Printer Friendly

A transdiasporic paradigm: the Afoxe Filhos de Gandhy.


It is eleven o'clock on a hot morning in the city of Salvador, in the northeastern coastal state of Bahia, Brazil [...] A large group of men have donned long white tunics, they have decorated themselves with white terrycloth turbans, each with a large plastic sapphire-blue gem sewn on the front. They wear white leather sandals, sapphire-blue socks, and many strands of plastic beaded necklaces, worn crossing their torsos. Among this gathering of hundreds of men is an old black man carrying a staff and wrapped in a white toga-like sheet, wearing dark brown leather sandals. Behind him there is a crowd of yet more men dressed similarly, dancing and playing instruments, one man dancing while carrying a stuffed goat. The sash adorning their bodies reads Filhos de Gandhy. Sons of Gandhi. Gandhi, the slain pacifist who helped free India from British Raj, but he was not black, nor did he wear terrycloth turbans with plastic gems on them, nor did he parade on the street's playing percussion instruments during carnival time. How did a stuffed goat fit in Gandhi's program? The men start to spray the crowd with pungent Alfazema eau de cologne as a blessing often used in Candomble, the syncretized religion of Afro-Brazil. The procession begins. What is going on here?

--Pravina Shukla

The figure of Mahatma Gandhi fascinated me as a pre-teen living in Sao Paulo. (1) I remember the enthusiasm with which I watched Richard Attenborough's movie Gandhi in the early 80s. By then I had not yet seen, either live or on TV, images of the Bahian carnaval group Filhos de Gandhy, (2) but I knew quite well Gilberto Gil's musical tribute to the group. Through Gil, I first learned about this group of male performers who evoked the Orishas and Gandhi as a prodigal son and protegee of Oshala, the creator deity, "king of the white cloth." Like other Brazilians, I must have "Brazilianized" Gandhi in my imagination, and because of it, I must have felt a sense of kinship with the historic figure portrayed in the film. I remember how when I later came across images of this semi-religious carnaval group, or afoxe, I was enchanted by what I perceived as beautiful, poetic, political, and "carnavalistically" sacred. Nothing in my state of enchantment was threatened by a critical positioning or by uncomfortable perceptions of corruption, contradictions, or exotifications. Years went by. I persisted in following the group's development, its portrayal by the media, and its analysis by scholars. Even if my enchantment remained unbroken, as I zoomed into the group's symbolism, certain metaphorical, incongruent enigmas increasingly intrigued me.

Gil's song "Filhos de Gandhi" was composed after he returned from his London exile. (3) Gil commented that the group had been one of the "strongest emblems" of his childhood and that his post-1972 participation in the group was a stimulus to "thicken the stew" (Renno 146) . (4) Other factors contributed to the national popularity of the Filhos de Gandhy. Towards the end of the 1970s, two major government tourist agencies--BAHIATURSA (state of Bahia) and EMTURSA (city of Salvador)--began sponsoring the Filhos de Gandhy. By the 1980s, the bloco was able to put 10,000 "sons" on the street and had become an international trademark for Bahia and Salvador. Nowadays, the Filhos de Gandhy is occasionally accused of having been co-opted by government bureaucracies (Oliveira 303). The trajectory of the Filhos de Gandhy from the 1970s onward was inevitably conditioned by the consolidation of the cultural and telecommunications industries that took place during that time period, leading to the present transformation of carnaval into a mega-event in which each carnaval group functions as an industry within itself (and as such deals with other private and state industries, including those that promote sexual and afrocentric tourism) . (5)

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the pioneer of satyagraha, the principle of non-violence as a form of protest and revolution, inspired generations of activists. In Brazil, Gandhi was transformed into a sacredly-profane carnaval icon. Hindu anthropologist Pravina Shukla asks: "How did Gandhi shift from South Africa to India and end up in the heart of the African Diaspora in the sweltering heat of Salvador?" (39). In light of the awe and bewilderment of Shukla, I propose to reflect on the development and aesthetics of the Filhos de Gandhy from the following aspects: (1) the contextualization of the group within the performative tradition of Bahian carnaval; (2) the question of gender in the group; (3) the cosmology of the group according to the narratives of its founders; and (4) the process of a Hindu-Muslim-Bahian aesthetic enunciation.

On the one hand, if I believe I have developed a hypothesis for reading some of the cultural paradigms of this afoxe, on the other hand the enigmatic and contradictory aspects of this interpretive community reveal themselves as an analytic challenge that I can only tackle here within an open and metaphorically plausible reading.

The Contextualization of the Group Within the Performative Tradition of Bahian Carnaval

The term afoxe has already been defined as "divination," "a plague or curse," "the enunciation that makes (something) happen," "royal entourage in the representation of a group of noble hunters originally from Africa who carry as a symbol a black doll (the babalotim)," and "semi-religious carnival groups composed of Candomble devotees wearing white tunics of West African-style and singing songs in Yoruba." (6) In the sense of entourage, carnaval procession, or "street Candomble," the afoxes have their origin in Afro-Brazilian performative festivals such as the cucumbis, the maracatus, and the processions of the Reis Congos ("Congo Kings") (Vieira Filho 51).

The first significant "afro-carnivalesque tide" (7) of Bahia occurred towards the end of the nineteenth century and was recorded by Rodrigues, who described groups such as the Embaixada Africana ("African Embassy"), Filhos da Africa ("Children of Africa"), A Chegada Africana ("African Arrival"), and Pandegos da Africa ("African Merrymakers"). Muniz Sodre analyzed a major aspect of these groups especially in the pre- and post-abolitionist periods as a "tactic of collective penetration (with regard to time and space) in urban territory," that is, a "reterritorialization (the breaking of topographical limits imposed by urban social division on the blacks)" (36). Two groups with high local visibility towards the end of the nineteenth century were especially paradigmatic: the Embaixada Africana and Pandegos da Africa, who would make their respective debuts in 1895 and 1896. Rodrigues described them as follows:
   The richest and most important clubs to have emerged are Embaixada
   Africana and Pandegos da Africa. But, beyond small clubs such as A
   Chegada Africana and Os Filhos da Africa, etc., there are
   innumerable anonymous African groups and isolated African revelers.
   Two currents are revealed in the constitutions of these groups. In
   some, such as Embaixada Africana, the dominant idea of the most
   intelligent or most adapted blacks is the celebration of survival,
   of a tradition. The personalities and motives are taken from the
   educated people of Africa, the Egyptians, the Abyssinians, etc. In
   others, if on the one hand the directors had intended to revive
   traditions, their popularity comes from their being genuine popular
   African celebrations. Their theme is the uncultured Arica that came
   enslaved to Brazil. (208)

These different tendencies of early Bahian carnaval performances registered by Rodrigues suggest varying levels of participation and acceptance of Afro-Brazilians in the carnavais of the 1890s. In the view of Kim Butler, when Embaixada Africana organized processions within the formats established by the white clubs and presented an image of a "civilized" Africa, the white elite was more accepting than were the black masses of Bahia. Despite adhering to the format of the white carnaval clubs, Pandegos da Africa had a lower level of acceptance, introducing aesthetics and rhythms of Candomble. Finally, "the anonymous African groups and isolated African revelers" cited by Nina Rodrigues, those independent revelers currently described as pipocas ("popcorn"), were then perceived as the subversive elements of carnaval. Rodrigues mentions that these revelers horrified the white population. The urban penetration tactic of these later groups did not propose to follow the aesthetic or conduct of a "civilized Africa" or of an "enslaved Africa," but of a "Maroon Africa." These were "guerrilla" performers interested in giving free expression to their emotions, critiques, and desires. Antonio Riserio's study concurs with Butler, stating that the "afro-carnivalesque" displays of the end of the nineteenth century were hierarchized by the spokespersons of the dominant culture: the clubes uniformizados ("organized clubs") that imposed the theme of the "cultured people" of Africa maintained their dominant position in the hierarchy while the afoxes or candombles de rua ("street candombles") were condemned to a subordinate position as "expressions of primitiveness and barbarism that were an embarrassment to Bahia" (Historia 563).

