the religion called Umbanda, which has also, apart from the orishas, the influence of Spiritualism. They also worship the spirits of their ancestors. The Afro-Brazilians also interacted with the native people of Brazil, the Indios. As a result, we have the combination of Afro-Indigenous elements in religions called Babassue in the Amazon region or Tereco in Goias and Maranhao. Specialists in religious studies classify the Afro-Brazilian religions as anthropomorphic polytheistic fetishism, which means fetishism with various divinities in human forms. These human forms can also represent phenomena of nature.

The Afro-Brazilian religions are less closed than the Juju is in Ghana or in Nigeria; sacrifices to pay for good gods or to avoid malevolence are however done in secret in both places. In spite of the former syncretism, the Afro-Brazilian religions form separate churches, even if the same people attend more than one type of worship in the same day.

In Ghana I didn’t have the opportunity as yet to learn more about the traditional religions. People always say to me: “no, no, I’m a Christian. I don’t know anything about it”. Either they are trying to hide it from me or it is really a sign that the Western Christian churches, with all their advantages and disadvantages, are overriding the traditional religions and consequently a part of the African culture.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel
Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana

Tabom – The Afro-Brazilian community in Accra

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 Publicado em 03.06.2004 no Daily Graphic (ISSN 0855-1529), página 14

SCHAUMLOEFFEL, Marco Aurelio. Tabom: The Afro-Brazilian community in Accra. Daily Graphic, Accra, v. 149143, p. 14 – 14, 03 jun. 2004.

A Brazilian in Ghana – V

 
Tabom – The Afro-Brazilian community in Accra

It was very strange for me as a Brazilian to arrive in Ghana and hear tales of a people called “Tabom”, because of the familiarity of the term with greetings in the Brazilian Portuguese. The Tabom People is an Afro-Brazilian community of former slaves, who decided to come back to the African continent of their ancestors, after they bought their own freedom in Brazil*. When they arrived in Accra they could speak only Portuguese, so they greeted each other with “Como esta?” (How are you?) to which the reply was “Ta bom”, so the Ga people of Accra started to call them the Tabom People.

We in Brazil already know about various communities of Afro-Brazilian descendants in West Africa, most of them spread through Benin, Nigeria and Togo. Some studies estimate that in the 19th Century approximately 10,000 former slaves decided to return to Africa. Throughout these countries we can find estates, schools and museums with the name “Brazil”. In Lagos there is an estate called “Brazilian Quarter” and a club with the name “Brazilian Social Club”; in Benin we can find a school called “Ecole Bresil”. In those countries it is very common to find family names like Souza, Silva, Olympio or Cardoso. Some of them were very well known in their countries. Sylvanus Epiphanio Kwami Olympio e.g. was elected the first President of Togo in 1960, unfortunately killed in 1963 because of a military coup. The first Chacha of Benin, that means the chief and controller of trade and relations with foreigners, was the Afro-Brazilian Francisco Felix de Souza, he became very rich due to his involvement in the slave traffic. He had 53 wives, 80 children and about 12,000 slaves. When he died, he left an empire of an estimated 120 Millions Dollars to his successors. The royal line of the Chachas still exists nowadays in Togo. The first Brazilian Ambassador to Ghana arrived in 1961. He was an Afro-Brazilian called Raymundo de Souza Dantas. He cites in his book “Africa dificil”, that he received a letter from a Togolese called Benedito de Souza, who alleged to be his cousin.

In Ghana, the only representative group of people that decided to come back from Brazil is the Tabom People. They came back on a ship called S. S. Salisbury, offered by the English Government. About seventy Afro-Brazilians of seven different families arrived in Accra, in the region of the old port in James Town in 1836, coming from Nigeria as visitors. The reception by the Mantse Nii Ankrah of the Otoblohum area was so friendly, that they decided to settle down in Accra. The leader of the Tabom group at the time of their arrival was a certain Nii Azumah Nelson. Since than time the Nelson family has been very important to the History of the Tabom People. The eldest son of Azumah Nelson, Nii Alasha, was his successor and a very close friend to the Ga King Nii Tackie Tawiah. Together they helped in the development of the whole community in commerce and environmental sanitation.

At the present moment the Tabom Mantse is Nii Azumah V, descendant of the Nelson’s. The Tabons are also known as the founders of the First Scissors House in 1854, the first tailoring shop in the country, which had amongst other activities, the task to provide the Ghanaian Army with uniforms. Proof of these skills is without any doubt Mr. Dan Morton, another Tabom and one of the most famous tailors nowadays in Accra.

