Part 1 - With Cleidiana Ramos

English Translation 

Jamie Welcome all to the podcast Brazil Culture Connections. Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Cleidiana Ramos. She is a Bahian journalist with a PhD in Anthropology at the Federal University of Bahia. She is also an iaô of Oxum [daughter-initiate of Oshun] at the Terreiro do Cobre [a Candomblé temple]. Currently she is a visiting professor at the Bahia State University Campus XIV - Conceição do Coité, Bahia. She is the publisher of the collective Flor de Dendê, specializing in Afro-Sertaneja Culture, and a columnist for the independent journalism collectives, Midia Ninja and Midia 4P. She recently started producing the Column A Tarde Memória for the newspaper A Tarde in Salvador, where she worked for 17 years covering racial issues, Afro-Brazilian cultures, and religions. Since August she’s been on the team for the @espelhodefestas channel, specializing in information about popular festivals in Bahia. Welcome, Cleidiana. 


Cleidiana Ramos covering the first mass of the Santa Dulce of the Poor in the Salvador Fonte Nova Arena 

Cleidiana Thank you, Jamie. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s always a pleasure to be with you, in conversation with you, and we’re connecting with other people, and it’s fantastic, isn’t it? These bridges of ours, these meetings of ours have been like this, making bridges. 

J Thank you for your presence and for making this connection during these times of the pandemic where we are innovating more and more of these bridges. And I am very happy to introduce you to our new audiences that speak English, right, in these worldwide networks. So to begin, I wanted to know a little about your trajectory and how you became a journalist.

C Generally the question about why I’m a journalist is more difficult to answer. I never managed to find an answer. But with time I’m calming down because I discovered that here in Brazil at least, where it’s very different, we take a specific course in social communication, and there is a certificate in journalism, and other institutions offer publicity and commercials, and there’s another in cinema and TV. And there isn’t anyone else in my family who did journalism, and I really don’t know why I chose this profession. But one thing I can say is that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, even though I was very young, but it is something I love doing. And maybe because of this, because of the possibility of telling stories and meeting people from the most varied backgrounds, themes, right. And it truly is the profession in which I fulfill my full potential. Nowadays I’m not totally immersed in newsroom journalism—daily journalism—but I’ve kind of reconnected with journalism. Firstly, I teach journalism courses, right, meaning I have this responsibility to help influence other communicators, but I also have reconnected because I have a collective with three colleagues: Susana Rebouças, Meire Oliveira, and Ludmila Cunha, who is the designer for Flor de Dendê. And I’m continuing to collaborate with independent journalism websites, so this way I’ll continue doing journalism in other ways. I’m acting much more like a columnist, not necessarily like a reporter, which was what I was trained as. It was my occupation for 17 years at Jornal A Tarde, but I’m still connected to journalism. And it was this journalism that brought me closer to my own [self], so to speak. I had just graduated as a Black woman. It’s impossible for us not to end up becoming activists because if you take what we call the social responsibility of journalism very seriously, which in Brazil is also very necessary, even being in commercial media, we cannot avoid facing the harsh realities of disrespect and violence against our basic rights: the right to health, the right to education, the right to life. And unfortunately when we do a racial analysis, an analysis of color, the biggest victims whose rights are violated or denied are precisely Black people or the native peoples, in this case the indigenous populations. So this has been Brazil’s trajectory, right, for more than 300 years. I always say it’s as if we are imprisoned, eternally stuck on May 14, 1888, the day after the abolition of slavery. Maybe that was when we, the people who were there, breathed and saw that law, in our case, doesn’t have any kind of practical effect. The law has two articles. One says slavery was abolished in Brazil, and the second was that all provisions to the contrary were revoked. But no one said what to do with those people, which has been the trajectory of all of us, descendants of Black families, right. Our stories of professional ascension and economic ascension are still exceptions and not rules. I was the second in my family to be able to enter public university. Now there are more due to the affirmative action system, but I was the second to enter public university after almost 30 years, from when my maternal uncle was able to go to public university, in his case to UFBA. And there were two other college students from the family, but they were in the private system. So, this has been our trajectory. You oftentimes can’t separate professional practice from activism, so to speak. 

