By word of mouth the saying goes; African slaves weren’t allowed in the churches during the time of slavery and they were made to wash the steps of the churches. Today Lavagem Itapua is a festival paying homage to Afro-Brazilian tradition.
The traditional ‘Laundering Itapuã’ is amongst the most famous and oldest religious festivals that takes place in Salvador. 2013 marks the festivals’ 108-year celebrations which takes place on the thursday the week before the carnival!
In praise of Our Lady of Conception and also in african-Brazilian syncretism corresponds to Yemanja , the feast originated from the hands of a former neighborhood resident, known as Dona NICU.
The initiating of the Laundering Itapuã starts at dawn. A Bando announcer begins the ritual to awaken the residents of the neighborhood to the sound of guitars, banjos, ukuleles, mandolins and maracas. Fireworks announce the sunrise and prewash the staircase of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Itapuã by the locals and elders of the neighbourhood.
Expect a pre-carnival atmosphere with a religious and traditional twist as can be expected in Salvador. The party consists of african drums by The Maidens, Sea Galley and traditional Malê Debalê. At about midday the ‘symbolic’ washing steps of the official church takes place where a large crowd consisting of media, baianos proudly holding their brooms, locals and tourists awaiting the procession. A “spiritual housecleaning” held by supporters of african-Catholic syncretic faith.
Safety is paramount in such events. Police stands are dotted along the parade and you’re likely to see police passing by. Nether-the-less, always keep a watchful eye on your belongs. Its advised to carry as little as possible… Then you can be free to enjoy the festivities!