Because they were welcomed by the Ga people and received by their king as personal guests, the Tabons received lands in privileged locations, in places that are nowadays very well known estates, like Asylum Down, the area near to the central train station and around the Accra Breweries. In those areas, the mango trees planted by them bear silent witnesses to their presence. In the estate of North Ridge there is a street called “Tabon Street”, which is a reminder of the huge plantations that they formerly had there. Some of the Tabons live nowadays in James Town, where the first house built and used by them as they arrived in Ghana is located. It is called the “Brazil House” and can be found in a short street with the name “Brazil Lane”.

The Tabons did not arrive poor, but rather with much wealth. Because of their agricultural skills, they started plantations of mango, cassava, beans and other vegetables. They brought also skills such as irrigation techniques, architecture, carpentry, blacksmithing, gold smithing, tailoring, amongst others, which certainly improved the quality of life of the whole community.

Apart from all these contributions, they also influenced the religious life of the community, helping in the definitive establishment of the Islamic religion and the preservation of some African religions that they modified in Brazil, like the shango. Nowadays the Tabons are completely integrated in the Ghanaian society and are a part of the Otublohum Section of the Ga People.

* Up to now it is not very clear, if they really bought their freedom and decided to immediately come back or if they were at that time free workers in Brazil, but were deported after the Male Revolt of 1835. A lot of Afro-Brazilians were deported back to Africa, especially Moslems who organised the Male Revolt. Since they arrived accidentally in 1836 in Accra and most of them were Moslems, it can possibly be the case. Only detailed and deeper studies can prove one of the suppositions.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel

Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana

Picture 1: The Tabom Nii Alasha, extreme left, with Ga Chiefs including Nii Tackie Tawiah.

Picture 2: Nii Azumah III with from left to right on the front row Naa Abiana II, Queen Mother of the Tabom, H.E. Raymundo De Souza Dantas the Ambassador of Brazil to Ghana from 1961 to 1963, Mrs De Souza Dantas, the Ambassador’s wife, and their child between them.  Nii Azumah III on the extreme right and other members of the Tabom Community in the background (1961).

Picture 3: Tabom Mantse Nii Azumah V dancing during the outdooring ceremony at the Stool House (February 26th, 2000).

 

The links between West Africa and Brazil in the Culinary Arts and Food

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 A Brazilian in Ghana – IV

SCHAUMLOEFFEL, Marco Aurelio. The links between West Africa and Brazil in the Culinary Art. Daily Graphic, Accra, v. 149137, p. 14 – 14, 27 maio 2004.
 
The links between West Africa and Brazil in the Culinary Arts and Food

Both Brazilians and Africans have a lot in common in the way that they prepare their meals, not only common ingredients, but also alimentary habits. In Brazil, especially in areas like the Northeast of the country, the region with the biggest African influences, it is very common to see people preparing and selling food on the streets. It can be food like fried “acaraje” (a little spicy ball made of bean paste, onions and fried in palm oil, well-spiced with chilli and filled with a sauce of dried shrimps) or “pastel” (pies of different types e.g. with meat, cheese, chicken, maize or banana). In Ghana they also sell fried or grilled food and fruits. In Brazil and in Ghana the women carry their “shops” over their head or simply install it over a box or a small table at any point that seems to bring good deals in the streets.

One of our national main dishes is “feijoada”. It is stew that combines black beans cooked with pork meat and as accompaniment we eat rice, salad of green leafs of cabbage, roasted cassava flour and oranges. This dish is clearly a creation of Africans in Brazil. In the past unfortunately they were slaves of the Portuguese big landowners and received from them only the offal of meat, when they slaughter e.g. a pig. But they were very creative and cooked with the pork the “feijoada”, since black beans and the other accompaniment like the roasted cassava flour were abundant. We call our roasted cassava flour “farofa”, which is the same than your “gari”. In Brazil and in Ghana we use it accompanying bean dishes. We eat it normally on Saturdays at lunch, because it demands a long time for digestion, so that we can sleep in the afternoon, if necessary, especially if you have before the “feijoada” our national drink, the “caipirinha”, made of lemon, sugar, ice cubes and a sugar cane schnaps.

