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On May 13, 1888, Brazil fervently celebrates the abolition of slavery, but the almost four centuries of captivity continue to impact contemporary society and the struggle for "freedom" is continuous.

The freedom granted to blacks bothered the Recôncavo plantation owners. They pressed for the maintenance of slavery and fought for the right to compensation for damages caused by the Golden Law.

To affirm the right to freedom, since 1889, a year after the abolition of slavery, that the people of the saint of Recôncavo Baiano beat the drums on the street to revere, celebrate and thank the Orixás.


Bembé do Mercado, street candomblé initiated by João de Obá, is a tradition of resistance, affirmation and awareness of the process of liberation from Brazil's slave system.


The movement takes place annually in the month of May in the city of Santo Amaro and has the Candomblé terreiros as a driving force and director.


In 2016, the Culture and Negritude extension project at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB), with a joint decision with the community, will be carried out in May, together with Bembé. The carefully designed program includes meetings, debates and a round of knowledge and training.

May 13 has been consolidating itself as a space for reflection on racism and all the consequences arising from this situation.

Report / photos: Kithi

Video images: Edvaldo Passos

Edition: Antônio Gentil

May 13, 2019

Bembé's photos  - 2019 / by Kithi

The big day

Princess Isabel signs Imperial Law No. 3,353 or Golden Law, declaring slavery extinct in Brazil, ordering all authorities to comply with and enforce the new rule and authorizing wide dissemination.

The newspapers and magazines of the time looked at the fact. The abolitionist process started with the 1850 Eusébio de Queirós Law seemed to have come to an end. More than ever, celebrating victory was necessary.

In Rio de Janeiro Gazeta de Notícias formally informs the decision while Revista Ilustrada celebrates a new era.


Source: National Digital Library

In Bahia the festivities lasted for days, with samba in some engenhos, with philharmonic in the streets and a rocket. The first reaction is to celebrate, after all, in the course of the struggle, expectations were created for better days after the release.


In the May 19, 1888 copy of the journal O Asteroid: organ of abolitionist propaganda, from Cachoeira, it is possible to feel the atmosphere of the Recôncavo at the moment the Law was approved.

Source: National Digital Library

The 13th was then a milestone for the country, one of the last to end slavery. However, this was due more to economic, political and international pressures than to humanitarian issues.

In the following year the newspapers expressed the need to solve the hunger and the number of immigrants in the Recôncavo. The People's Daily of May 14, 1889, referring to Cachoeira and Bom Jesus de Madre de Deus, states:


"The newspapers in this city, in their condition today, cite many cases of death, starvation, immigration continues. Isn't that enough? Isn't it time to get serious?"

Gradually the celebration of May 13 faded. After three years, the house lights were no longer on, the band no longer passed, the rocket disappeared ... The euphoria was transformed into regret.

But for the people of Santo Amaro, what was planted by João de Obá took root, strengthened faith and became resistance and unity. Despite the hunger and neglect João de Obá remained, he is alive in the strength of maintaining memory against forgetfulness, in the beauty of all candomblés being together in one Xirê, in one corner, in one "gift", forming a single people.

130 years of Bembé do Mercado

Bembé of the market 2018

According to oral tradition, it is said that João de Obá, a man brought from Africa to work in the sugarcane field, respected for being a wise adviser and mastering the art of Ifá (shell game), decided to gather his children and daughters of saints so that on the street they assert their freedom by beating candomblé in a public space in the city.


Bembé do Mercado was born 130 years ago. For 3 whole nights João de Obá and his children played the atabaques, sang and danced. At the end of the celebration, the gift to Yemanjá was given with the help of the fishermen.


Zilda Paim, a self-taught Santamarian teacher and historian, recalls in her texts that since João de Obá the state of trance during Xirê do Bembé (circular dance) has not existed, which makes street candomblé a political act. If freedom was granted by law, citizenship, coming and going and life in society is a right.

Today, in the vast seven-day program, the religious movement that mobilizes more than fifty candomblé terreiros divides the space with shows, theatrical performances, dance, capoeira, maculelê, debates, dialogues, lectures and tributes.


The Bembé do Mercado space continues to be the place of resistance, of affirmation, of struggle and much more, it is also the place of encounters, exchanges of knowledge, communion, learning.


It is the space of memory that builds what we are as Brazilians, where we came from and mainly, the respect that we want as a people whose cultural diversity fills life with beauty.

Princess Adedoyin of Nigeria talks about Bembé.

Culture and Blackness

Culture and Negritude, held in November 2013, is the first institutional event held by the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB) in the municipality of Santo Amaro.

The date chosen for the meeting had Black Consciousness Month as reference, and due to the Bembé do Mercado, the date was moved to May 13.

Mother Manuela talks about the importance of the university in Santo Amaro

Cultura e Negritude, held in November 2013, is the first institutional event held by the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB) in the municipality of Santo Amaro.

The date chosen for the meeting was based on black awareness month.

With the title Agô, Motumbá, Mucuiú, Kolofé, a request for blessing for the Nagô nation, for the Bantu nation and for the Jejê nation, the activities of the Center for Culture, Languages ​​and Applied Technologies are initiated.

The symbolic act was intended to collaborate for the respectful and solidary arrival of the university in the municipality, and at the same time, a way of recognizing the local culture and an invitation for dialogue between the knowledges.

As part of the affirmative action promotion agenda, in 2016, the event started to be held in the same period as Bembé do Mercado, by joint decision with the community.

Cultura e Negritude promotes meetings, debates and rounds of knowledge and training in different spaces and outside the walls of the university. It is one of the moments that the university is on the market, in high schools, in fishermen's colonies ...


The wheels of knowledge and training is an action methodology, created and applied by Professors Rita Dias and Cláudio Orlando, which enables collective reflection, regardless of the level of formal instruction of the participants. In this perspective, all knowledge is treated with the same degree of importance. Everyone listens, everyone speaks, everyone exchanges knowledge.


    "Orality is a practice, a methodology, a powerful pedagogy. So powerful that we have a memory that written memory cannot reach" (Daiara Tukano)

Daiara Tukano talks about the Wheels of Knowledge and Training

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