The Sisterhood of Good Death

Black female resistance and entrepreneurship in the 19th century interpreted by Jess Vieira.

Sisterhood is Alive (2020) by Jess VieiraAfro Brasil Emanoel Araujo Museum

The Sisterhood of Good Death, like many others, derived off of catholic traditions but was dedicated to the worship of ancestral black saints entities.

It began in the 19th century at the city of Cachoeira, in the brazilian state of Bahia, at Casa Estrela Foundation.

Sisterhood is Alive (2020) by Jess VieiraAfro Brasil Emanoel Araujo Museum

Its creators were also the founders of some of the most relevant terreiros (houses of workship for the Candomblé religion) in Salvador.

More than worshiping saints, they were places where these women came together to help each other. It was the birthplace of tabuleiras, women who sell food on the street served on trays (tábuas). They are considered to have been the first free working women, creating a sense of community, sorority and entrepreneurship ahead of its time.

The Sisterhood of Good Death is recognized as a valuable Afro-Brazilian cultural institution, inserted within the context of black cultural and political forms of resistance, from slavery to post abolition and still maintaining this aspect today.

The so-called ganhadeiras, or “winners”, were black women, enslaved or
freed, who can be considered as the possible first free female workers in Brazil - and even the first female entrepreneurs, given that the being a “winner” meant being a person who worked for their own earnings, having to pay only a part to their masters when enslaved or enjoying the total profit of their work when free.

Thus, the Sisterhood of Good Death represents today an important experience of Brazilian black history, dealing specifically with the historical, political and social legacy of black women within Brazilian public life.

This artwork was inspired by the history of the Sisterhood of Good Death and created in celebration of Black Consciousness Day in Brazil, observed on November 20th.

The artist Jess Vieira deals with the theme “Sisterhood of the Good Death” by expressing the particular magnificence of the women in this group. The Sisterhood paved way for the first free black female workers in the history of Brazil.

Costume from the Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death Costume from the Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death (1900/1999) by UnknownAfro Brasil Emanoel Araujo Museum

You can learn more about The Sisterhood of Good Death visiting Afro Brasil Museum's collection and in the online exhibition Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death, Egun and Orishas dolls: Afro-Brazilian religiosity

Credits: Story

Text and research: Douglas Araújo
Artwork: Jess Vieira

A special collaboration between Afro Brasil Museum and Google Arts & Culture.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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