One of the main foods used by Ghanaians when they prepare their dishes is cassava. Cassava is native from South America. It was used as food by the aborigines (indios) a long time before the discovery of the Continent by the Europeans. It was probably brought to Africa by Afro-Brazilians. In Brazil we call cassava “mandioca”, a term that comes from the aboriginal language Tupi. Because it is wide spread throughout the country, we have, apart from the name “mandioca”, other names for it: “aipim”, “macaxeira”, “castelinha” and “maniveira”. Normally we use only its root, but in the last years we are also using the leaves, because of its high protein values. From the cassava it is also possible to extract alcohol.

Cocoa and coffee are also very common in Brazil and in West Africa. Cocoa is native from Central America. The people called Olmeca in Mexico knew the uses of it already around the year 3000 B.C., amongst other as a drink and in the religious ceremonies. Coffee, on the other hand, is native from Africa, precisely from the province of Kaffa (where the name “coffee” probably comes from) in Ethiopia. Brazil is the main coffee producer in the world, while Cote D’Ivoire is the main producer of cocoa.

A lot of other alimentary habits are the same in our countries. The food street vendors also offer green coconut juice, fried food made with palm oil (“oleo de dende”, originally from Angola), roasted peanuts as a snack, we have also rice as a side dish (not potatoes), we dry the shrimps. Some other habits are similar, but with some differences. We like to eat both cashew fruits and the roasted nuts. Sugar cane is normally sold as fresh juice, not as sticks. As a variation, it can be mixed with lemon or pineapple juice. “Vatapa” is a spicy stew made of fish or chicken, coconut milk, leftover bread, dried and fresh shrimps, roasted peanuts and cashew nuts, palm oil and other spices like onions, parsley and spring onion. “Caruru” is another stew made of fish, shrimps, okra (originally from West Africa) etc., that can be compared to the sauce that you use for the traditional “banku”. We don’t have the habit of eating plantain or yam, even though we have them as a plant.

The similarities in the culinary arts and food available are big, so that a Ghanaian probably will feel at home in Brazil, especially in the Northeast region.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel
Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana


Source: Marco

The influence of the Portuguese Language in Ghana

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 A Brazilian in Ghana – I
SCHAUMLOEFFEL, Marco Aurelio. The African influence on Brazilian Music.. Daily Graphic, Accra, v. 149132, p. 14 – 14, 21 maio 2004.

The influence of the Portuguese Language in Ghana

Last year, when I arrived in Accra, I was surprised to hear some strange expressions in the English language, even though I’m a Brazilian and English is not my mother tongue. At the traffic lights I could hear people saying e.g. “dash me”. In the dictionary the meaning for the verb “dash” is “to shatter or smash”, which confused me. Searching for a solution, I arrived finally, to my surprise, at a logical explanation: it comes from the corrupted Portuguese “dás-me” (give me). The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive at the Gold Coast and build the Elmina Castle in 1482; they started an intensive and horrible slave trade. After that, Africa and Brazil built cultural and origin links, so that Brazil has nowadays, after Nigeria, the second biggest black population in the world. One of this links is the Tabom People, who came back to Accra in 1836, after they bought their own freedom in the Brazilian State of Bahia. Nowadays they have a Brazil House in James Town and roots to the Brazilian culture and language. Their own name Tabom comes from the Portuguese expression “Está bom” (“it’s ok” or “I’m fine”), because on their arrival, they could speak only Portuguese, so they greeted each other with “Como está?” (“How are you?”) to which the reply was “Está bom”, so that the people of Accra started to call them the Tabom People. All these facts can explain, why it is possible to find some influences of the Portuguese language in the everyday life of the Ghanaians. Another very common expression is “palaver” (gossip, to chat), that comes from “palavra” (word). “Panyar” or “panyarring” are terms from the Portuguese “apanhar” (to be beaten or to catch). In the standard English the word “fetish” comes from “feitiço”. “Sabola” is usual in Ewe and comes from the word “cebola” (onion); in Fanti people use the word “paano” for bread, what probably comes from our “pão”.

Family names of the Tabom People like Azumah, Nelson, Antônio or Faustino also show the Brazilian influence. Geographical names of Portuguese origin are very common in Ghana: Elmina (“A mina” – the mine), River Volta (“Rio Volta” – “River U-Turn”), Cape Three Points (“Cabo Três Pontas”), Cape Coast (“Cabo Corso” – in a free translation means “Cape of the Pirate”).