Some changes appear from 1905 to 1914, when "the black-mestizo carnaval" was prohibited, but as Peter Fryer points out, "it was not so easy to take the streets away from black people in Brazil. And one of their responses was the creation of afoxes which took shape in Salvador in the 1920s" (23). The influence and visibility of the Afro-Mestizo-organized carnaval groups declined. They became reduced to smaller groups and a few afoxes (such as Filhos d'Oxum, Lordes Africanos, and Filhos de Oba) until 1949 with the birth of the Filhos de Gandhy and the trio eletrico ("electric trio") of Dodo and Osmar and the revitalization of these same groups with the symbolic landmark of the first performance of Ile Aiye in the 1970s--a time period which Riserio refers to as the "re-africanization" of the Bahian carnaval. One could point to the Embaixada Africana as one of the matrices for the formation of the escolas de samba of Rio de Janeiro, and to Pandegos da Africa as the matrix for the creation of the blocos of Bahian carnaval.

Raul Lody describes Pandegos as an afoxe whose performance included the parade of a central group of revelers adorned in the clothing and symbols of the Orishas and musicians dressed in Moorish style turbans, tunics with puffed-out sleeves, and bombacha-style pants. They carried with them the babalotim, a wooden totem that possessed magic powers and that had to be carried during the procession by a male child (Afoxe 13-14). As Lody explains:

Only a boy could carry it; this was part of the mystery that surrounded the totem. Inside the doll a set of utensils prepared in the terreiros ["Candomble temples"] was deposited. This constituted the so-called Ashe, that is, the magic force or object that possessed this force. In this way, the totem represented the power and religious security of the group. [...] animal sacrifices were carried out; birds and small goats were ritualistically sacrificed for the babalotim. (Afoxe 10)

According to Lody's analysis, the strategic positioning of the babalotim in the front of the group's parade formation served "as a true magical abre-alas ['lead-off contingent'], since the participants believed that this wooden sculpture emanated good things as well as repelled bad ones" (Afoxe 10). The connection between the babalotim of the afoxe and the calunga doll, which remains present in maracatu performances of Recife and Olinda, is evident. The crucial difference is that the calunga has to be carried by a woman, the Dama do Pago ("Lady of the Palace"), who marches in the front of the formation.


According to one of the founders of the Filhos de Gandhy, the first group of Gandhys would have set out with "a black clothed doll," a calunga (Felix 45). The initial calunga has disappeared. Curiously, the figure of the babalotim, literally "the owner of the cachaga," (8) was substituted in the Filhos de Gandhy, first by a figure known as Candido Elefante, "a gentleman weighing over 200 kilos who could dance to the ijexa rhythm beautifully" (Felix 55). A second substitution of the babalotim came with an inclusion of a quasi-processional element or aspect of almost profane pilgrimage, with the incorporation into the parade of a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi (Riserio, Carnaval 52). (9) The third and definitive substitution was the "materialization" and embodiment of the image portrayed by Raimundo Queiroz Lima, "Raimundo Gandhy" (1925-2006), a reveler who reports how he was informed one day: "You are going to represent the portrait" (Filhos de Gandhy).


Edison Carneiro explains that in the standard formation of an afoxe, the line of march would be: "the arauto ['announcer']; the guarda branca ['white guard']; rei e rainha ['king and queen'], the Baba Votin, the Papai Cachaga ['Daddy Cachaza'], the masculine equivalent of the maracatu doll; the estandarte ['flagbearer']; the guarda de honra ['guard of honor']; and the charanga de ilus (atabaques), agogos and cabagas ijexas ['the band of ilu drummers, cow bells, and shakers']" (52). According to Lody, the ilus are small, two-headed atabaque drums which are used in the ceremonies to Oshun in the temples of Ijesha (Afoxe 6). In the afoxes, the atabaque drums are not taken to the streets "dressed" or decorated as they would appear inside Candomble temples. The afoxe drums are not decorated with the oja straps in the colors of the Orishas worshipped during Candomble ceremonies (17). The call and response melodies of afoxes sung by a soloist and repeated by a chorus are practically the same as the ones sung in Afro-Brazilian temples that follow the Ijexa cosmology, while the choreography presents simplifications of the traditional steps and gesticulations of sacred Candomble evocation dances. According to Lody: "What really matters when the Gexa [Ijexa] is danced--and this is what is danced in the afoxe--is the characteristic ginga swing, the movement of the shoulders and arms and the quick, short cadenced steps" (16). But what constitutes the Candomble Ijexa performative repertoire? Is there, in fact, a clear distinction between the sacred drumming and dancing of Candombles Ketu and Ijexa (Yoruba cosmologies originating from present-day Benin and Nigeria, respectively)? Riserio is right when he affirms that "the term ijexa acquired a generic meaning from the fact that the majority of new afro-carnivalesque groups do not use aguidavis, that is, drumsticks, when playing the atabaque drums" (Carnaval 11-12). While followers of Candomble Ijexa play the atabaque drums with their hands, those of Candomble Ketu play them with drumsticks. The generic meaning of ijexa as a secular musical and dance style transcended the particular type of percussion and extended itself to the choreography and song, which do not follow a line strictly connected to any specific Yoruba-Brazilian cosmology.

The Question of Gender in the Group

Aside from the symbolic conversion of sacred Candomble into secular Candomble, and the influence of other secular performances such as the maracatus and congadas, less explicit influences may aid in understanding not only the figure of the babalotim but also the question of the male exclusivity of the Filhos de Gandhy afoxe. Olabiyi Yai has already pointed out the influence of the Gelede societies in the formation of Brazilian carnaval (Riserio, Historia 563). In the Yoruba tradition, female ancestors are referred to as lyami Agba ("my ancient mother"). These ancestral spirits are worshipped in Nigeria by the Gelede societies, which consist exclusively of women. Oro societies also exist in Nigeria. Oro is considered the general representative of male ancestors and can only be worshipped by men. The Egungun societies carry out another form of male-ancestor worship. Only the spirits of deceased men can make apparitions, as it is believed that only men possess or maintain individuality after death; women are denied this privilege as well as the right to participate directly in worship. In Brazil there are two Egungun societies, both in the island of Itaparica in Bahia: Ile Agboula and Ile Oya. The Gelede and Oro societies did not have a "literal" continuity in Brazil. The Gelede societies actually existed in Brazil for a while and had as its last highest priestess Omonike, Maria Julia Figueiredo, "major purveyor of the devotion to Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte ['Our Lady of Good Death'], which was established in the 1820s by women who were members of the Irmandade dos Martirios ['Brotherhood of Martyrs']" (Silveira 81). The Irmandade da Boa Morte ("Sisterhood of Good Death") continued the Gelede ceremonial worship of female ancestors by a women-only group while absorbing and adapting Catholic referents. The Oro societies likewise appear to have been developed and transformed into the Filhos de Gandhy afoxe and perhaps, before the creation of this exclusively male afoxe, into some Folia de Reis ("Revelry of the Kings"), originally a Portuguese celebration that was transformed in colonial Brazil and that also did not allow women in their processional performances. According to Yoruba cosmological principles, every person has his or her own Orisha. The archetypical personality characteristics shared by Orishas and their human protegees are maintained after death by the spirits, or eguns. Mahatma Gandhi, both physically and ideologically, recalls aspects of the archetype of Oshala. As in the Egungun societies, Gandhi is praised by the Filhos de Gandhy in his essential individuality, enjoying a privilege exclusive to male spirits. As in the Oro societies, he transcends his individuality in order to represent the power of a collective male ancestry.

