Orixás Favorite 



Jan 13 2017



Imagine if back in the 1960s, creators Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had found inspiration for The Avengers in Yoruba mythology. Instead of Iron Man, we'd have the warrior Oxaguiã. Taking the place of the blue-eyed, blonde-haired Norse god Thor would be the equally strong and black-skinned Xangô, the ruler of justice — who also happens to carry a hammer. That's just what 30-year-old Brazilian artist Hugo Canuto had in mind when in August 2016 he reimagined the classic #4 Avengers cover, replacing all the famous characters with Orishas (spelled Orixás in Portuguese), the deities of modern-day Afro-Brazilian religions which trace their origins back to Nigeria and Benin. He named the title of his spin-off “The Orixás,” mixing both Portuguese and English on purpose, he says. Brazil was at the center of the Portuguese-driven transatlantic slave trade, both before and after Brazilian independence in 1822. Bahia, where the Portuguese settlers first landed in 1500, received alone more than 1.3 million slaves, who came primarily from West Central Africa and the Bight of Benin.

Their rituals and beliefs survived the 300 years of forced labour and extreme violence. Those beliefs now manifest through the modern-day Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomblé and Umbanda, which are an amalgam of various traditions from different African ethnic groups, especially the Yoruba, but also the Fon and the Bantu.But despite being so embedded in Bahian culture, the Afro-Brazilian religions are still little understood by most of Brazil's population — often facing stigmatization and even persecution by radical evangelical Christians.

For Hugo, a major point of the project is to celebrate these religious narratives that survived time and distance and have become such an important aspect of Brazilian culture.

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