These few examples show us only a part of the influence of the Portuguese language in Ghana, however it is a sign that the own language changes and always displays the cultural, economic, political or social contacts that our people formerly made or is nowadays making. The Brazilian Portuguese also has a lot of influences of African languages, but this could be a theme for another article.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel
Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana

P.S.: Portuguese is together with English and French one of the official languages of the ECOWAS.


Source: Marco

The African influence on Brazilian Music

Picture

 A Brazilian in Ghana – III

SCHAUMLOEFFEL, Marco Aurelio. The African influence on Brazilian Music. Daily Graphic, Accra, v. 149132, p. 14 – 14, 21 maio 2004.

The African influence on Brazilian Music

To think of Brazilian Music without the African influence is simply impossible. The big melting pot Brazil has one of it roots in the African Continent. The contribution of the African element in Brazilian music is vast. Very important influences are the polyrhythmic variations and cadences, which brought, together with the Portuguese and Europeans melodies, new, unexpected creations. The combination of elements of different cultures is responsible for the typical Brazilian music styles like samba, gafiera, choro, pagode, maxixe, maracatu, forró, frevo, embolada, coco (dancing and singing on the beach), lundu (brought by the southern African tribe Bantos)  and the MPB (Música Popular Brasileira).

A lot of percussion instruments were brought from Africa to our country or new ones created by Afro-Brazilians. We have various drums with different sounds. The general name for this kind of drums in Brazil is atabaque. Other instruments are the ganzá, a type of rattle-box, the marimba (xylophone with wooden slats) and the cuíca, a type of small drum with a rod in the inside, that produces a strident sound, when vibrated with the palm of the hands, just to quote a few amongst them of African origin.

The fetishists ritual chants, dramatic dances like Congos, Congadas and Quilombos, the nasal twang in the Brazilian singing voice, some choreographic steps are also Afro-Brazilian musical manifestations.

Drumming, singing and dancing were certainly the first manifestations of the cultural treasure that the Africans brought to Brazil. Already in the year 1610, just a Century after the discovery of Brazil by the Portuguese, it is possible to read a report about an orchestra of 30 Africans musicians in Brazil. The great poet Mário de Andrade refers to the African music as the “pererequice rítmica dos africanos”, i.e. “the vibrating (like a tree frog) rhythm of the Africans”. In the USA they created another very important style for the History of the development of music: the jazz.

Samba is our national product. It comes from “semba” in the Banto language (southern Africa), what means dance and clap the hands in a circle. Apart from the big samba-party in the Sambódromo of Rio de Janeiro (a commercial and nowadays more for tourism purposes street Carnival celebration), the Carnival celebration is a huge democratic ball-room or street party in Brazil, where everybody can take part, sing, dance and enjoy the biggest national celebration, commemorated 40 days before of Easter. The five days of joy and fun start on Friday evening and end on Wednesday at noon. All types of dresses are allowed, from masks and plumes to long white dresses or simply beach shorts and t-shirts. In cities like Rio, São Paulo and Porto Alegre big samba academies, that we call samba schools, present every year a new parade. Each samba school chooses a theme to present, the choice is free, but it is normally an up-to-date choice about politics, environment, general Brazilian reality or an homage to a very important person of the present days or of the past.

In Ghana, I was surprised in the first days of my stay here, when I listened to music. I could find something like Cuban music in it. Researching and reading about it, I knew that in the 1960s and 1970s the West African pop music was influenced by Latin styles. So music is an intercultural manifestation. The band Osibisa recorded in 1976 the famous “Coffee song”, in which they mention Brazil.

One of the symbolic examples of the presence of the African roots in Brazilian Music is our present Minister of Culture, the famous musician Gilberto Gil. He is nowadays together with other Afro-Brazilians like Milton Nascimento, Daúde, Martinho da Vila, Sandra de Sá, Djavan, Jorge Aragão, Robertinho Silva, Jorge Ben amongst many others, proof that we would have only poor developed Brazilian music without African blood and rhythm in our veins. Throughout our History of music we have plenty famous and representative examples of Afro-Brazilians, who wrote decisive lines in the Brazilian music.

By the way: Ghanaians like to tell me that they like so much the Brazilian music, principally salsa and lambada. These types of music are not from Brazil, but this is another story.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel

Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana


Source: Marco

The African influence in Brazil

Picture

A Brazilian in Ghana – II

SCHAUMLOEFFEL, Marco Aurelio. African influence in Brazil. Daily Graphic, Accra, v. 149122, p. 7 – 7, 10 maio 2004.   