The current president of the Filhos de Gandhy, Agnaldo Silva, offered a much more pragmatic explanation for the non-participation of women in this afoxe. According to him, since the group was formed by stevedores, and there were no women working unloading the ships, they could only offer "logistical support" by taking care of the costumes and "beautifying the turbans." But such a clear division of roles in this afoxe of dockworkers has not been the pattern in the formation and development of other groups. Carole Davies observes: "[t]he group remains all male exclusively. Thus the question of gender in afoxe becomes important. While some of the afoxes tend to incorporate both men and women, Filhos de Gandhi is principally a brotherhood." Davies's analysis of the question of male exclusivity of Filhos de Gandhy looks beyond the easily refutable essentialism of Agnaldo Silva by pointing to an apparent reversal of roles when she states "the masculinist orientation of afoxe as represented in Filhos de Gandhi tended to relocate women to the periphery which they are not in Candomble ritual" (Davies).

Far from occupying a peripheral position in Candomble, the authority and standard of women in Candomble have been experienced and perceived as central. This status quo leads one to question and reflect on the process that relocated the position of men from more centralized (in original Yoruba cosmologies) to peripheral (in the New World and mainly in Brazil). Lorand Matory analyses both the process which has culminated in current understandings of Candomble as a matriarchy, and the role that intellectuals such as Ruth Landes, Arthur Ramos, and Gilberto Freyre have played in the repositioning of men in Candomble. Landes, author of The City of Women (1947), filled a crucial yet overlooked role in this process, as is evident in an article from 1940 in which Landes makes a surprising and unprecedented statement which subsequently reflects on her intentions and purpose:
   [A] mother of a Nago cult tries to avoid making "sons." She prefers
   instead an inconclusive ritual or cure [...]. In very rare
   instances in the past men have acted as the heads of Nago cults
   [...] they made few sons and many daughters and forbade male
   sacerdotes to dance with the women or to dance publicly when
   possessed, and debarred male novices from certain female mysteries.
   In comparison with the women, they were only partially initiated,
   and tolerated in view of certain anomalies. (389-90)

As Matoy observes, the figure of the gay man in Candomble, the ade, was transformed into the antihero of the matriarchal nation as defined by Landes. "From the 1930s onward," states Matory, "the priestess became an object of public talk to the same degree that her ade antitype became an object of silencing" (199).

The silence surrounding the ades promulgated both a series of negative stereotypes more or less experienced in the practice of Candomble, and a marginalization of heterosexual men who feel compelled to "prove" their heterosexuality by defining patterns of behavior in opposition to the ades. One of the stereotypes of the ades is to simulate possession, or dar eke ("to give eke"). Eke in Yoruba means "lie" (Cacciatore 109). As Patricia Birman explains: "[T]o give eke means a paroxysmal exhibition of competence in this obscurely sexualized and feminine realm [...] although this is not exclusively a practice of the ades, it is, at the very least, a recurrent charge made against them" (118-19). (10)

The terms egun ("ancestral spirit") and eleggun ("one who has the power to receive and materialize the ancestral energy") are concepts that offer us other interpretative channels into the social paradigms reflected in the Filhos de Gandhy. In Yoruba the meanings of the radical gun involve references to mounting, saddling and riding, and to spiritual or sexual possession. Gun means to mount, as a horseman mounts his horse, or as an Orisha mounts and "rides" a human. It also refers to the sexual act of a man "mounting" a woman or another man from behind. As Matory observes: "[since] a physically mountable man seems highly qualified, in a symbolic sense, to be mounted spiritually [there is a] reluctance of 'real men' to be possessed in the Brazilian Candomble" (212). This notion of "real man" resonates in the definition of the Filhos de Gandhy by one of the founders--curiously nicknamed Quadrado ("Square" or "Straight")--as a "bloco of respectable men" (Felix 57).

The development of a group of men who gradually incorporated Candomble referents into their afoxe, a male group which uses the music and dance of the Orishas without being "mounted," reveals an affirmation of ultra-masculinity. This is observable even in the song of Gil that became a national hit and reveals an inversion of roles between humans and Orishas. In the lyrics, Gil--as a participant of the Filhos de Gandhy--evokes the Orishas, the ancient afoxes, and Nosso Senhor do Bonfim ("Our Lord of Good End") to evoke one another, that is to say, to command each other to "come down" to the world of the living so as to watch the parade of the Filhos de Gandhy.11 Thus, the role of the gods and the ancestors becomes that of a voyeuristic audience: the Filhos de Gandhy are not evoking the gods in order to be mounted but rather to be seen and admired. During the parade of the Filhos de Gandhy the performance is used to seduce the onlookers, who are cordoned off from the group. Shukla notes in detail:
   [O]ver 5000 men in one place for the days of carnival. This fact,
   inevitably, is appealing to young women interested in boyfriends
   for the duration of the carnival festivities. Gay men of Salvador,
   likewise, scope out the parading route of Filhos de Gandhy for
   precisely the same reason, to have a quick pick at the turbaned,
   majestic men of the carnival [...]. Just as the perfume should be
   shared with others, in an act of good faith and symbolic blessing
   from Oxala, members of Filhos de Gandhy have customarily carried a
   small stash of beaded necklaces to give out on the streets.
   Although many members of the bloco still give out beads, and
   increasing number of young men use the beads and a dab of perfume
   as barter, for a can of cold beer or a kiss [...]. During the quest
   by many members of Filhos de Gandhy to look attractive in order to
   appeal to the young men and women of Salvador, the connection with
   the Mahatma's humble appearance and years of celibacy becomes
   ironic. Another strong incongruity between the Mahatma and the
   carnival revelers who impersonate him has to do, again ironically,
   with what Gandhi is most associated with peace. The bloco Filhos de
   Gandhy attracts many young men who exhibit violent behavior, and in
   fact, see membership to the group as an opportunity to enable
   aggressive tendencies while hiding behind the guise of a peaceful
   group of marchers [...]. Members of the group often engage in more
   direct acts of violence, such as fistfights in the streets. (40-42)

The original fame of the Filhos de Gandhy as seducers and tough guys persists. Today they are called by the press "the bloco of smoochers," and fights with other, smaller blocos frequently break out in the various circuits in Praga da Se, the heart of the city of Salvador. Present members of the group nurture images of courage, virility, and irresistible seduction. As an example of the consciously created image of desirable brave men, we can note the taken for granted narratives of police aggression suffered by the Filhos de Gandhy the first time they participated in carnaval, and their courage in confronting the police.12 Interestingly, such accounts are not confirmed in any of the interviews that Anisio Felix conducted with the founders.

