Mãe Hilda: Matriarchy, Candomblé, and Ilê Aiyê

  • Niyi Afolabi
Part of the African Histories and Modernities book series (AHAM)


This chapter pays homage to the legacy of the “guardian spirit” or mother of the founder of the organization while assessing the role played by the educational entity within the organization that educates hundreds of Afro-Brazilian children in Salvador, Bahia. Serene, sensitive, solemn, and spiritual, “Mãe Hilda” (Mother Hilda) embodies many real and imagined paradigms that have defined the Ilê Aiyê cultural organization, from its emergence to the present. This often-celebrated and honored woman may be said to be the heartbeat behind the activities of the organization even though she was not responsible for running its daily affairs. A mother who believes in her son would do anything to make his dreams come true. Vovô, the group’s leader and president, often tells the story of how he approached his mother in 1974 and told her that he and Apolônio dos Santos wanted to start an Afro-Carnival association in the neighborhood of Curuzu-Liberdade. Naturally, Mãe Hilda, an established community figure since the 1940s, supportively obliged. Because she was the priestess (iyalorixá) of the Candomblé house of Ilê Axé Jitolu, Ilê Aiyê was born within the labyrinth of Candomblé. In response to a question about the connection between his mother and the outing ritual of the organization at the start of the annual parade, Vovô suggests that the idea was not to transfer Candomblé to the Carnival space but to pay homage to spirituality and protection.


Black Woman Black Mother African Culture Dance Move Beauty Contest 
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© Niyi Afolabi 2016

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