The Great Revival (A Grande Refazenda) - African Diaspora Anthropology

This blog will present a history of the diverse elements of scholarship by which the field of African Diaspora studies has been developed. It will present research findings of selected studies emerging from distinct interests and traditions of African Diasporic communities. The history examined will emphasize the scholarship of diasporic researchers that, until recently, had little opportunity to appear within the scope of the longer and broader development of diasporan studies. It is well known that diasporic studies developed from the history of African-American and other diasporic scholarship, however, much of it within the historical context of the English language; rarely incorporating the social science, humanistic or activist understandings of scholarship in the Portuguese language. This review attempts to establish a new compatibility with diasporan intellectual traditions by presenting a foray into the knowledge of the diasporan experience from the Lusophone perspective.

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In July 2006, Heads of state, intellectuals, directors of non-governmental organizations, and institutional organisms from countries in Africa and the Diaspora met together in Brazil at the Conference of Intellectuals from African and its Diaspora - CIAD and CIAD Cultural.  This event took place in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil and offered the world another take on the reality of Africa and of peoples of African descent spread throughout the continents.

The following are excerpts from a speech by Gilberto Gil, the Minister of Culture at that time:

In order for us to better understand this process, it is necessary to historically cross-reference the special characteristics of the African Diaspora that formed the Americas.  Since the fifteenth century, the African Diaspora has become the staging ground for a process of European expansion and the worldwide spreading of Capitalism.  The worldwide process of the accumulation of wealth for Europe required the re-ordering of other populations for productive tasks in the new world, as work force.  However, who were these others? They were precisely those non-Christian and, therefore, non-European others.  They were the heathens, the Muslim infidels, the Indians, the Blacks, and the other barbarians... 

This was a process different from other slaveries and diasporas, in which the populations were expelled from their countries in tribes, groups, and families of Jews, Armenians, and other peoples, victims of compulsory dispersal.  Each of the Africans, males and females, natives of various regions, ethnicities and nations, were separated from their group of origin, mixed with a multitude of strangers on salve ships, stored on plantations, in contingents of persons speaking distinct languages, so that they could not plot resistance and rebellion against their captors...

For the implementation of transcontinental mercantile slavery it was necessary to produce each slave, that is, to transform free persons into captives.  For this, it was necessary to transform each one of the eleven million men and women who came to the Americas into a single person, stranger to everything and to all around him, becoming completely dependent on his owner.  In this perverse process of slave production, the aim was to destroy the entire identity of the captive.  The destruction of the native name, through which each one identified family, lineage, and place as a free person in African society, is an example.  Alien and anonymous, automation productive machines, this was the objective of this genocidal and ethnocidal practice of slavery...

In order to continue resisting, the Africans who were confined to captivity and their descendents had to revive everything, revive languages, revive family relationships, revive religions, revive encounters and celebrations, revive solidarities, revive cultures.  This was the true Great Revival.  The first step in this monumental process of reinventing humanity was to overcome general alienation.

The Brazilian Constitution for the religious system of Candomblé is the best example of this cultural recovery.  Based on each ancestral cult brought from specific cities and regions from the many Africas, altruistic pantheons of mystical ancestors, not bound to space nor place, and yes archetypical, gathered in great national denominations like Nagôs, Gêges, Angolas...

Also within Catholicism, Africans constructed their own spaces of mutual recognition and of solidarity through Black Brotherhoods, spread throughout Brazil, where black saints like Saint Benedito and Saint Efigenia were worshipped, where King Antonio of the Congo and Queen Nzinga of Matamba are remembered, where Congadas and Mocambiques are danced.

 Today, who are we the diverse offspring of Africa in the twenty-first century? What can we do? What do we want?  These are the questions that the parameters of the worldwide contemporary moment have imposed on us.  And, the quest for these answers brought heads of state, intellectuals, and activists for ethnic causes to the city of Salvador on the All Saints Bay, reunited in the second Conference of Intellectuals from Africa and its Diaspora (CIADD II).

Thus, today, how can the implementation of a worldwide Diasporic communications network, capable of formulating public and international opinion, together with national governments and institutions be accomplished; and what do you think should be some of the national as well as international initiatives?

Source: Palamares, F. C. A grande refazenda: África e Diáspora pós II CIAD. Salvador: Edição Fundação Cultural Palamares, 2007.

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