The Cosmology of the Group According to Its Founders

Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi in 1948. In the following year, a group of stevedores, a unionized labor elite, brought out to the streets of Salvador a carnaval bloco paying tribute to the Mahatma. As Anamaria Morales explains, identification with the struggle for the independence of India, which had suffered economic and cultural oppression at the hands of the English colonizers, gave "an (un)disguised political character" to the debut of the Filhos de Gandhy (269). The foundational narratives of the group are, as with all oral traditions, multiple and poetic. Manoel dos Santos, "Guarda Sol" ("Parasol"), relates, for example, that "Vava Madeira [Durival Marques da Silva] would have been inspired by the newspaper headlines about the death of Gandhi" (Felix 41). Eduarlino de Souza, "Dudu," states: "We were sitting there under a mango tree drinking and chatting away when the wind blew a magazine our way; Antonio and Vava looked at it, and there he was: Gandhi. Right then they got the idea to start a carnaval group named after him" (51). Djalma Conceigao, ex-president of the Filhos de Gandhy, adds a new element to the story: "[O]ne of them had seen a movie called Gunga Din, they thought it was a nice name (the stevedores mixed up Gunga Din with Gandhi) and then a few of the guys suggested the name Filhos de Gandhy because Gandhi was a man who had fought for peace" (13). Other participants and founders conferred a politico-religious meaning to the group. Humberto Cafe, a member of the board of directors of the Filhos de Gandhy, confirmed: "Gandhy was founded with the objective of bringing Candomble to the streets. The offerings performed today by the members were the same as those originally performed by the founders when it started" (17). Nelson dos Santos, "Lobisomen" ("Wolfman"), has a different understanding: "[T]he fellows who inspired the creation of the group were more into booze than into religion" (62). Arivaldo Pereira, "Carequinha" ("Little Baldy"), composer of the hit song "Patuscada de Gandhi" ("Gandhi's Revelry"), is the founder who provides the most detailed version of the evolution of the performance of the group:
   Gandhy was formed as a bloco. Its music was percussion, just
   batucada drumming. In the second year, we were singing afro chants
   and by the third year it was transformed into an afoxe. As time
   passed there were a number of modifications in the costumes [...].
   In the second year, we had the goat and a small camel as
   allegories. In the fourth and fifth years, we had the lancer, the
   gunner and for the big allegories we had an elephant and a big
   camel. In the third year, the number of participants increased to
   about 200 men [...]. Only after the third year, when the Candomble
   people started showing up, did Gandhy begin leaning towards this
   syncretic side. From then on, we always did the pade ["propitiatory
   Candomble offering"] before we started [...]. The idea for starting
   the Filhos de Gandhy didn't come from Gunga Din like some people
   claim, but there was a connection, because the film had to do with
   India and their struggle against England. (22)

The association of the Filhos de Gandhy with the film Gunga Din (directed by George Stevens and released in 1939)--even if perceived as peripheral by the majority of founders, current members of the group, and researchers--still presents itself as yet another contradictory and revealing influence. The protagonists of the film are three British sergeants (one played by Cary Grant) and the Hindu water bearer Gunga Din13 (played by the New York Jewish actor, Sam Jaffe).14 The plot centers on the struggle between the British Army and a Hindu group, the Thugees, who worship the goddess Kali and propose the extermination of the British colonizer. The group's war cry is "Kill for the love of Kali!" The destroyer/builder archetype which Kali represents in Hindu cosmology resembles that of Ogun, "the violent warrior who, having water in the house, bathes in blood" (Verger 14).


The Thugees, as one would expect, are represented in the film as fanatic terrorists. Their revolutionary struggle fails due to the action of the water bearer Gunga Din, who, by sounding the alarm with a bugle, warns the British Army that they are walking into an ambush set by the Thugees. Gunga Din, previously treated with irony and condescension, is transformed into a hero worthy of an official burial; a stanza from the Rudyard Kipling homonymous poem is read in eulogy:
   You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
   Though I've belted you and flayed you,
   By the livin' Gawd that made you,
   You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din! (30) (15)

One of the founders of the Filhos de Gandhy states: "Gandhy was not inspired by the movie Gunga Din, like many people think, just the outfits" (Felix 57). Another adds, with respect to the figures: "There was a lancer and a water bearer [...] the water bearer isn't used anymore" (32). The lancer's role was to prevent people--"mainly women," added another founder--from breaking past the security cordon that protected the group during the parade (41). Today, it is primarily women who patrol the security cordon, and the lancer has become a kind of supervisor. We know that in the beginning there was a certain degree of concern with respectability and preventing confrontations with the police. As a result, alcoholic beverages were prohibited during the parade; in theory, this prohibition is still enforced. Originally we had the water bearers, and one can no longer ascertain the ethylic properties of the liquid they were then bearing; nowadays it is primarily the women who accompany the parade who offer the "logistic support" in this arena, exchanging drinks for kisses and bead necklaces. The original figure of the water bearers appears to be a direct reference to the figure of Gunga Din. If the costumes were in fact inspired in the George Stevens film, the source of inspiration was not the film's heroes, but in the "bloodthirsty" Hindu Thugees. (16) Gunga Din could never be read as a pacifist or as a revolutionary. His association with Gandhi is nonexistent. But as a "water bearer" he shared, along with Gandhi, the archetype of Oshala. This aesthetic and cosmological similarity and approximation direct us to another reference point which helps to decipher the representation of the water bearer Gunga Din within the Bahian context.

A processional ceremony of a sacred character opens the liturgical calendar of Candomble: the cycle of ceremonial feasts known as "Aguas de Oxala" ("Oshala's Waters"). In this auspicious ceremony, the devotees set out at dawn in search of the closest source of water in order to "cool" the sacred quartinhas, that is, to change the water of the vessels that contain the sacred rocks and symbols of the Orishas. This procession and its chants recall the mythological voyage of Oshala and the battles between the Ile-Ife and the Oyo Empires. What we are dealing with here is a historic reference liturgically evoked in the narrative of the imprisonment of Oshala during the reign of Shango, an imprisonment that resulted in seven symbolic years of drought, unhappiness, and sterility and that ended only when Shango and his vassals dressed in white went to beg forgiveness from Oshala (Beier 72). This narrative is used as a parable for the interpretation of the history of African slavery in Brazil as well as in Cuba.

