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.

Umbandá and Candomblé followers carry wooden boats filled with white flowers to travel along with Yemanjá to Copacabana.

News
Single cover. Still From YouTube.

Idris Elba Teams Up With Wiley, Sean Paul and Steflon Don on New Banger 'Boasty'

Yes, Idris Elba makes music too.

After it was announced earlier this month that Idris Elba is one of the many musical acts performing at Coachella this year, some folks on the internet were surprised to discover that the celebrated actor also makes music.

In fact, everyone's favorite zaddy DJ turned mega-actor, began his entertainment career as a pirate radio host. Elba reminds us that his music-making skills are still very much in tact on a banging new collaboration with British rapper Wiley "Boasty," which also features fellow British MC Steflon Don and Jamaican heavyweight Sean Paul.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
M.I Abaga 'A Study On Self Worth' album cover.

10 Albums That Prove Nigerian Rap Is Back On the Rise

Featuring Falz, M.I Abaga, Ice Prince, Poe, and more.

Until 2018, rap in Nigeria was all but dead. Lamba or party afropop blew up and became way more lucrative. There weren't too many rappers who were able to make commercial-yet-indigenous Nigerian rap music since the likes of MI Abaga and Ice Prince. More and more rappers were singing at the same time "Alte Cruise" was growing in Nigeria, trap was big in the US, grime was rediscovering itself in the UK and South Africa was at its most vital yet.

So what happened to Nigerian rappers? The big names were couched in the comfort of their pop status. The younger rappers were yet to find their voice and in these intervening years, lamba music just got bigger and bigger, and rap less lucrative. Whether planned or by coincidence, a slew of confident and well thought-out albums were released with the trend continuing in 2019.

Read on for our selection of the best new albums that prove Nigerian rap is back on the rise.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Cassper Nyovest. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Op-Ed: Cassper Nyovest Says His Latest Album Is a Game Changer (It’s Not and Here's Why)

Sweet and Short is a great moment for South African hip-hop, but Cassper Nyovest is far from breaking any new ground sonically or culturally.

Sweet and Short, Cassper Nyovest's fourth album in as many years, sees the South African hip-hop superstar facing an existential crisis of sorts. He dubs his album a game changer, one that's revolutionizing South African hip-hop. Whether he does so or not is part of a larger question around his music, as an artist perpetually in between genres.

Whatever our evaluation of his musical output or the extent to which we measure his impact, what Sweet and Short highlights is how imperative music descriptors have become in Cassper's quest to stand out. This ironically devalues the very descriptors he employs in his attempt to do so. The problematizing that Cassper Nyovest (unintentionally) represents is not a new circumstance for two genres with a long love-hate relationship.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.