J Thank you for this trajectory. It is what I love most about your work. For me, it’s the history, it’s the anthropology, it’s the activism, it’s the religion, it’s the culture. You make these ties, right, between these themes, and I think it’s very powerful. We also have the connection of having completed master’s degrees from the Post-Afro Program of African and Ethnic Studies at UFBA, and I had the privilege of being present at the launch of the magazine Flor de Dendê. I was there. So I wanted to know a little more about what Afro-Sertanejo is and how it also forms part of your family history. 

C Oh, perfect. In reality, I left the newspaper A Tarde in December of 2015. Leaving was really mature. First, the newspaper was going through... It’s that moment in which you feel it’s time to switch careers. And also because of some criticism the newspaper has gone under, just like the print newspapers here in Brazil. The problem is not journalism; it is the model, right. They are family businesses. So all this is more or less connected in this sense that there aren't, shall we say, conditions to make the changes that are necessary for the media to have impetus. So, the newspaper came [under criticism]. I was already very uncomfortable, and I decided to leave in December of 2015. My plan was to finish the doctorate, as I was still working on the doctorate, and I only defended my thesis two years later. And I worked on both the master’s and the doctorate with the newspaper’s archive. First, the photographs of the Afro-Brazilian religions are an impressive archive, an archive of more than 1,400 records. And regarding the PhD, I returned to the archive, and it was a set of 2,670 photographs and almost 7,000 PDFs, because I had catalogued 104 years of news reports on popular festivals, and they have a lot to do with religiosity, Afro-Brazilian culture, right. So then I left, but I was missing it already. I was already playing around with some things in the digital environment, and I was a substitute teacher at my school, FACOM, two semesters at UFBA, and I was working precisely with digital journalism. I was giving a digital journalism workshop there. My idea was that we needed to do something that would unite this discussion around Bahian identity. The way this idea of Bahianness came about...some theorists don’t think it’s quite like that. But it is a concept that’s been around for at least 25 or 30 years, and there is a lot of controversy surrounding it. So there’s this whole discussion. But sometimes these signs of Bahianness are very concentrated on the coastal regions, in the case of Salvador and Recôncavo. And when I say “Recôncavo,” I'm not even talking about all the cities in Recôncavo, but mainly Cachoeira and Santo Amaro. And I navigate these three universes due to my own biography. I was born in Cachoeira. Because the city where I grew up is in Sertão, but because of the colonization process and the interiorization [that resulted from] this colonization process, Cachoeira was on the other end. Cachoeira was the second largest port in Bahia. And the first railroad line connecting Cochoeira to Chapada Diamantina passed through João Amaro, which is a Iaçu district, and the railroad line ended up influencing the formation of Iaçu (the city where I grew up) throughout the 19th century. Look how interesting, the Sertão, this semi-arid [region], today we call it “the semi-arid”, the Sertão has received so many names. And now when we look at it, if we think about it, when we look at movements like Canudos, right, the whole process of Canudos. We notice that between Canudos and Búzios, where there is a revolt that’s a little different from the others, because Búzios, for example, has been well documented amongst the greatest revolts against slavery that there ever was here in Brazil. But Búzios has a unique component in that it was one of the first; it was very connected to the ideas of the French Revolution: liberty, brotherhood, equality but with the component of abolition.

"It’s impossible for us not to end up becoming activists, if you take seriously what we call the social responsibility of journalism ."

Cleidiana Ramos

J Cleidiana makes us reflect on the connections between indigenous peoples and people of African descent in the interior of Bahia as a fundamental historical identity for the construction of Brazil, and which was not articulated as part of what is better known as Bahianness—being that Bahia was fundamental for the foundation and development of the country that we know today as Brazil. With her magazine Flor de Dendê along with other colleagues and invited journalists, they create a rereading of these peoples and histories, asking—

