When Ilê Aiyê was founded in 1974, it was well before the creation of the MNU in 1978. Despite the contributions of both entities to the advancement of race relations, Afro-Brazilian culture, and dignity, they still need to prime their negotiating strategies in order to move beyond the shameful and racist past that continues to hinder political and economic progress for Afro-Brazilians as a whole. After 40 years of Ilê Aiyê’s existence, it is now a critical moment for the assessment of its legacy not just as a cultural entity but also as a political advocate that deploys Afro-Bahian Carnival as a critical agency for advancing black pride and dignity. In the above epigraph, Caetano Veloso sings the beauty of Ilê Aiyê as a trope for collective Afro-Brazilian happiness. The millions of revelers even after the event retain a certain element of nostalgia for the celebration, but for the locals who live the import of political agitation masked through Carnival, the festivity ceases to be just a cultural outlet but becomes a political theater for societal transformation. Issues of race, class, religion, and gender coalesce into a mixed display of costumes, music, and dancing, toward a strategic performance of liberation and resistance. When compared to that of Bio de Janeiro or Carnivals of the rest of the world, Afro-Bahian Carnival transcends the trios elétricos that were started by Dodô and Osmar of the 1950s in Bahia, or the neatly choreographed parades of the Sambodromo in Bio de Janeiro, where different social groups and classes feast in an ephemeral moment of “equality.”


Strategic Performance Cultural Entity Societal Transformation African Diaspora Black Movement 
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  1. 1.
    For this specially composed song for Ilê Aiyê, see Caetano Veloso, “Um Canto de Afoxé,” Brazil Classics I, David Byrne, comp. (New York: Luaka Bop, 2000). DVD.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Anadelia A. Romo, Brazil’s Living Museum: Race, Reform, and Tradition in Bahia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 157.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jon Beasley-Murray, Posthegemony: Political Theory and Latin America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 226.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Ilê Aiyê, “Rituais Africanos,” in Cadernos de Educação: A Rota dos Tambores no Maranhão (Salvador: Ilê Aiyê, 2003), 32.Google Scholar

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© Niyi Afolabi 2016

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