At the mention of samba, what would ordinarily come to mind is Brazilian music, with its roots in Africa via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions. But little is known about the wider samba culture.
A press briefing at the Freedom Park on Saturday, December 8, when a delegation from Brazil addressed select journalists on the essence of the proposed samba museum, exposed another side of samba.
The coming of the new museum of Afro-Brazilian history and culture, expected to be inaugurated in 2020, in the Docas Dom Pedro II building, in Rio de Janeiro’s port area, will open another vista of the samba narrative. The facility will aim to highlight the importance of Valongo Wharf, the biggest port in the history of slave trade.
It is not going to be just a Brazilian thing; Africans, especially the Yoruba, are going to be stakeholders. Small wonder, two prominent Yoruba from the educational and traditional institutions have already bought into the idea.
Last Wednesday, the delegation from Rio de Janeiro touched down in Nigeria and got the endorsement of Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; and the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi Adeyeye.
The delegation included 85-year-old Iyalorisa, Dra Edelzuita; Rio de Janeiro Culture Secretary, Nilcemar Nogueira; historian and Portuguese/English interpreter, Carolina Osunkeye; Director of Samba Museum, Rio de Janeiro, Mrs. Desiree Dos Reis Santos; and Babalawo Ifadele.
While Soyinka had pledged to pool his contacts and resources to realise the purpose of the visit, the Ife monarch promised to gather 30 experts in the field of sculpture, painting, etc.
According to the chief executive officer, Nigeria-Brazil Cultural and Business Initiative, Adeyinka Oduniyi, the Ooni agreed to partner with the city of Rio, a pact that has the nod of the mayor.
“He will send 30 culture experts to Brazil from Nigeria.
“Soyinka also agreed to be in the advisory council and pool his connections to assist the culture secretary.
“I believe that this is a major collaboration to make the blacks have their own narrative,” he added.
The Brazilian Babalawo, who was visiting Nigeria for the second time, said he got more thrilled at each visit.
“I believe that one force from Africa pulls me. My African blood made me the Babalawo Orisa for 35 years.
“We should do everything to bring Africa and Brazil much closer,” he said through the interpreter.
The octogenarian Iyalorisa shocked his hosts when she disclosed that she finished law school at the age of 75.
For the culture secretary of Rio, the Ooni represents blessing from the gods to Yorubaland.
The first black woman to be Rio’s culture secretary regretted that Africans only link their history to the slave trade, forgetting the positive contributions of the blacks to the world.
“My belief in the strength of the black people keeps me going,” she said, expressing her desire to build a globally recognised museum.
The Docas Dom Pedro II building was chosen to house the museum for its special significance to the African-Brazilian community, as it was designed by black engineer, André Rebouças, which refused to accept slave labour in its construction, 20 years before slaves were emancipated in Brazil.
Nogueira declared that it would be “a collective construction, built in close connection with the black community, from the bottom up.”
Valongo Wharf, the biggest port to receive black slaves in the Americas, was granted the status of cultural heritage with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on Friday, November 23, 2018. The archaeological site was uncovered during excavations in 2011.
Approximately $1 million will reportedly be spent to prepare the wharf for visitation.
Photos: Adedeji Olalekan