C Who are the Sertanejans? Who are these Sertanejan people, the semi-arid peoples? Maybe they don’t have this Black political identity, much more defined as it is here on the coast, in the capital and in Recôncavo. But they are people who resisted through racial mixture. African descendants, the Africans also were pushed toward the Bahian interior. As well as the indigenous. The indigenous who were forcefully acculturated and negated. The indigenous culture of the interior of Bahia is as if it didn’t exist, they never existed, they ceased to exist or are over. When we look at various movements, settlements, and villages that are still resisting, battles they are still fighting from the 20th century, everything becomes mixed together as if it were just one thing with the movement of the landless. And there are very interesting things in this interior, the municipalities that have indigenous names. My municipality, for example, is called Iaçu, which in Tupi means “Grand Water.” The Paraguaçu, which is a Bahian integration river, bathes three different ecosystems, the Cerrado in High Chapada, the Cantiga, in the middle of Paraguaçu, which is where Iaçu is, which is characterized by droughts. So, hunger and poverty are markers of these places. Then the river reaches the Atlantic forest, which is the Recôncavo region; it flows into the salt flats in Paraguaçu, in a place called Barra do Paraguaçu and begins in Barra da Estiva in High Chapada near Vitória da Conquista in the Southeast. So you can see how we are all connected. Chapada is the point of connection to Minas Gerais, for example, from another state. We need to show these connections, and this is what we try to do at Flor de Dendê. The term “Afro-Sertanejo” is a provocation. A provocation in this sense that these two identities are more or less related, not so separated like the whole world thinks. So it is a very experimental project, it is not monetized. It is more of an experiment. 

J Oh, but the magazine is so beautiful! I think it has content and information that you can’t find anywhere else. And I understand why, because you also have an approach that really stands out. Okay, Cleidiana, I want to know what being a cultural leader means to you in the political and cultural context of Bahia and Brazil. And with this, I want to highlight the importance of the context of Candomblé. And I want to know a little more about your experience with Terreiro do Cobre and how this influences your work, your politics and the Black movement in Brazil today. 

C Friend, to tell you the truth, I don’t see myself as a cultural leader. I’ll explain to you why. We, here in Brazil, and maybe later you can comment as well, but I think it’s a little different here than some of the experiences you all have. Normally initiatives, I imagine there, are taken from a more collective movement. In Brazil, because of the history of personal experiences, there isn’t always a way to separate this from the individual aspect. So when you look at it, you are propelling a movement without having necessarily planned to, right, so often we end up functioning as, in my case for example, I’ve been functionary more like someone who gives support from the point of view of making these movements central, mainly Afro-religious movements. Giving visibility to what is being done, which is something that has bothered me a lot from the point of view of news coverage, for example from the national propaganda media. Every time something happens here that impacts us, it is very difficult, right, because every day there’s something new. We still haven’t recovered from a Black man being hit by 80 shots by two military personnel from the army, right, you can imagine what the army is in the streets, policing the streets of Rio de Janeiro, and a musician on his way to spend the weekend with family only to be confused with a car burglar and a car that had a Black man inside, his wife and kids being hit by 80 bullets. And then there’s the case of a Black man also in Rio de Janeiro who disappeared after a Black woman who, while being approached by the police, was dragged for kilometers by a police car, which is the story of Cláudia Silva. And then there’s the death of Ágatha, an 8-year-old girl, after a 14-year-old boy. And we keep seeing more. After the absurd death of this man just a few weeks ago, on the night before Black Consciousness Day, November 19th, João Alberto was killed at Carrefour (a national network of supermarkets), right, and killed in such a brutal way—beaten to death, suffocated like George Floyd was in the U.S., right, but before that, he was beaten in such a brutal way, and we have videos showing it. And so we aren’t even recovering. Yesterday, there was a 4-year-old girl named Emily as well as another 7-year-old named Rebeca, two cousins who were killed in a shooting, and the bullets came from what all points to, based on facts, police weapons. So in this country, we don’t breathe, we don’t have peace, you cannot distance yourself from this. We need people— Black women and Black men—who have some kind of platform that could give voices to these types of violence we all suffer from. You have to be very anesthetized and distanced and in a state of denial in order to not do something, if you are able to and don’t. So it is in this sense that we end up acting a lot as individuals. Oftentimes not even as a group, but as individuals. 