The cycle of "Aguas de Oxala" ceremonial feasts introduces two relevant aspects to our analysis: the metaphors of water and water bearers in the sacred universe of Candomble and the reference to Oshala as symbolically "colonized" by a despotic power. The relation of the water bearer Gunga Din with the Filhos de Gandhy provides various supports for these metaphoric creations. Perhaps the major contradiction is that Gunga Din betrayed the Thugees. However, considering that the Thugees, rather than the British Army, inspired the costumes of the lancers, and that the iconic Gunga Din inspired the Filhos de Gandhy directs us to representations of the Bahian imaginary from a somewhat different historic moment when men dressed in white occupied the streets of Salvador: the Revolt of the Males, which counted on the crucial support of the water bearers and was also defeated because of informers. In this sense, Gunga Din interpreted in Bahia in 1949 would at once represent the desire for liberation from colonial domination (which in Brazil prevented the separation of Bahia and the establishment of an independent Muslim state) and concomitant efforts towards the maintenance of the ruling powers.

The Revolt of the Males (as the African Muslims in Bahia were called) was the organized culmination of various insurrections occurring between 1807 and 1835.17 These African Muslims--notably including Hausas, Fulanis, Nupes--were brought to Brazil in the final decade of the seventeenth century in the aftermath of the civil wars in the Oyo Empire. Islam in Brazil served as an afrocentric social and political organizing venue. The ethnic distinctions and historic enmities of the enslaved Africans in an area like Bahia lost their immediate relevance in light of organizing a liberation struggle and preparing for an Islamic seizure of power, as Decio Freitas describes:
   The rebels planned to carry out their struggle dressed in uniforms.
   As such, they manufactured the uniforms in advance. More than six
   months beforehand, Belchior and Aprigio had started working on
   them. The uniforms consisted of berets or hoods made of white and
   blue cloth, large camisoles or roupetas ["tunics"] worn over pants
   and fastened at the waist with white cotton belts. (78)

According to Riserio, the revolt of 1835 resulted in a

[F]rantic race against time--uncontrolled and bloody--through the rugged landscape of the city of Bahia, breaking out at Agua de Meninos, at the cavalry barracks, the site of the crucial battle. Seventy Males were killed, and Black Islam was defeated. The dream of the establishment of a caliphate in Bahia died that night, the dream of an all-black Bahia where the whites would be exterminated--and the mulattos turned into slaves. (Historia 335-33)

The saga of the Males--despite being somewhat "nebulous" (18) -has endured in Brazil as a powerful source of mythic pan-African inspiration. (19) Raphael Vieira Filho recalls that as early as 1897 the carnaval group Embaixada presented a manifesto demanding reparations for the Africans killed during the Revolt of the Males. References to the Males are common in the theme songs and plots of carnaval escolas de samba and in a Filhos de Gandhy offshoot, the afoxe Male Debale (founded in 1979).

The testimonies of the Gandhy founders mention three tunes originally sung by the group: (a) "Entra em Beco, sai em Beco" ("Get in an alley, get out on an alley")--a reference to the meandering route of the group through the city, through the "rugged landscape of the City of Bahia"; (b) a melody from Candomble "Efila-la-e-o de balalaeoaa," a reference to the fila, a hat used by Oshala (Castro 235) and the somewhat conical cap worn by Black Muslims (Cacciatore 126); and (c) "Ala-la-o," a tune composed by Haroldo Lobo and Nassara for the Rio de Janeiro carnaval group Bloco da Bicharada in 1940 that refers to the Sahara Desert and to Allah (20) (remembering that ala in the Afro-Bahian context is also a reference to the white shawl that envelopes and protects Oshala). The fact that the Filhos de Gandhy present syncretic references to Candomble and to Islam merely reflects religious syncretism which was well underway in Africa long before Europeans arrived.

The Hindu-Muslim-Bahian Aesthetic Fantasy

Abada, a Yoruba word referring to the white tunic of Arabic origin used by the Males, is currently used to refer to the uniforms that participants wear in Afro-Bahian carnaval associations (Castro 135). The members of Filhos de Gandhy wear a costume that consists of abadas and turbans. As we know, Gandhi did not wear a turban. A careful analysis of the turbans that the Filhos de Gandhy wear reveals that their turbans do not derive from a Hindu aesthetic, but are in fact closer to the headdresses of the Sikhs, the inhabitants of Punjab, the border region between India and Pakistan that was divided into an Indian Punjab and a Pakistani Punjab in 1947. This observation amazed me. Far from concluding that the founders or current participants in the Filhos de Gandhy would construct a metaphor based on this referent, what we perceive is a conscious and unconscious collage of signifier and signified elements leading to an inclusive performative discourse open to continuous interpretation. My amazement owes to the following: (a) Gandhi opposed any plan to divide India into two states, although this happened and resulted in a predominantly Hindu India and a predominantly Muslim Pakistan; (b) the afoxe Filhos de Gandhy developed into a quasi-processional spectacle in which men wearing Sikh turbans and Muslim abadas follow the mythical figure of a Hindu leader; and (c) the division of Punjab occurred a few years before the death of Gandhi. Gandhi's support of Pakistan was what in fact provoked his assassination. Punjab presents itself as a borderland between Hindus and Muslims, populated in the Indian section by Sikhs. This border area, a site of conflict and negotiation, is reflected in the aesthetic of the Filhos de Gandhy.

Today, almost 60 years after the death of Gandhi, the Hindu anthropologist Pravina Shukla visiting Salvador during carnaval observes:
   The parade float, white with sapphire-blue painting, features what
   are considered to be symbols of India--a camel, an elephant, and a
   goat--yet these are relegated to secondary place in the iconography
   when compared with the implements of the orixas, mainly the sword
   of Ogun, the crown of Oxala, and the bow and arrow of Oxossi, the
   orixa of the hunt. The carnival processions and any other important
   presence of Filhos de Gandhy also feature the Gandhi "look alike,"
   a slender older black man with an uncanny resemblance to Gandhi
   himself. This Brazilian Gandhi sits atop a white elephant effigy.
   [...]. The costume, said to emulate that of the Mahatma, consists
   of a long tunic dress, in the Brazilian carnival tradition of the
   requisite African abada. The turban, as used in caricatures
   conjures up images of majestic, "oriental," kings, surrounded by
   incense, rich foods and harem beauties, straight from a fantasy
   inspired by A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. In fact, the Filhos
   de Gandhy turban, with its huge plastic gem, does resemble some
   cartoonish illustration of a fairytale. [...]. It is not the dress
   of the simply clad, threadbare Mahatama, but rather the display of
   an African kingly man, in cool and flowing garments, adorned in the
   requisite turban that is worn because, as one informant told me,
   "everybody looks better in a turban." The turban not only frames
   the face, it adds a few inches to the height of the wearer, an
   important reason why many men opt to join the group: the choice
   reflecting, not political and musical affiliation, but pure vanity.

Yet the turbans were already part of the Afro-Brazilian reality well before India-via-Hollywood, as Raul Lody writes in observing the attire of a "traditional" Bahiana:

On the head of the Bahiana, a shawl or a turban, usually white, forms an arrangement that resembles a crown [...]. The turbans also demonstrate the influences of Muslim peoples in the constitution of this figure, which further involves bringing to the head a twig of arruda, of guine, of sao-gongalinho or other leaf meant to protect the body. The association between Islam and the turban is not simple. If the head is the container of the design of our rational option between what is true, illusory, right, wrong etc., the turban symbolizes and reinforces spiritual consciousness. In the Muslim conception, the turban opposed all that is profane; it protects thought, which is always pre-disposed to dispersion and to forgetfulness. (Cabelos 79)


According to early descriptions, the turbans which the Filhos de Gandhy initially used were garlands tied with ribbons and garlic, much like the selis of the Sikh gurus, which are tied with strings. (21) The contemporary turbans follow the configuration of the Sikh turbans, the dastaars, which are decorated with a khanda, a broche, which the Filhos de Gandhy replaced with a circle containing a plastic blue stone. The Sikhs decorate the dastaars with khandas in weddings, the Anand Karaj or "blessing ceremony," representing the union of the individual soul with the universal soul. The khanda is therefore a metonymy of a ceremony that seeks the individual's fusion with the universe.