The African influence in Brazil

Last time I wrote about the influence of the Portuguese language in Ghana. This influence is certainly tiny, when compared with the African influences in Brazil. The Africans were brought to Brazil by the Portuguese because of the slave traffic. It started less than 50 years after the discovery of Brazil in 1500 by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral and ended officially in 1831 by decree, but records prove that it continued principally from the Gold Coast (Ghana) and the so called by historians Slave Coast (Togo/Dahomey and Benin) on an illegal basis until 1888, when the slavery was definitively abolished in Brazil. In the most horrific part of our History, Africans, normally sold as captives by enemy African tribes, were used during more than 300 years by the Portuguese colonialists in Brazil as slave workers in the mining of gold and in the sugar cane and coffee farms, as domestic servants in the houses of the their masters or as urban workers. Many of them developed skills such as special agriculture techniques, water-well installation, carpenter, tailoring, metal works, especially gold smithing. The biggest part of Africans went to Brazil and never again returned to their homeland. The whole slave traffic History in the Gulf of Benin was very well studied by the Frenchman Pierre Verger and the life of the Africans in the New Continent by Brazilians like Nina Rodrigues. Studies show that approximately half of the Africans brought to Brazil were from West Africa, precisely from castles and ports in Ghana (one of the most significant was the Elmina Castle), Togo, Benin and Nigeria. Of course, captured slaves of the whole region were brought to these castles (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger amongst others).

Africans from these regions were sent principally to the Brazilian State of Bahia. Logically we can conclude that the African influence in Brazil must be big, because the Portuguese not only dragged humans as working power away, those human beings also had a soul and knowledge in many spheres, so that they brought their own culture, habits, foods (way of cooking), costumes, music, dances and language to Brazil. The figures below show us more clearly the presence of Africans in Brazil: if we take as example the data of the Brazilian population in the year 1818, it shows that 2,515,000 inhabitants of a total of 3,817,000 were Africans or of African origin (66% of the total). Nowadays the distribution of our 170 Million Population is more or less the same.

Walking in the streets in Brazil, we can not clearly classify the origin of the population by their appearance, like it is here in Ghana. In my country in principle both oburoni and obibini are Brazilians. By the way: it is considered an offence in my country to call unknown people at the streets by their skin colour. We have skin colour graded from black to white, from red to yellow, from bright to dark brown.

Nowadays the influence of different African cultures in Brazil is very clear and enriching. We are a melting pot, not only of various African cultures, but also of cultures of various peoples from Europe (Portuguese, Italian, German, Polish, Spanish people amongst others) and Asia (specially Japanese and Chinese people). In the next articles, I will tackle the African influences in aspects like music (e.g. our present Minister of Culture is black, the famous singer Gilberto Gil), religion, language, arts, economy and others in the Brazilian society.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel

Brazilian Lecturer in Ghana

História do Povo Tabom

Tabom – The Afro-Brazilian community of Accra

Causa estranheza chegar em Gana e ouvir falar de um povo chamado „Tabom“. Os Tabom formam uma comunidade brasileiro-ganense, de ex-escravos, que voluntariamente retornaram à África de seus antepassados, depois de terem comprado sua liberdade no Brasil*. Como na sua chegada a Gana somente sabiam falar português, usavam os cumprimentos conhecidos “Como está?” e a resposta “Tá bom”, daí provavelmente a origem do nome dado a eles pelo povo Ga, que os recebeu amigavelmente.

Nii Alasha, na extrema esquerda, filho mais velho de Azumah Nelson, com os chefes do povo Ga, incluindo Nii Tackie Tawiah.

Sabe-se de várias comunidades de descentes de brasileiros em solo africano, grande parte delas no Benin, na Nigéria e no Togo, formando clãs com nomes como Souza, Silva ou Cardoso.  Estudos estimam que no Século XIX aproximadamente 10.000 afro-brasileiros libertos voltaram à África. Em vários países da África Ocidental é possível encontrar bairros, escolas e museus com o nome “Brasil”. Em Lagos (Nigéria) há um “Brazil Quarter” e um clube com o nome “Brazilian Social Club”; no Benin há uma escola chamada “École Brésil”. Alguns afro-brasileiros são (ou foram) muito conhecidos em seus países. Um deles foi Sylvanus Epiphanio Kwami Olympio, eleito primeiro presidente do Togo em 1960. O primeiro Chachá do Benin, o chefe e controlador do comércio e da relações com os estrangeiros, foi o afro-brasileiro Francisco Félix de Souza, que ficou muito rico através de seu envolvimento com o tráfico de escravos. Ele teve 53 esposas, 80 filhos e 12.000 escravos. Quando faleceu, deixou de herança a seus descendentes uma fortuna estimada em US$ 120 milhões. A linha real dos Chachás existe até hoje no Togo. O primeiro  Embaixador do Brasil em Gana, Raymundo Souza Dantas, cita em seu livro “África difícil”, ter recebido uma carta de um togolês chamado Benedito de Souza, que alegava ser seu primo (p. 76).

