I recently returned from a trip to Salvador, Brazil with students. One of the things that struck me the most while there were the women we met, especially the older women.
While there we visited a quilombo, a rural village founded originally by runaway slaves and in the case of the community we visited, the Engenho de Ponte community, also the site of a Candomble house. The woman to the left is a rezadeira, or healer for the community who demonstrated to us how she makes her various syrups and potions, and gave us a taste of her syrup. She struck me as incredibly beautiful and wise, and I struggled to capture that beauty in this photo.
Both shy and strong in her knowledge, she reminded me a bit of my now gone grandmother.
The woman in the middle at the top was the mother and leader of one of the villages in the community. She is 94. We sat on her porch while she told us stories of how the village came to be, of dreams and visitations from spirits. She is the keeper and teller of stories for the community. Earlier, when we had gathered together with members of the community in a circle and asked for blessings from whatever god or spirit we cared to, the children and members of this woman's village asked for her blessings. It was then I knew I was in a truly foreign country. My own family and culture honors traditional youth and beauty so much that honoring and asking for blessings from an elder would never happen.
The woman at the top left was the "mother" of the Candomble house, Mama Giovani, and is responsible for the spiritual life of the members of her community. I found her story to be inspirational as well: she left the village to become a teacher, but returned because she was needed and felt a call. She said it wasn't easy to return, but her large and generous presence and spirit filled every space she walked.
Finally there was Rita, the director of the Bahia Street project we visited (top right, dreadlocks). Born in a favela herself, a practioner of Candomble, she has risen to become the director of a non-profit organization that focuses on helping young girls escape the cycle of poverty and violence that awaits many of those born in favelas in Salvador.
This post is mostly about getting these photos up--trying to figure out how to post photos. I will write more about what struck a chord in me with respect to these women in my next post.