The mixture of geographical, rhythmic, and thematic references of the Bahia carnaval can be read, according to Milton Araujo Moura, as the expression of a conscience that perceives the multiplicity of the world and attempts to position itself in it in order to elaborate its identity (Dunn 173). A cosmologically fertile and protean solid foundation allied to the political and poetic consciousness of the organizers and of the participants of the Bahian carnaval allows for the inclusion of foreign icons and elements. And these, especially when they are metonymies of other cosmologies, end up producing performative creations of a metaphoric value unexpected even by the creators themselves.

Pravina Shukla argues that any observation of the Filhos de Gandhy would immediately reveal fundamental contradictions between the group and Gandhi:
   The Mahatma was simple; his "sons" are extremely vain, bejeweled,
   perfumed and beautiful. The Mahatma was celibate; his "sons" swap
   beads for kisses and hope for more. The Mahatma was a vegetarian;
   his "sons" eat the flesh of animals cooked and sold on the streets.
   The Mahatma was a pacifist; his "sons" are aggressive and unduly
   violent. A closer look at the bloco Filhos de Gandhy reveals not
   only that the reality of Gandhi is imagined, but also that the
   references to the orixas Oxala and Ogun are idealized. (42)

But who is this Gandhi whom the revelers of yesterday and today celebrate? Agnaldo Silva, the current president of the Filhos de Gandhy, defines the group as a "Hindu-African entity" and adds that "ijexa fits right into the philosophy of Gandhi" (Filhos de Gandhy). A member of Gandhy stressed the importance of learning Yoruba, "the language of the secret," since according to him, "Gandhi also works his magic in Yoruba" (Morales 274). The group known as "the sorcerers of Candomble" interpreted Gandhi as the greatest sorcerer (268). However, the lure of carnaval is sexual and carefree, the exact opposite of the self-control and self-discipline preached by Gandhi as the paths to divine truths. This apparent contradiction can also be explained according to Bahian logic, for a reading of Gandhi from within the cosmology of the Orishas immediately invests him with sexuality. So much so that the Oshala portrayed in the Filhos de Gandhy is Oshaguian (a younger warrior Oshala) and not Oshalufan (an older Oshala). The sexuality of the Orishas and their "children"--of the gods and human beings--is dealt with in quite different manners from what is found in Hinduism. The sexual potency of certain Orishas is celebrated precisely as an aspect of their divinity.

Pravina Shukla offers pertinent observations regarding the constructed caricature of an exoticized India as seen through the filter of second-hand Hollywood orientalisms. (22) The mass media of popular culture play an undeniable role in the construction of carnaval performances. The old afoxe Mercadores de Bagda ("Merchants of Baghdad") emerged in the same era as the Filhos de Gandhy, and "promoted recreations from movies with storylines of the East of the 'Thousand and One Nights' in their elaborate parades" (Oliveira 278). The indio or caboclo afoxes presented "costumes and plots inspired by the North American Indians of John Ford and other directors of Western films" (Riserio, Carnaval 67). What perhaps escaped the perception of Pravina Shula is that these recreations or idealizations occur not only in the profane realm of carnaval, but also in the sacred realm of Candomble and Umbanda, of religions and philosophies that have an inclusive, interpretive character. So does the indigenous caboclo in Umbanda and Candomble refer to afrocentric Bantu ancestry and not to the cosmology of the indigenous peoples in Brazil. Although Gandhi has not yet--as far as I know--been included in the sacred repertoire of Umbanda, the secular reverence with which carnaval revelers receive him follows a similar process of interpretation and inclusion.

In 1999 the afoxe Filhos de Gandhy marked its fiftieth year. Lula Buarque de Hollanda filmed a documentary with scenes in which some members of the group parade through the streets of the city of Udaipur in India. If for the anthropologist Pravina Shukla the group was a source of awe, how might the figure of Raimundo Gandhy and his "sons" be perceived by the people of Udaipur? The documentary presents images of Sikhs and Hindus greeting Raimundo Gandhy and reverently touching the ground, but we do not know what they are thinking or how they interpret this unexpected figure. According to one of the Filhos de Gandhy founders, the group is "almost a sect" nowadays (Felix 31). The people of Udaipur seem to have recognized this essential element--between devout and festive, between sacred and profane. Moa do Catende, the creator of the afoxe Badaue (1979), recognizes the spiritual and political function of the afoxes when he says:
   They always demand a lot from us [the leaders of the afoxes and
   afro-carnaval associations], since we are for them spiritual
   nourishment. After all, in a certain way we made them wake up from
   a terrible sleep of constant nightmares. And every step we take, be
   it in a practice, a simple presentation or carnaval itself, by way
   of the strength of our culture that other perceptive blacks
   understand that our struggle is only one: black social integrity.

In his analysis of the carnaval group Olodum, Piers Armstrong comments that the pragmatic procedure of the group is essentially a form of bricolage or type of intellectual cannibalism which simultaneously combines discourses of resistance and liberation alongside essentialisms, utopias, modernities, parareligiosities, and vanities (38-45). And that summarizes some of the essential nature of Filhos de Gandhy: a transdiasporic paradigm that intersects Hindus, Sikhs, and Indian Muslims with Yorubas, Hausas, Fulanis, Nupes. A group of carnaval performers that has consistently recreated itself through North American cinema and in the complex Afro-Brazilian cosmology.

Photo Captions

1 Gilberto Gil taking part in the Filhos de Gandhy parade in 2008. "Bloco Aoxe com Filhos de Gandhy tem presenta ilustre." Portal IG. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2008.

2 Photograph credited to Peter Frey and Image Bank of a Pernambucan Maracatu. In the center the king and queen protected by a parasol. To the left the Dama do Pago bearing a calunga. (Ferrao 101).

3 Photograph of "Raimundo Gandhy" by Piers Armstrong with caption "Reincarnation." "Image Gallery." N.p., 13 Jul. 2003. Web. 4 Feb. 2008.

4 Gunga Din poster. Libertas Film Magazine. The Liberty Film Festival, n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2008.

5 Close view of turbans. Photograph by Rentata Carvalho of father and son (Ivan and Welbert Evangelista) in 2008 parade. "Filhos de Gandhy: tradi^ao leva pais e filhos para a avenida." A Tarde Online. Grupo A Tarde, n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2008.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Piers. "Moralizing Dionysius and Lubricating Apollo: A Semantic Topography of Subject Construction in Afro-Bahian Carnival." Luso-Brazilian Review 38 (2001): 29-60.

Beier, Ulli. The Origin of Life and Death: African Creation Myths. Oxford: Heinemann, 1966.

Birch, David, Tony Schirato, and Sanjay Srivastava. Asia: Cultural Politics in the Global Age. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Birman, Patricia. Fazer estilo criando generos: Possessao e diferenga de genero em terreiros de Umbanda e Candomble no Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: EdUERJ, 1995.

