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A Refuge in Thunder

December 4, 2013 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Campbell Dome

The Evolution and Significance of Brazilian Candomblé

Dr. Rachel Elizabeth Harding, University of Colorado, DenverClick here to view/download poster

Candomblé is a religion that embraces a rich, poetic complex of ritual action, cosmology, and meaning. It has deep roots in several religious traditions of West Africa and West Central Africa – especially Aja-Fon, Bantu, and the Yoruba Orisha practice. It is a (re)creation of these traditions, in addition to synthesizing aspects of Islam, Indigenous Indian spiritual practices and Catholicism. Candomble evolved within the matrix of slavery, colonialism and mercantilism, which characterized Brazil from the sixteenth through nineteenth century. Like many African American religious traditions that arose during that period (such as Santeria in Cuba, Vodou in Haiti and the Black Protestant Christianity of the southern United States), Candomblé took its shape and meaning from the experience of African people and their descendants in slave-based societies as they tried to make sense of themselves, the  brutality of their working and living conditions,  and their relationship to the structures of power as well as the structures of Being.

Rachel Elizabeth Harding, a native of Georgia, is  a writer, historian and poet. Harding is a specialist in religions of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora and studies the relationship between religion and s­ocial justice activism in cross-cultural perspective. A Cave Canem Fellow, she­­­ holds an MFA in creative writing from Brown University and a PhD in history from the University of Colorado Boulder. She is author of A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness (Indiana University Press, 2000) as well as numerous poems and essays. She is also an initiate of Oxûm and an ebômi of the Terreiro do Cobre Candomblé community in Salvador, Bahia where she has been a member for 20 years. Dr. Harding is Assistant Professor of Indigenous Spiritual Traditions in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Denver.

Recommended Readings

(These are available on demand from Edisa Weeks, edisa.weeks@qc.cuny.edu)

Rachel Harding, “É a Senzala: Slavery, Women and Embodied Knowledge in Afro-Brazilian Candomblé,” in Women and Religion in the African Diaspora, eds. Barbara Savage and R. Marie Griffith, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

Rachel Harding, “Candomblé,” expanded version of essay that originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas, ed. Colin Palmer, Farmington Hills, MI: Thompson Gale, 2005.

Makota Valdina Pinto, “Candomblé Cosmology and Environmental Racism,” translated from Portuguese by Rachel Harding.

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