Finding my roots in Brazil
Part of understanding who my Tabom ancestors were, and subsequently who I am, includes unravelling the past events which lead to them fleeing Brazil for their freedom back to West Africa… To be back in Bahia, in 2019 – The Year of Return – on the date of the Malê revolt (24th-25th January) isn’t luck, but rather, I believe it to be my destiny written by fate.
Six years ago during my month’s stay in Salvador as part of my Tabom research, I was coincidentally reading João José Reis‘ ‘Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia‘, on the night of the 24th January – the same date and in the same city the revolt had taken place 178 years prior. I took to my blog to share this overwhelming coincidence. For the first time in my research, I was a step closer to understanding why my Tabom ancestors left Brazil for the voyage back to Africa…
The Malê revolt of 1935
The Malê revolt – Revolts dos Malês, is perhaps the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil. Inspired by the revolts in Saint-Domingue (Haiti), the rebellion subsequently resulted in the banishing of many slaves back to West Africa where the Tabom of Accra Ghana, Agudas of Lagos Nigeria and Benin, and other Brazilian communities in West Africa emerged.
Muslim influence in Brazil
It’s also important to point out the Muslim influence of the Malê revolt. The word Malê refers to what African slave Muslims were called in Bahia at this time (said to derive from imale that designated a Yoruba Muslim, though I’ve also read somewhere it could have derived from referring to African Muslims from Mali). The Malê revolt, a flight against oppression, was greatly inspired by the teachings of African Muslim scholars. Islam has been in Brazil prior to the more recent influx of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants. I’m looking forward to reading Habeeb Akande’s ‘Illuminating the Blackness: Black and African Muslims in Brazil to uncover more about the Islam influence.
Tabom no Brasil
So I’m once again in Bahia on the date of the Malê revolt, on it’s 184th anniversary. This trip I’ve had the opportunity to visit Cachoeira; a prominent city in Bahia for the black empowerment movement. I spent the 24th January in this city before returning to Salvador the following day. In my research came across a name, Ahuna, a Nagô (Yoruba Muslim) slave who lived in Salvador who traveled frequently to Santo Amaro where his owner had a sugar plantation. It has been suggested that his presence was a key factor in the timing of the Malê rebellion. Call it ironic or coincidence – I stayed the night in Santo Amaro, a district of the Cachoeira region. Everything, it seems, is inter-connected!
A sense of Enlightenment…
I feel the same sense of ‘enlightenment’ I felt 6yrs ago, that I’m in the ‘right place at the right time’ – especially after making a spontaneous decision to miss two flights back home to London and follow my heart (and research) in Bahia. I take this opportunity to honour the ancestors for their guidance, and showing me that I too possess some of their ruthless strength… even if I’m still yet to discover its full potential…
I’ll be sharing more on my journey of self-discovery, a visit to Cachoeira, and taking the opportunity to pay homage to my ancestors at Arembepe beach in Bahia.
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions in the comment box below!
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