The flow of culture between The Mother Continent and South America’s largest country runs both ways.
Wherever you set foot there and for as long as you live, Africa will always find ways to amaze and surprise you.
The latest surprise to me came as I was preparing information on a nine-day tour next year to the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau.
Adventure? The country boasts pristine forests, wild rivers, unspoiled beaches, the world’s largest continuous line of mangrove forest.
Culture? Try the Bijagos Islands, an archipelago of 88 islands, of which only 20 are inhabited. Because of their isolation, the tribal culture there has survived into the 21st century intact.
But this was what stopped me in my proverbial tracks: “Carnival is the main festivity in Guinea Bissau.”
We’re actually talking here about Carnaval. As in the Carnaval of Brazil.
The African roots of Brazil’s biggest cultural festival are a well-established fact. But those roots have reached back across the Atlantic all the way rto Africa — some by choice, some not.
The trans-Atlantic slave trade took more captive Africans to Brazil than anywhere else, upwards of 4 million over three centuries, many of whom were Muslims of the Yoruba and Hausa peoples.
It must have a been a bizarre relationship — West Africans, often Muslims literate in Arabic, being worked and brutalized by slaveholders who often couldn’t read or write in their native Portuguese.
Some fled into the jungles to form Maroon communities called quilombos. Others rebelled, most notably the Malê Revolt of 1835.
The revolt was crushed, and the open practice of Islam eradicated. Many of the surviving rebels were deported to West Africa.
Over time, many Brazilian slaveowners — for commercial more than moral reasons — opted to free their slaves. Slavery in Brazil ended altogether in 1888 — partly in fear of another Malê Revolt.
Many of the newly freed remained in Brazil and develop today’s rich heritage of Afro-Brazilian culture. Others returned to their ancestral homelands.
Some returned to Nigeria, where they remain as both Africans and Brazilians to this day. Others went to countries like Guinea-Bissau.
(At the same time, there are significant numbers of native-born Angolans, whose ancestors were a major source of enslaved Africans from Brazil to Louisiana, who today are opting to migrate to Brazil. )
So around the time that Carnaval is being celebrated on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Salvador, Bahia, you’ll find similar celebrations going on in Afro-Brazilian communities up and down the coast of West Africa…including in Guinea-Bissau.
For more information on that, and other cultural tours in Africa, visit Trips by Greg.