Brar, Sandeep Singh. "The Sikhism Home Page: Glossary of Religious Terms." N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2007.

Butler, Kim. Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post Abolition Sao Paulo and Salvador. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP 1998.

Cacciatore, Olga G. Dicionario de cultos afro-brasileiros. 1977. Rio de Janeiro: Forense Universitaria, 1988.

Carneiro, Edison. Folguedos tradicionais. 1974. Rio de Janeiro: FUNART/INF, 1982.

Castro, Yeda Pessoa de. Os falares africanos na Bahia. 2001. Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks, 2005.

Catende, Moa do. "A politica afoxesista." Estudos Afro-Asiaticos 8-9 (1983): 251-53. "Como Tudo Come^ou." Filhos de Gandhy. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2008

Davies, Carole Boyce. "Re-presenting Black Female Identity in Brazil: Filhas d'Oxum in Bahia Carnival." Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World 2.1 (2001): n.pag. Web. 1 Nov. 2007

Dunn, Christopher, and Charles Perrone, eds. Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization. Gainsville: U of Florida P, 2001.

Felix, Anisio. Filhos de Gandhi: A historia de um afoxe. Salvador: Grafica Central, 1987.

Ferrao, Cristina, and Jose Paulo Monteiro Soares, eds. Festas populares no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Index, 1989.

Filhos de Gandhy. Dir. Lula Buarque de Hollanda. Conspirado Filmes, 2000.

Freitas, Decio. A revolugao dos Males: Insurreigoes escravas. 1975. Porto Alegre: Movimento, 1985.

Fryer, Peter. Rhythms of Resistance: African Musical Heritage in Brazil. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 2000. Gunga Din. Dir. George Stevens. RKO, 1939.

Ji, Bhai Surinder Singh, and Bhai Tarlochan Singh Ji. "El turbante de los sikhs." Red Sikh Hispana. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2007

Kipling, Rudyard. Barrack-Room Ballads. London: Heinemann, 1892.

Landes, Ruth. "Cult Matriarchate and Male Homosexuality." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 35 (1940): 386-97.

Ligiero, Zeca. "Performances processionais Afro-Brasileiras." O Percevejo 12 (2003): 84-98. Lody, Raul F. Afoxe. Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, 1976. Cadernos de Folclore 7.

--. Cabelos de axe: Identidade e resistencia. Rio de Janeiro: Senac Nacional, 2004.

Lopes, Nei. Bantos, Males e identidade negra. Rio de Janeiro: Forense Universitaria, 1988.

Luz, Marco Aurelio, comp. Identidade negra e educagao. Salvador: Ianama, 1989.

Matory, J. Lorand. Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005.

Morales, Anamaria. "O afoxe Filhos de Gandhy pede paz." Escravidao e invengao da liberdade. Comp. Joao Jose Reis. Sao Paulo: Brasiliense, 1988. 264-74.

Oliveira, Paulo Cesar Miguez de. "A organizado da cultura na cidade da Bahia." Diss. U Federal da Bahia, 2002.

Pinho, Patricia de Santana. Reinvengoes da Africa na Bahia. Sao Paulo: Annablume, 2004.

Renno, Carlos, ed. Gilberto Gil: Todas as letras. Sao Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1996.

Riserio, Antonio. Carnaval ijexa. Salvador: Corrupio, 1981.

--. Uma historia da cidade da Bahia. Rio de Janeiro: Versal, 2004.

Rodrigues, Nina. Os Africanos no Brasil. 1932. Brasilia: U de Brasilia, 2004.

Sansone, Livio, and Jocelio Teles dos Santos, comps. Ritmos em transito: Socio-antropologia da musica baiana. Sao Paulo: Dynamis, 1997.

Shukla, Pravina. 'Afro-Brazilian Avataras: Gandhi's Sons Samba in South America." Indian Folklore Journal 1 (2001): 35-45.

Silva, Agnaldo. Interview by Emerson Nunes. "Filhos de Gandhi". O Portal da Rede Bahia., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2007

Silveira, Renato da. "Jeje-nago, ioruba-tapa, aon-efan, ijexa: Processo de constituido do candomble da Barroquinha (1764-1851)." Revista Cultura 6 (2000): 80-101.

Sodre, Muniz. Samba, o dono do corpo. Rio de Janeiro: Mauad, 1998.

Verger, Pierre Fatumbi. Lendas africanas dos orixas. Sao Paulo: Corrupio, 1985.

Vieira Filho, Raphael R. "Folguedos negros no carnaval de Salvador (1880-1930)." Ritmos em transito: Socio-antropologia da musica baiana. Ed. Livio Sansone and Jocelio Teles dos Santos. Salvador: Dynamis, 1998. 39-58. Programa a Cor da Bahia/Projeto Samba.




(1) This article is dedicated to Pravina Shukla and Ana Maria Gon^alves. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are mine. References to the photographs will appear in the Photo Captions section.

(2) The Filhos de Gandhy official website indicates that: "Vava Madeira suggested the name for the bloco, which was inspired by the life of the pacifist leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The letter 'i' was changed into 'y' in order to avoid possible retaliations for using of the name of an important leader on the world stage. The bloco was therefore baptized with the name Filhos de Gandhy" ("Como Tudo Comecou").

(3) Gilberto Gil's song "Filhos de Gandhi" (1973), was recorded in Gil and Jorge Ben Jor's album Gil Jorge Ogum Xango (1975).

(4) Many accept the perception of Gil as the "resuscitator" of a group in danger of extinction. Antonio Riserio comments: "It must be stated once and for all: Gil is responsible for the resurgence of the Filhos de Gandhy" (Carnaval Ijexa 53). But according to a recording by Anisio Felix, Camafeu de Oxossi and the radio broadcaster Gerson Macedo, not Gilberto Gill, were the ones who actually revitalized the group. Nonetheless, Gil recorded the song "Filhos de Gandi"(1975) in an album symbolically entitled Gil Jorge Ogum Xango, while the the song "Patuscada de Gandhi" (1977) appeared in an album with an equally revealing title, Refavela. The tune "Patuscada de Gandhi" was originally composed by Carequinha (Arivaldo Fagundes Pereira) under the title "Papai Ojo." The two songs that Gil recorded effectively disseminated on a national scale a cultural reference that had been restricted to Salvador and Rio de Janeiro (recalling that the Rio version of the Filhos de Gandhy began in 1952 with the participation of men and women). In Gil's support and popularization of the Bahian afoxes, Caetano Veloso played a parallel role in "thickening the stew" of the trios eletricos. Both the afoxe Filhos de Gandhy and Dodo and Osmar's trio eletrico were born in 1949. As Riserio observes, these were "the two main trademarks of Bahian carnaval" that during the 1970s went through a period of revitalization (Historia 564).

(5) See Anos 70: Trajetorias (Sao Paulo: Illuminuras, Itau Cultural, 2005) on the consolidation of the culture industry in Brazil. For afrocentric or "root tourism," see Patricia Pinho, Reivengoes da Africa na Bahia. For the globalization and the commercialization of the Bahian carnaval, see Milton Araujo Moura's "World of Fantasy, Fantasy of the World" and Piers Armstrong, "Songs of Olodum: Ethnicity, Activism and Art in a Globalized Carnaval Community." Both are in Brazilian Popular Music and Globalization.

