In just one day

Mª Joelma Gomes Ferreira (1)

After an intense week in the residency program that introduced me to new spaces and people, I decided to go out on my second Sunday in the city of Rio de Janeiro and direct my body to the Tijuca Forest. I needed to feel its energy, hear its sounds, touch its plants, walk at the leisurely pace between its instinct-guided trails. I lacked that place and the apprentice place where the forest gently reinforced itself in my being. As I am made of a waterfall, my emotions moved like water, which bubbles from the water hole, emerges conquering space, circumvents obstacles, until it expands and finds the point of balance and evasion.

I went down Santa Tereza towards the Tijuca Forest, intoxicated with so much emotion that for a moment I felt the presence of my grandmother by my side, walking hand in hand with me, just like she used to do when we went to the forest to pick cashews and licuri, in Acupe, in Bahia. She was with one hand in mine and the other with a machete opening and clearing the way. Always teaching and pointing out the place I should step on and which way to step, never too hard, but with lightness and respect for the abode of other animals and beings. She taught me with every gesture and look to be kind and gentle to nature that allows us the right to life, endowed with fullness. So much so that I remembered the African proverb that she always used, which says: “no big tree has reached the size it is without first having been a seed”. And being a seed (apprentice), I followed…

On this day, when leaving the confluence of sounds that inhabit the crossroads of the city, I allowed myself, when entering the forest, to enter the poetic and ancestral trance, to feel that I was in a dancing experience. Being rocked by the sound of atabaques, by the prayed chant, a symphony composed and intertwined by the charms of the times, the winds, the currents that strong and cold echoed the song of Mameto Dandalunda, a playlist composed exclusively to feed and establish the balance of the my orí, who was constantly immersed in the whirlwind of stimuli that makes it sick, gets tangled up in roots that are not healing.

Feeling myself in the process of healing, I started to walk, noticing the details of the leaves, their colors and shapes, the thick, tall trunks and their scars drawn by time and by human writings, these dated and with names. There were so many dashed hearts that it seemed impossible not to imagine the vows of love linked to the subjectivity of “may it be eternal while it lasts”.

Returning to the beauties that filled my eyes, I could notice the writings of the forest and how the crossing of the most varied species of trees, the strips of land and the layers of dry leaves form a watercolor of warm tones that mixed together like a kaleidoscope that changes with every move. I don’t know if I can adequately export the spiral of this experience that worked for me like an ebó that feeds the sacred and that strengthens us, but I hope to report it in a simple and profound way. Also because narrating about this experience requires from me some crossings due to the difficulties that are imbricated in the process of self-perception and of undressing in front of myself and the other.

With the silence broken, I rejoiced with happiness when, near a waterfall, I heard the Kabyle rhythm sound from the forest as if an atabaque was being played for the inkesses, sacred residents of this habitat that holds the elements that heal and purify. So much so that everywhere, there were ebós lowered, territorializing and demarcating ancestral practices in the African diaspora.

As I wandered among these energies, I could see, kind of suddenly, Dandalunda’s dance in the waterfall, which beautifully reflected the brightness, volume, movement and transformation. I drank from its sacred water, also amniotic fluid, wishing for the dissolution of insecurity, guilt, fears, traumatic memories, while I gently sang the restoration of my fertilities and the opening of my creative portal.

After hours of immersion, it was time to return to Vila Laurinda, but still on the way, near the S curve, I was crossed by a black woman who was in the company of three children. One child, who seemed to be 12 years old, was pushing the car full of bottles full of water, but from her expression, it wasn’t just water, it was a survival strategy, a guarantee of bathing. The mother carried on her head covered with a handkerchief, on the cloth roll, a 20-liter bottle balanced by maternal instinct, since her left hand held the hand of the other child who carried a 2 liter bottle very close to her little body. The third child, a girl who wore a pink dress with long sleeves, was holding two plastic bags, one with smaller bottles of water and the other with what looked like a banana. She walked at the hurried pace, forcing her still-developing body to be tough and quick.

For a few minutes I found myself in that girl again, I relived part of my childhood that was also marked by the constant search for water at Mr. Rosalvo’s fountain that allowed people to fill the water pots in their homes. In addition, it’s shameful to realize that the same difficulty of accessing water still remains, so violently. Hearing that in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro water does not arrive or is difficult to arrive.

On the border, in the delimitation that separates two territories – forest and city, there is discrepancy, mourning, absence, as well as knowledge, care and time. The time that surrounds everyone’s life, the time that lives in me and the time that each subject takes to find themselves. What can it be

In Just One Day!

Ebó: territoriality in the African diaspora

The main objective of this essay (2) is to think about territoriality in the Tijuca Forest (figure I) in the city of Rio de Janeiro (3) from the lowered ebós (4), especially by the adherents of religions of African origin, which produce territorialities not only in green areas, but also at crossroads, on roads and in different urban landscapes. Corrêa (2006, p.52) points out that different cultural practices “[…] introduce a a wide range of information that allows us to establish socio-spatial analyses, thus contributing to an accurate understanding of society and the space built by it”. But what are the socio-spatial analyzes or territorial readings that we can carry out from the act of lowering an ebó? What does this religious manifestation line off in the African diaspora?

These concerns, which inspire the writing of this text, are observations that emerged during the exchange in the city of Rio de Janeiro and through readings of the spatial spellings in Floresta da Tijuca, that is, of human actions written and territorialized in these spaces.

