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