Photos
Photo by Kiratiana Freelon.

This Photo Story Walks Us Through Brazil's Beautiful Yemanjá Festival

Millions of Brazilians and practitioners of Umbandá and Candomblé honor the Yoruba goddess of saltwater in the days before the new year in Rio.

In Brazil, the goddess of saltwater, Yemanjá, is always represented by a woman wrapped in blue, flowing robes and long hair. Millions of people celebrate Yemanjá on February 2, or the Catholic holiday of the Day of Our Lady of the Seafarers. But in Rio, the Yemanjá festival happens in the days before New Year's Day when practitioners of Umbandá and Candomblé honor this goddess.


Umbandá is a Brazilian religion that blends African traditions with Roman Catholicism, Spiritism, and Indigenous American beliefs. Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religion that has roots in the Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs brought to Brazil by enslaved Africans. On December 29, Umbandá and Candomblé followers unite in a religious procession that starts in the Afro-Brazilian neighborhood of Madureira and proceeds to Copacabana beach where religious followers, dressed in white and blue, throw flowers into the ocean.

This religious tradition gave rise to Rio de Janeiro's popular New Year's Eve festival. Every year, millions of people dressed in white flock to Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach for a city-sponsored New Year's Eve festival filled with fireworks and famous Brazilian musicians. Following tradition, many present white flowers as an offering to Yemanjá, drink champagne and jump seven waves at midnight.

But Rio de Janeiro's city beaches weren't always a New Year's Eve draw for well-heeled locals and tourists. In the 70s, the well-to-do Cariocas in Rio de Janeiro's Zona Sul area fled the city during New Year's Eve. The beaches were left to Umbandá practitioners, who could peacefully do their religious rites and give their offerings of white flowers to Yemanjá right up until midnight. By the early 90s, that had changed. The city's leaders began to embrace New Year's Eve as a potential tourists attraction and Umbandá and Candomblé practitioners began coming to Copacabana beach a few days before the New Year's event to avoid the crowds.

The religious tradition became more organized in 2001 when the Mercadão do Madureira became an official sponsor of the religious procession. This market is located in Madureira, a poorer but more vibrant area of Rio de Janeiro that rarely attracts tourists. Few people know that the festival starts in Madureira's Mercadão, a local market that is considered to be the best place for Candomblistas and Umbandistas to buy special herbs, clothes, and figurines for their religious practice. In 2001, a fire destroyed this traditional market but it was rebuilt within a year. A local store owner decided to give thanks by creating an event in which a 2-meter replica of Yemanjá would be carried from Madureira to Copacabana beach. Today this festival attracts more than 10,000 people in Rio and its considered one of the most traditional ways to celebrate the New Year.

Click through the slideshow below to walk through the Yemanjá festival's celebrations.

Photo by Kiratiana Freelon.

The shops in Mercadão Madureira sell religious materials to practice umbandá and candomblé.

popular

Black Twitter's Reactions To Meghan Markle & Prince Harry's #RoyalBaby Announcement Are Too Funny

Congrats are in order, but first to Black Twitter for continuing to hold it down with the jokes.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the Duchess and Duke of Sussex, have been the internet's brief moment of mindless, happy news since they became engaged, then married earlier this year.

Kensington Palace took to Twitter again this morning to announce that the couple will be expecting their first bundle of joy next spring.

Since the LA-native and former star of Suits made her way into the royal family, Black Twitter has had no shame sharing their hilarious thoughts and commentary, and the pregnancy announcement has been no different.

Have a laugh and take a look at some of our favorite reactions from them below.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

People Aren't Happy About Kanye West Visiting Uganda, Comparing Himself to Fela

The rapper is being called out for visiting President Museveni after his treatment of Bobi Wine. Seun Kuti also reacted saying, "the spirit of Fela Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West."

By now you've heard that Kanye West delayed the release of his new album, Yandhi, to finish recording in "what is known as Africa."

"He wants to draw inspiration from the earth there," TMZ quoted Kanye as saying two weeks ago. "I felt this energy when I was in Chicago," Kanye mentioned then, "I felt the roots. But we have to go to what is known as Africa. I just need to go, to find out what it's really called, and just grab the soil."

Well Kanye has now made it over to Africa, more specifically, Uganda. His trip follows a now infamous White House meeting in which he hugged Donald Trump saying "I love this guy right here."

Kanye was first shown in a live video from Uganda dancing to Mystro and Wizkid's "Immediately." The clip was shot and posted by Bankulli, who used to work with D'banj when he was signed to GOOD Music and now works with Mystro.

Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian also met with Ugandan President Museveni. The President said he and the rapper held "fruitful discussions" about promoting tourism and arts.

Kanye gifted President Museveni—a man who is accused internationally of overseeing the torture and unjust imprisonment of musician and opposition politician Bobi Wine—a pair of white sneakers.

Museveni has called the reports of torture against Bobi Wine "fake news."

Apart from that, Kanye has been posting several periscopes of his rants. Many of them are titled "Mind Control" and the longest of them has him declaring himself to be the "the best living recording artist."

In that same video, Kanye says he has the spirits of Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur "flowing through him." Billboard has the full transcript if you really feel like your mind needs that.

Naturally, given his current embracement of Donald Trump and, in association, far right politics, many people aren't happy with Kanye visiting Uganda (or anywhere on the African continent) and meeting with Museveni.

Seun Kuti replied on Instagram writing, "Erm erm on behalf of the Kuti family , I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West. Ziggy Marley over to you. 🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂 Ebro come get ur boi before I #getthesax"

See some reactions below.





popular

Family Demands Justice In Killing of Unarmed Nigerian-American Man Chinedu Valentine Okobi

Black lives matter.

Chinedu Valentine Okobi, a 36-year-old Nigerian-American man died on Wednesday, October 5 after being tasered by police officers in Northern California, the LA Times reports. Okobi was unarmed at the time of his killing.

Okobi, who suffered from mental illness—according to his sister, Ebele Okobi, Facebook's Head of Public Policy, Africawas reportedly running in and out of traffic in Millbrae, an area south of San Francisco, when he got into a "struggle" with an officer who approached him, says San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Four other cops were called in, and one shot a Taser gun at Okobi as he was being taken into custody. Okobi was later taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.