Chefe Tabom Nii Azumah V dançando durante a cerimônia de entronamento realizada em 26 de fevereiro de 2000 na Stool House.

Em Gana, o único grupo significativo de que se tem notícia é o dos Tabom. Segundo relatos, a viagem do Brasil para o Golfo da Guiné foi feita em um navio chamado S. S. Salisbury, oferecido pelo Governo inglês. Em Acra chegaram por volta de 1836, vindos da Nigéria, como visitantes. Foram tão bem recebidos pelo Mantse (chefe) Nii Ankrah, da área de Otublohum (na capital Acra), que resolveram ficar. O líder do grupo na época da chegada dos Tabom a Gana chamava-se Nii Azumah Nelson. A família Nelson tem grande importância entre os Tabom. O filho mais velho de Azumah Nelson e seu sucessor, Nii Alasha, foi grande amigo do ilustre Rei Ga, Nii Tackie Tawiah. Juntos, eles ajudaram no desenvolvimento comercial e na melhoria das condições sanitárias do país. O atual Mantse, Nii Azumah V (foto ao lado, no centro), é descente dos Nelson, conhecidos por também terem a First Scissors House, a primeira alfaiataria do país, fundada em 1854, que, entre outras atividades, tinha a tarefa de fazer uniformes para o exército ganense. Prova dessas habilidades dos Tabom é o Sr. Dan Morton, atualmente um dos costureiros mais famosos em Acra.

Do povo Ga, receberam terras com localizações privilegiadas, em bairros hoje muito conhecidos da capital, como é o caso de Asylum Down, da área próxima à estação central de trens e da região em torno da Accra Breweries; nesses locais  grandes árvores de manga são, ainda hoje, testemunhas da presença dos Tabom. No bairro de North Ridge, há uma “Tabon Street”, que lembra as plantações que eles tinham no lugar. Muitos Tabom atualmente vivem em James Town, uma área hoje pobre, que fica de frente para o mar e próxima ao antigo porto de Acra. Lá há uma rua chamada Brazil Lane, onde está localizada a primeira casa que abrigou os Tabon, a Brazil House. Os Tabom iniciaram o cultivo de manga, mandioca, feijão e outros vegetais, além de trazerem do Brasil várias habilidades como técnicas de irrigação, carpintaria, arquitetura, trabalhos com metais, especialmente os  preciosos, alfaiataria, entre outros, melhorando, dessa forma, a qualidade de vida de toda a população ganense. Além disso, os Tabom contribuíram no campo da religião, uma parte deles no estabelecimento do maometanismo, outra na preservação de cultos religiosos como o shangô. Hoje eles estão completamente integrados a Acra, são aceitos como parte integrante da divisão de Otoblohum.

* Até o presente momento ainda não está claro se eles realmente compraram sua liberdade e decidiram voltar à África, ou se já eram trabalhadores libertos que foram deportados depois da revoltas dos Malês em 1835. Um grande número de afro-brasileiros foi deportado para a África, especialmente os de origem islâmica, que organizaram a revolta. Como os Tabom coincidentemente chegaram a Accra em 1836 e a maioria deles era de islâmicos, a hipótese da deportação não pode ser descartada. Somente estudos aprofundados poderiam provar uma ou outra tese.

Marco Aurelio Schaumloeffel, leitor brasileiro em Gana. 2004©

Nota: Este texto foi originalmente publicado no website da Embaixada do Brasil em Gana de 2004 a 2007 em seu então website brasilghana.org (desativado desde 2007).

Fontes:

– DANTAS, Raymundo Souza. África difícil. (Missão condenada : Diário). Rio de Janeiro : Editora Leitura S/A, 1965.

– Programme of the Swearing In Ceremony of Tabon Mantse Nii Azumah V. February 26th, 2000. Pages 2-3.

– Relatos de integrantes do Povo Tabom gravados pelo autor.