Firstly, it’s important to envisage in the light of geographic science, the concept of territory and territoriality, to support the textual construction. Based on the author Rogério Haesbaert (2004), the territory is recognized through the multiple power relations juxtaposed on it, by different subjects/agents who dialectically appropriate and produce a range of manifestations. In this sense, the territory “[…] immersed in relations of domination and/or society-space appropriation, “unfolds along a continuum that goes from the more ‘concrete’ and ‘functional’ political-economic domination to the more subjective and/or ‘cultural-symbolic appropriation’” (HAESBAERT, 2004, p. 95-96). While territoriality from the perspective of Sack (1986, p. 219) “[…] is not just a way to create and maintain order, it’s a strategy for creating and maintaining much of the geographic context through which we experience the world and give meaning to it”. This is therefore based on the appreciation/mobilization of the feeling of belonging and the identity and cultural contexts of each individual or social group.

Directing the concept of territoriality to understand individual or collective religious experiences is, above all, walking along the itineraries that constitute and delimit the territory. In fact, according to Rosendahl (2005) it’s through the territory that the symbolic relationship that exists between culture and space is embodied. The author emphasizes “[…] territoriality is strongly impregnated with a cultural character. It’s through its geosymbols that the religion of a group prints marks that identify and delimit a given territory” (ROSENDAHL, 2005, p.12934). Intertwining the approaches, the ebós are the Afro-religious territoriality that manifests the symbolic and that reinforces the presence of the sacred wherever they are lowered.

In the religion of African origin, ebó is an offering dedicated to the orixás, composed of various elements and foods that together nourish the rituals of blessing, healing and thanksgiving. It’s also the best we have to offer. It’s communion, realignment, cleansing, care and self-love. At the same time, it can be considered as a complex system of communication that tends to elucidate many interpretations and narratives. In geography it’s easily identified as a geosymbol (5) that prints spatio-temporal cultural meanings and that semiograph identities. Ebó is the foundation that constitutes necessary attributes for the consolidation of the Afro-religious faith.

In an epistemological approach, the ebó is, as pointed out by Rufino (2019, p. 88), “[…] a procedure that enlivens the reasons in the enchantment so that knowledge is crossed, swallowed by other perspectives and returned in a transformed way” and this encounter is affected “[…] directly on the relations of knowledge/power, producing movements with forces to build other flows of knowledge” (LIMA, 2021, p. 44-45). For Ferreira and Fraga (2021), ebó as a set of concepts is understood from the dialogic fabric that brings together different forms of enunciation, which are anchored in decoloniality, which according to Rufino (2016, p. 63), “[…] is beyond a political and epistemological enterprise committed to radical transformations and the transgression of the limits that maintain power […]”. In this way, Lima (2021) emphasizes the ability that ebó has in reconstituting and forming places, reinforces its importance in identity crossings, which envision different dimensions and experiences.

It’s in this perspective that the Tijuca Forest and the ebos are being observed, as interconnected elements. It can be said that the constant presence of ebos around and within the Forest reinforces the importance of this space for carrying out Afro-religious practices in the African diaspora. Santos (1998, p.132) emphasizes that when the religious practices are frequent in the “[…] Forest fragments, they do so in search of resources other than materials. They look for them because in them they identify forces of a spiritual nature, from dense symbolic universes, forged and modified in the social process, in the aspirations and struggles of social groups”. Based on this reading, it’s possible to understand the Forests as the home of energies and natural forces that balance lives fragmented by the erasure of affective memories, which would keep the values and care for the environment.

Furthermore, the Tijuca Forest, the locus of the research, does not only represent a habitat, an ecosystem, it also feeds ancestral and religious behavior. It constitutes, in essence, a territory that maintains an African cultural heritage that, due to its historical and social importance, is generating a necessary element for life, especially urban life, imprinting its grandeur as an environmental heritage of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

When writing about ancestral relationships in Africa, Sobunfo Somé (2009), addresses the importance of rituals in building a relationship between man and nature inspired by spirituality. According to the author:

[…] there are many different spirits in Africa. Each of them has a specific role, or a specific characteristic, that can help us. The spirit of the earth, for example, is responsible for our identity, our comfort, our food, and so on. There is also the spirit of nature, the spirit of the river, the spirit of the mountain, the spirit of animals, water and ancestors. Spirit everywhere. (SOMÉ, 2009, p.28)

The perception brought by Somé (2009) is in line with the cultural and ancestral practice that permeates the different candomblé nations and other traditions of African origin in Brazil, which pays tribute to the sacred that inhabits nature, and this reverence happens through prayers, chants and ebós that feed NKisese, Yuxibu, Orixás and Voduns (6).

There is a Yoruba proverb that says that when a spiritual entity is not fed it dies, it ceases to exist. So, there is a dimension in the strictly religious realm, immediately religious, which is the nourishment of spiritual entities, of the dimensions and manifestations of the divine […].(LIFE, 2007, p. 298)

Therefore, although limited by time, I sought to apply the theory of territoriality in this text to carry out territorial readings, considering as an example, the presence of the ebós lowered in the surroundings and within the Tijuca Forest, which offer a fundamental contribution to understanding different epistemologies, human spellings and cultural practices inscribed in multiple territories.

  1. Urbanist, Master in Territorial Studies, both degrees from the University of the State of Bahia – UNEB.
  2. This essay is one of the results of the project “Forest: sacred territory” carried out in the Cidade Floresta residency program (2022) that took place in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
  3. According to the Brazilian Institute of Statistical Geography – IBGE, the estimated population of Rio de Janeiro in 2021 corresponds to 6,775,561/inhabitants and that more than half is represented by the black population.
  4. Beniste (2016) offering or sacrifice made to the deities.
  5. the geosymbol can be a place, an itinerary, an extension that, for religious, political or cultural reasons, in the eyes of certain people and ethnic groups, assumes a symbolic dimension that strengthens them in their identity (Bonnemaison, 2002: 99-109).
  6. Spiritual entities.
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