Kings, queens, "caboclos", cowboys and "bois-bumbá." Get to know more about each tradition and the context behind its clothes.
The festival was born from the yearning to preserve their African and Brazilian esthetics. An entire system of solidarity built around the "Calunga" (the decorated doll that symbolizes the protector of each "maracutu" nation) and the "maracatu" ensures that the imagery of African royalty, with their processions, reverential dances, banners, parasols, and lavish clothing, is safeguarded in this Afro-Brazilian reinterpretation.
Wood, cotton, organza, metals
The Africanist and Brazilian ambassador Alberto Costa e Silva drew attention to the influence of the "Calunga" cult among the Ambundu tribe in Angola. According to legend, the civilizing hero of the Ambundu, Angola Inene, brought the sacred wooden relic (which often takes a human form and is called "lungas" or the plural "malunga" in Kimbundu) from the lands in the northeast, although others claim the figure originally came from the sea.
The Europeans, moreover, saw "Calunga" as a high deity and may even have contaminated Ambundu beliefs with this new conceptual interpretation. (...) Consequently, the "Calunga" has long been (from the beginning of the 13th century?) a source of political power—a social organization rooted in the land and grounded in a specific place, rather than based on a kinship structure.
One of the most famous "maracatu" nations in Brazil is the Maracatu Elefante, whose main queen was Maria Júlia do Nascimento, the legendary Dona Santa (1877–1962). Equally famous are the Porto Rico do Oriente and the Estrela Brilhante.
'Cabloco spearman of Maracatu Piaba de Ouro' Garment
Vegetal fiber, cotton thread, metallized plastic, wood, sequins and synthetic fiber ribbons.
Particularly interesting are the banners used in "maracatu" parades. These bear the emblem of each "maracatu" nation, some featuring an animal, such as a lion, tiger, or elephant, which can sometimes identify the group. These animals are embroidered onto the banners using red or golden thread, along with motifs and initials that express and synthesize each group's visual identity.
The most common shape for the hats is based on Portuguese colonial-style churches, with two side towers and a larger central dome surmounted by a cross. But hats in the shape of crowns to represent the Three Wise Men coming to worship the baby Jesus, or other shapes depicting Christmas scenes, are not uncommon.
Museu Afro Brasil