C Yes, yes, the Bate Folha Temple is well known for safeguarding both through historical time, this timeline of dates, and through the importance of our founder. Our founder Bernardino, Manuel Bernardino da Paixão. We even have Dr. Erivaldo Sales Nunes’s doctoral thesis, which talks about “O Bate Folha: The Trajectory and Memory of Bernardino’s Candomblé.” So our founder joined in the history of candomblé, a milestone, a very deep, founding history. And we survived this dialogue, this relationship with other candomblés Ketu, which are more well-known, Jeje as well. So our origin, is, we are Angola, Congo, by the lineage of our of founder, the great Manuel Bernardino, he is initiated by the Congo nation and by this relationship with the Bantu ethnolinguistic group, in our rituals, in our words, we carry the Kimbundu. So it is in this design of terminology that is there in popular speech, but it is also in our religious language, this inheritance that comes from this Congo and Angola territory. And we preserved it in our chants, we preserved it in our words, because when we mention certain terms and when we go to the dictionary, we find ourselves in the origin of Kimbundu. So our Nkisis have a very direct correlation with nature, with the greenery, with the waters, with the forest, with the earth, with fire, with the rain, with these energies that encompass all these natural elements.
J Yes, which are so present in Bate Folha’s territory. For those who don’t know, it is an Atlantic forest. One of the largest preserved areas in the city of Salvador is the Bate Folha Temple. I wanted to hear a little more about the importance of this territoriality inside the Mata Escura neighborhood, and during the interviews of the documentary, we saw many testimonies about this—how this has been transforming historically along with the temple. And also the importance of the ecological wisdom that is present in candomblé and this relationship with the Nkisis that helps us think about environmental preservation and the equilibrium between humans and nature. I wanted you to comment more about these topics.
C It’s another great wealth we have. We manage to have preserved it during all this time in the face of this real estate speculation, this growth—even disordered as here in Salvador—we have maintained the same measurement [of land] that we found in the deed in a popular neighborhood. So, Bate Folha is, it has a super important biome for that region both in the preservation of the forest and in the source of rivers. So, during one moment in the centennial, our elder women recalled when they would go to wash clothes, get water in the Fonte da Telha, the Fonte da Bica. So they were recollections of a not too recent past, but of a Salvador that was still rural. And Bate Folha, unlike many temples, which ended up losing their great extension and shrinking, kept this extensive area of trees, from a river that passes in front of this residential occupancy in a certain region that ended up...It became polluted, which is another operation that we’ve been undertaking for a while at the Public Ministry, requesting the preservation of our river sources. And Bate Folha welcomes, receives, maintains this space of fruit trees with leaves of knowledge, of ancient wisdom of how to heal with tea, and herbs, how, how to take care of wounds with certain leaves. So, we have this space that is preserved there. The centennial also comes with this important message of showing how we preserve without any institutional support. We are listed [as a cultural heritage site], but there is movement as well as an effort to preserve, which is natural for the people who are there. There wasn’t any training, we didn’t need any class, no. This is done by our elders, which is passed on to our youth who brought attention to what is planted, what is renewed. So there is this element that you bring, which you recall is very significant for candomblé, which we learn in candomblé without the forest, without water, without leaves. We can worship [without these things], but our Nkisis show us the completeness of life and deal with this relationship with the natural [world].
J Yes, this was very clear. In my experience living in Salvador and visiting the Bate Folha Temple, I saw that you all do what the public and private sectors can’t or don’t or aren’t interested in doing. Right? It’s not just preserving, but it’s having respect for nature, the space that is necessary for healthy environments. For this relationship with humans who need clear water, clear air. Water pollution in Salvador is not just sad, but it’s a very dangerous thing. So, I see that members of Candomblé care for the elderly and for the natural environment, which ends up benefiting not only those in the temple, but the whole neighborhood. All of this was very powerful to me.
C It was. This contact, this respect for the elders, this respect for nature. It is very significant to think about how it happens, because we have, we bring this legacy, this Black-African heritage (and I even demarcate “Black-African” to point out that the African continent has 54 countries and that this historical process [between Africa and Brazil] takes place in a certain region) and in the middle of the discussions and deliberations about the statute that speaks of respecting the elderly, of not leaving them, of not abandoning them, of not leaving them in a nursing home, of not disrespecting them, right? In Candomblé, and in Bate Folha, we realize that without them, we cannot continue on. It is having these living references that carry us into the future, we transform into the men and women who also will pass this legacy on. So, we have a very rich reality at Bate Folha. There are living people, 95, 90 and 80, 87, 70 years old, who have a dynamic, a memory and action that makes things happen there. You know? Our Nengua, who is the main figure, the person from my research for the doctorate, she is 95 years old. She’s been at Bate Folha for 71 years. And we have other women, other ladies who were initiated in the second Tata, the second Priest of the House, which is Tata Bandanguame, who are there and participate in the ritual obligations, who recalled stories, who orients us, who corrects us. You know? Who move their bodies so full of life because they are worshipping Nkisi. They are renewing their faith and their energy there, and we learn from seeing, from listening, and from taking notice of their movement. So, we have Nengua, as I said. Nengua Guanguacesse, 95 years old and initiated under the second, the successor of the first, of our founder, so Tata Bandanguame was the second Priest responsible for the house. So, Nengua Guanguacesse was initiated in it, we have Kotas Kixima, Nedembu, Tuandelê, Kianguiá, Molongá and Makota, we have my aunt Kiriuankê. We have these women who experienced, lived situations from the beginning of the 20th century. And they are there, you know? From the middle of the last century and they are there, age 90, full of life, life and memory of the past that connects us to the present and gives us courage to face the uncertainty of the future. So, all over the world we are going through the pandemic, in Brazil, we have this calamitous situation from the misgovernment that we are experiencing. And these women show us, and they went through moments that were so so difficult as this one—or worse—and continued on, continued in faith, continued in the day-to-day battle and are now teaching us. So just the names themselves, the names I said here are dijinas [ritual titles given at initiation]. So, it is the new names that we receive when we are initiated. So, added onto Carla Maria Ferreira Nogueira, today I am Makota Mukuá Muiji. So, just this naming, this term that we take on, this new name that we receive in the initiation process, it is very significant. It is connected to a past of strength and struggle and resistance and faith, which is what propels us and makes us live very closely with the spiritual. I usually say our goddesses are not far, they are here at our sides. We feel them in the goosebumps on our skin, we feel a tingle of excitement, we feel a redirection in our intuition, and that’s how we go on learning to take care and deal with the visible and the invisible. These women and this forest and this environmental preservation is what makes us realize in the touch and care that we are going on the right path. Meaning, the model there now of having hasn’t been working. The temples have shown us that the possible path is this one that they bring us, that this confluence of men, women, elderly ladies and gentlemen, children reliving all of this makes us continue on and realize that to have isn’t the main thing, it is being and living, it is the day-to-day.