Yes, what bothers me is when these reports come out, right, and you can only imagine our surprise when, for example, the biggest communications company in the country, the Globo organizations, in 2021 began to make, shall we say, links, connections between police violence and racism because of the episodes in the United States, such as George Floyd’s death. And what did the Grupo Globo organizations do? They have a cable TV company called Globo News where they spent a whole day (because this is cable TV) having debates, live programs discussing the race issue with all white journalism professionals. So then there was an uproar on Twitter. And the next day, Globo News went and apologized and put on a special program hosted by Heraldo Pereira, who is a Black journalist at Grupo Globo, along with 5 other Black journalists. 5 Black women, right. Including Maju Coutinho, who is the only Black news anchor for the daily TV news program, which is Jornal Hoje, a new program that’s on at noon, or 1 P.M. until 2:30. So Globo went and put on this show. It was so successful that the day after, they did it again on Globo Repórter, which is a basic cable program. But what scares me is how this communication company just mobilized that way, pressured heavily by Twitter. Because we are living this moment of many voices, many Black activists on Twitter. So it’s like that, once again this protagonism brings about talking points that are actually very old. And what irritates me is that they present this movement, I’m speaking of commercial media, as if it were something new. And always with the discourse, “It’s because in Brazil, it doesn’t happen here like it happens in the United States.” The protests gained a much larger dimension. Oh because in Brazil the Black movement, the Black movement is always in the singular. The Black movement is peaceful, the Brazilian Black movement doesn’t make any kind of trouble, but when you look at the history of this country from [the Quilombo] Palmares, you know, from the results in Búzios, from Malês, the Malê revolt, which took place in 1845 and is the largest, is considered one of the largest of the Americas. A very important uprising that, for example, scared Spanish America more than the Independence of Haiti, right. So we see, today, we see the Black women’s movements, they are not recent, they are not, they were not suffragist like you all were, right, they weren’t like suffragettes, or based on property like in England, it was all that, but it was so much more. We see that there has been an emancipatory movement of Black women since the colonial period. Tereza de Benguela led an uprising of quilombolas [Brazilian communities founded by formerly enslaved runaway Africans] in the 19th century along with the indigenous and quilombolas. We’ll see the history of figures such as Maria Quitéria, a sertaneja who fought in the war of Independence of Bahia dressed as a man, practically like transgender, right. Because women couldn’t enlist in the war. We see the story of Maria Quitéria, we know that Maria Quitéria suffered an attempt at feminization, right, because that story of that woman was a threat to the patriarchal power. 

We see the Irmandade da boa Morte [Sisterhood of the Good Death], formed by the so-called Black women of the high class. In other words Black women who in the middle of that brutal violence of slavery, through this figure of the escrava de ganho [female slave who earns money as an independent street vendor], right the independent female earners, these women ascended to the point of being called Black women of the high class [partido alto]. So that’s why on the last day of the festival, they fund the celebration, even today. It is the Sisterhood that finances the festival. Of course, the government today gives support because the festival is transnational, right, there are even many African Americans who come to attend the festival of Good Death in August. But they [the sisters] fund the food there, every day of the festival, especially on the 15th, which is the most important day of the festival, the day of Nossa Senhora da Glória [Our Lady of Glory], what do they do? They go out in the street, their clothes are extremely upscale, covered in jewelry. Because of the message: We rise. So how can you say that in this country there is just one singular Black movement? We have Black movements. We have different strategies and many segments. There is Capoeira, there are the artistic movements. Carnaval, as it was always a space of struggle. And Carnaval wasn’t born with Ilê, nor with the group Filhos de Gandhy in 1964, rather it was born with the Ambassadors of Africa in the 19th century. We, the Black population, are always confronting the repressive power that said we couldn’t. When African drumming was prohibited, they found another way to do it. When the Bahian carnival group, Ilê Aiyê, appeared for the first time in 1975, in the midst of the military dictatorship, racism was written into the national security law, so they couldn’t speak about racism or else they would go to jail. But Ilê Aiyê went out to the streets with aesthetics, the aesthetic discourse: Black is beautiful. The newspapers heard. A Tarde made a note accusing them of being communists, calling them Moscow spies. 

Olodum band on the launch of the 20th of November (Black Consciousness Day) issue of the A Tarde newspaper in Salvador. 

"So how can you say that in this country there is just one singular Black movement? We have Black movements. We have different strategies and many segments."

Cleidiana Ramos

J This point of Cleidiana’s really hit hard for me, because today Ilê Aiyê is known and celebrated worldwide as a cultural and political center of Black beauty and Black power in the diaspora, as a fundamental carnival group in Bahia, which is the largest street party on the planet. Listening to Cleidiana talk reminds us that these political struggles were arduous and historically contested in the fight for political representation, the recognition of racism, and the fight for freedom, which continues today in the face of harsh opposition, not just from the government, but also the media…

C So it’s easy to see that you can’t be in any of these movements without doing activism. And to wrap up, since I’m drawing this out, there’s a practical example of what I’m trying to say. In 2004 in Engenho Velho da Federação [neighborhood in Salvador, Bahia], where Terreiro do Cobre is located and where I became an initiate, some neo-Pentecostal churches arrived, including the largest one, the UCKG (The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God). Engenho Velho is a small neighborhood that brings together more than thirty temples from all nations, right. It has a whole history, the Casa Branca, is located there, after the Gantois Temple, right, where there are really old houses. And in Engenho Velho, because this area was called an urban quilombo, the Black population is the majority, you know, it’s mostly Black. The neighborhood is right in the center of the city. And then they began suffering various attacks of intolerance. And precisely because of this neo-Pentocostal group, UCKG. It was the pamphlet thing, making offenses through a sound system and such. And then the Ialorixá [head priestess] Mãe Valzinha Bianchi, who is the Iyalorixá of the Terreiro do Cobre, my mãe de santo [Mother of the saint]. She found this so terrible because they were directing the sound system toward the Cobre as well. And so what did she do? She left and began to converse with the leaders of other houses there in Engenho Velho and said, “We have to do something.” They got together and from this meeting they marched on November 15th. Because there were already activities on the 20th. Imagine, this march grew and surpassed the neighborhood limits of Engenho Velho da Federação. And it developed into a march of the Candomblé practitioners of Engenho Velho da Federação, who maintain the name. And it happened there, right. But even with participation of temples from other cities. This march is already 15 years old. This year it couldn’t take place because of the restrictions due to the pandemic, it couldn’t take place. But it is something that entered the calendar of Novembro Negro [Black November]. And of course, it gave enormous visibility. So this is what I’m trying to say. There are many battle fronts. And often there are those journalists who are unfamiliar and aren’t familiarizing themselves because they don’t want to. I can't imagine journalists who don’t try to inform themselves about things that they have to know….I just can’t understand it, because they won’t know as long as they don’t want to. They don’t want to know. So I don’t understand this. Sometimes it’s a way to not recognize the dimension and size of the problem. And it’s insisting on this kind of discourse that’s been used since the 1930s, that Brazil is a racial democracy. And that when there’s any kind of revolt against any part of that [discourse], it is because we are copying the United States. This is terrible. I am outraged that they still use this kind of discourse here, right, in the face of this wealth. And look, I’m talking with a lot of ownership just about a place I know reasonably well, which is Bahia. 

J Yeah, because the country is enormous and very diverse. And wow! You have now given us a huge lesson about Black movements, about the importance mainly of Black women in many contexts, right, which is not just cultural. There isn’t a distinction that one act is cultural and another act is political, rather that existence itself is political. Is that right?

C Yes. There isn’t anything more political in the broad sense of the word than Candomblé, right. When we look at [the media discourse about Candomblé], it is also very reductionist. Candomblé is a religion of Black people, a religion that for a long time remained in orality, and then it seems that in being oral that you didn’t create a sophisticated model of thought, that you did not created a sophisticated system of government, and when we look at Mãe Aninha [Mother Aninha], the founder of Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá. In 1910 she founded Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá. Mãe Aninha is a figure who left the Casa Branca. You know the story well because of City of Women. She is a figure who appears in City of Women, even presented as the last of the great ones, right, the fight over there of Martiniano do Bonfim with the other houses. So, Martiniano was very bothered, right, but when you look at her, Mãe Aninha is an extremely political figure. She, for example...We never found that decree, but it does exist in orality and it may not have been exactly a document, right, but for example, Mãe Aninha had many relationships in Rio de Janeiro. One of these relationships of hers was with Oswaldo Aranha. Oswaldo Aranha was a minister under Getúlio Vargas. And Getúlio, first of all, Getúlio’s government was a dictatorship. Getúlio took over the Brazilian government after the so-called “Revolution of 1930,” which was considered Brazil’s entry into modernity because of industrialization and the emergence of some ranks, but there wasn’t any revolution. The same economic groups continued calling the shots. And after all that, he staged a coup within the system called the “New State” [Estado Novo], when he actually instated the dictatorship. With the suspension of the Constitution, the individual liberties, Jorge Amado was arrested, right, there was a whole story about the communist party, communist party bans. Edison Carneiro, this figure who was very close [to Candomblé temples and leaders], was a member of the communist party and hid in the Afonjá Temple, right, Mãe Aninha hid him. This is what Professor Ubiratan Castro de Araújo called historical materialism. So these communists like Jorge Amado and Edison Carneiro, who were atheists but were also Candomlé ogãs [ogans, the name given to male initiates and representatives of the religion], protected by Candomblé. And at the same time, this woman was negotiating. She negotiated a request to play the abataque [ceremonial drum]. Because it was a misdemeanor according to Brazilian legislation. Mestre Bimba at the other end also went to speak with Getúlio, and then there was the liberation of Capoeira and the emergence of the Capoeira Regional. Because capoeira was also a misdemeanor. It was prohibited by the law. Mestre Bimba threw in movements from Taekwondo and Karate to be able to open the gyms, and so that’s how Capoeira Regional emerged in opposition to Capoeira Angola of Mestre Pastinha. But Bimba did this precisely to be able to open the gyms. And Getúlio understood Brazil. I always thought that Getúlio Vargas, even today, is the only Brazilian ruler who understood something about Brazil, that Brazil was a divided house. We are a federal republic by name, officially. But we were always divided. This is not something from today, this polarization is not a product of today. And Getúlio, he had a power project, and he reads this very well, and what does he have to do? He says that he has to create unity, an idea of what it means to be Brazilian. Then he expertly chose the symbols of Afro-Brazilian culture: Capoeira, Candomblé, feijoada...And there is this whole movement of these Mães de Santos. They go to events outside of Bahia. They make food. They have all this public interest, the órgãos de patrimônio [institutions of state heritage] rise up, like the Secretaria de Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional [Secretary of Historic and Artistic National Heritage], and it is when Brazil begins to create cultural heritage policies. And then what do they do? They go to these events to make food. There is a photograph of the Bahian women serving Getúlio. Then they would negotiate. When we look at Mãe Aninha, and I’ll stay on the topic of Mãe Aninha now, she created the 6 Conselho dos Obás. After, Mãe Senhora increased it to 12. O Conselho de Obá are kinds of consultants and advocates especially in the civil society of Afonjá’s interests. What do these women do? They get men that have political importance in Bahia. And this is so that they don’t have to deal with the police that are invading their temples. You understand? Candomblé ceased to be the police’s problem, just so people can get an idea of what this is and the power of these women, of these women’s political negotiation, of being in dialogue with all these segments of society, including segments in power. Camdomblé stopped being under the police’s control in 1976, so 44 years ago. A decree from Governor Roberto Santos, who signed this decree saying that it was no longer necessary to go to a police station to obtain a permit to hold a service. And this...Candomblé was already there from the 40s, 50s, and 60s into the 70s as something that was part of the idea of being Bahian. The Bahian state made its tourism policies calling people to see candomblé, selling this idea of a modern place but at the same time living with this old, mystic, magical thing that is Candomblé. So when we look at this...1976, these women, in theory, a Candomblé leader would have to go to a police station that was called Delegacia de Jogos e Costumes [Delegacy of Games and Customs]. It made laws for prostituation, jogo de bicho [illegal gambling game], and Candomblé was there. So these women did this. Their ogãs are people who have recognition outside such as journalists and university people, right, so they would make this kind of policy. So how can you say that these people didn’t learn to make alliances, negotiations, policies? I remember Lola, a member of the Bamboxê Obitikô family, which is one of the most traditional families of Candomblé from Pilão de Prata, now led by Pai Air José. And Lola is from England, there are branches of the Obitikô family in Nigeria, and Lisa Castillo, your compatriot, has been researching a lot about. She was responsible for bringing Lola and I remember her speech, a homage to Pai Air during the 70-year celebration of Pilão de Prata, and what she said in the speech is that Bahian Candomblé was able to achieve what pan-africanism could not: it is a huge alliance between many African nations. Many African civilizations. And everything is very well negotiated. So you need negotiation and strategic power that is fascinating. For me there is no better school of political negotiation than the temple. And look, it’s not a republican government, it’s a monarchy.

Cleidiana Ramos and Isabelle Sanches at the march against Religious Intolerance in the Engenho Velho neighborhood of Salvador, Brazil. 

C The initiation process is very difficult. And all of your scientific readings are useless; they mean nothing. No matter how many things we already know, there is still space to live and have experiences. It’s something else. There is no use in your readings, there is no use in your theory. Because experience is something else. It is an experience where you are conditioned to secrecy also, right. This is fantastic, isn’t it? So it is an unbelievable human formation process. I’ll tell you, it’s a kind of thought that’s so sophisticated that it surpasses this idea that orality doesn’t have—how can I put it—that orality is banal. It’s not. I admire these women who write so much. For example, Mãe Aninha wrote an article for the second Afro-Brazilian Congress. About food. Mãe Stella also from Afonjá is a writer who was the first to take a seat at the Bahia Academy of Literature. My iyalorixá Mãe Valnizia de Ayrá has published three books. I was telling her the other day that this is fantastic because they master two codes. They master their code, the code of their life and world, and they master the code from the outside world because they, for example, don’t tell Candomblé’s secrets. They don’t talk about Candomblé. What they tell of in these books and in these texts are the life experiences they have, from their world but also from the reading that they can do out here. This is fantastic in my opinion. Right, they are things I can't do, for example. Even because of the hierarchy and all that. But I consider the temples to have unbelievable political potential. 

J I do too. That’s what motivates my research, my experience in Bahia, our connection, everything. I feel certain that I learned more in the temples than in the classroom, and I’m not even initiated. But just the public discussions, right, the debates, the way of life, the cosmology, ethics, respect, discipline, all this is a fountain of wisdom and knowledge that truly is humanity’s heritage. It is global like you say: pan-africanism, from the diaspora as well, so it is super important to raise up this context. And you also touched on the subject of the dictatorship in the political system of Brazil, this history. And we are in a historic moment for humanity. We are every year, right, but now especially, this year, the pandemic, the presidential elections in the United States, and the local elections in Brazil as well are changing the world… 

I thank Cleidiana Ramos for her participation in the first part of our two-part episode “Culture is a political force.” This discussion was so rich in contextualizing the struggles of various Black sectors that participated in the construction of Brazil, and in better understanding the complexities of Brazilian identities. The second part deals more with current politics, we speak about the recent elections in the U.S. and Brazil, and we offer a comparative reading on the Black Lives Matter movement. Expect the second part of this episode next month.

This episode was recorded by Jamie Lee Andreson in Pennsylvania, USA in dialogue with Cleidiana Ramos in Salvador, Brazil.

The editing of the audio was done by me. I thank the help from our team at Brazil Culture Connections: the interns from Penn State University, Amanda Talbot and Madeleine Tenny and technical support from Jonatas Borges Campelo. 

The music is called “Batente de pau de Casarão” by Túlio Borges, with fair uses. Please follow us on our social media “brazilcultureconnctions. Thank you very much! Muito Obrigada!