(6) Definitions given by Raul Lody (Afoxe 31); Yeda Pessoa de Castro (144); Olabiyi Yai (qtd. in Riserio Carnaval 12); and Peter Fryer (23).

(7) Term coined by Riserio (Historia 562).

(8) "A large bottle was brought by the Oba as a symbol of his kingdom and worshipped by his vassals" (Ligiero 93).

(9) "Arican processional performances resemble Catholic ones when they formalize and dramatize some event of importance for the community. The event can be religious, political, or social and can be functional as well as referential [...]. The event to which the procession makes reference to can be recent, such as to honor a national hero, or a past one, as in the case of a procession in honor of a saint or martyr" (Ligiero 86).

(10) Another relevant observation by Birman refers to the preoccupation with the aesthetics of Candombles led by men (homo or heterosexual): "the Candombles of the pais-de santo seem to confer high importance to all that comprises masculine socialization [... these Candombles] are more careful in aesthetic and futile aspects [...]. It is important to note that such an aesthetic model of Candomble is traditionally appropriated as a simultaneously religious and carnivalesque resource" by groups such as the Filhos de Gandhy" (161-62).

(11) The lyrics of "Filhos de Gandhi" by Gilberto Gil: "Omolu, Ogun, Oshun, Oshumare / Everyone / Come down to watch the Filhos de Gandhi / Yansan, Yemaya, call Shango / Oshosi as well / Come down to watch the Filhos de Gandhi / Mercador, Cavaleiro de Bagda / Oh, Filhos de Oba / Come down to watch the Filhos de Gandhi / Our Lord of Bonfim / please do me a favor / call everyone / Come down to watch the Filhos de Gandhi / Oh, my God in heaven / It's carnaval down on earth / call everyone / Come down to watch the Filhos de Gandhi."

(12) "In the 1930s, the era of the resurgence of the afoxes, when the Filhos de Gandhy paraded for the first time in the streets, they were attacked by the police who charged that the group consisted entirely of blacks, many of whom were trade unionists" (Pinho 125). "We witnessed in the 1930s and 40s a resurgence of the black blocos and afoxes with a much stronger political orientation, because its organizers were trade union activists and members of other organizations, such as the Stevedores and Dockworkers Union [...]. The police attacked [The Filhos de Gandhy] the first year they came out on the streets on account of the group's consisting mostly of blacks, workers and active trade unionists, and also because of their manner of dancing and singing, which upset all of Bahian society who found the style too African, too black. It disturbed people and was a political affirmation of Candomble, ijexa and of the blacks" (Ile Aiye qtd. in Luz 34).

(13) The character Gunga Din, inspired by the poem by Rudyard Kipling, is analyzed by David Birch, Tony Schirato, and Sanjay Srivastava as the elaboration of a hero within the framework of the political and sexual power of the colonized. "GungaDin (1939), for example, is a classic Hollywood film about three British soldiers who, with some timely help from a subservient Indian, overcome a rebellion that threaten British control of India [...]. The title character in the film is equally subservient and unimposing. He is short, weakly built, and tends to break into exaggerated, childlike smiles whenever the British appear. Gunga Din is no way physically powerful or potentially threatening. [...]. There is no way, given the codes of physicality operating in the film, that the character of Gunga Din can be taken seriously, be treated as an equal of the heroes, or be in control of his destiny. He is, in every way, an Indian child in a world of British adults [...]. Gunga Din may not have had much formal education, but he was, nevertheless, noble and 'manly' because, unlike groups such as the 'effeminate Bengali' (Sinha 1997), he was true to himself through his recognition of his 'station in life'" (Birch 6-7).

(14) Ben Kingsley (Krishna Pandit Bhanji) is a British actor of Indian (Gujarati) and Russian Jewish descent. In the film "Gandhi" by Richard Attenborough, the role of the Hindu protagonist is played by a Jewish actor.

(15) In Rudyard Kipling's (1865-1936) "Gunga Din" (The Barrack Room Ballads), the poem that inspired the movie, Gunga Din is a water bearer serving the British Army at the end of the nineteenth century. He is beaten and looked down upon by the officers. ("You limping lump o' brick-dust, Gunga Din!"; "You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din!"; "I'll marrow you this minute, / If you don't fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!") When he brings water to the soldier-narrator of the poem (Thomas Atkins), he is shot: "But of all the drinks I've drunk, / I'm gratefullest to one from Gunga Din."

(16) Milton Araujo Moura points out a possible ambivalence in this aesthetic interpretation. According to Moura, the carnaval revelers "were, however, aware of the political difficulties related to the militancy of the Left; an icon such as Gandhi was the antithesis of the Communist stigma. Although their outfits recalled those used by Gandhi, they were also similar to those used by some soldiers loyal to the British crown. The appearance of the revelers associated them with the world of Gandhi without making the distinction as to whether they were specifically those of the pacifist leader or those of the loyalist troops" (Dunn and Perrone 165).

(17) "An expression possibly derived from the Hausa malam 'master' or from the Yoruba imale 'muslim'" (Riserio, Historia 335).

(18) According to Nei Lopes: "for the Brazilian in general, the saga of the Males is today known but nebulous [...] and so now, when blacks attempt to revive what unites them to their ancestry searching for a recuperation of a lost identity [...] many have only been able to gaze into the mirror of the Males" (68).

(19) According to Riserio, "the success of the afro bloco Male Debale, together with the popular revalorization of the Islamic revolts, has created a type of myth around the Males. Today in Bahia, any informed black, some with a certain degree of snobbery (understandable, but inexcusable) claims to be decedent of the Males" (Riserio qtd. in Lopes 69). According to Nei Lopes, "the Male Islamism was one of the greatest and most efficient factors for unity which slaves in Brazil had to strengthen themselves and unite against oppression. By means of this, all, without distinction, were united under one banner and one nation--the Islamic nation" (58).

(200 Original lyrics: "It has arrived, our caravan has arrived / We come from the desert / Without bread, without banana / The sun was unbearable / It burnt our faces / It made us sweat / We come from Egypt / And many times we had to pray / Allah, Allah, Allah, my good Allah / Send water for Ioio [masta] / Send water for Iaia [missy] / Allah, my good Allah."

(21) "Seli: A woolen cord worn by Guru Nanak around his turban. It was worn as a symbol of living in the world but not in worldly matters. It was passed on to each successive Guru up to Guru Hargobind who chose to wear the symbol of two swords of meri and peri instead" (Brar). See also Ji, "El turbante de los Sikhs."

(22) "Indian elements are representations of the representations of India made by outsiders [...]. In Bahia, as in many parts of the world, images and caricatures of India created by the mass media become associated with symbols of deep spirituality and emotionality" (Shukla 42-43).
COPYRIGHT 2010 Vanderbilt University, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Costa McElroy, Isis
Publication:Afro-Hispanic Review
Date:Mar 22, 2010
Previous Article:From "ritual" to "repertory": dancing to the time of the nation.
Next Article:Hibridismo, ambiguedad y contradiccion en la representacion del afroantillano en Ecue-Yamba-O de Alejo Carpentier.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters