Dany Leriche
Jean Michel Fickinger
In 2009, inspired by Roger Bastide’s books on the Candomblé, the rites of possession and trances, we travelled to Brazil. We were faced with a mixture of African, Amerindian and European cultures and were surprised to discover the place given to religion in the Region of Bahia. Our project covered Sao Félix, Cachoeira, Salvador and Itaparica, but what interested us was the intermingling of cultures and the survival of an African culture through the Candomblé.

The spiritual families of Brazil

"The contemporary revolution is not the birth of logical reflection, it is the death of metaphysics or its lessening to a role of mere servant to human interests." Roger Bastide, Le Candomblé de Bahia.

"Sons and Daughters of the Gods "

The Candomblé is, the sound of the drum, the heartbeat, a trance, a rite of possession enabling us to discover unconscious strengths forces. This Brazilian rite was, in the 16th century, that of the slaves from the Bénin (West Africa), who worked on the sugar plantations in Brazil. It recreated, in from their memory, age old beliefs. Rituals help to strengthen social structures and deal with tensions.
Jean Rouch in his film “Les Maîtres fous” (The crazy Masters) notes the Therapeutic virtues which trance seems to have on its protagonists, a wonderful remedy against the hardships of life
To exist, the practice of Candomblé takes place under the cover of the Saints in the Catholic Church, which in time adopted them developing a harmonious synergy between the two religions. For example, Oxossi (God of hunting) is hidden behind Saint Goerges, Yansa (the warrior) behind Santa Barbara, Shango (God of Justice) behind Saint Jérôme, Ogum (God of War) behind Saint Antoine, Oxumaré (the Rainbow) behind Saint Barthélemy, Omulu (God of healing) behind Saint Lazare etc. These divinities are called “Orixas”.
Since the XVI century the Candomblé has survived the mixed movements of the population, urbanisation, the colonial inheritance and the hybrid practices of the modern world, but what is the situation today of the Candomblé in Bahia? Is it threatened by the new marketing technologies and the proliferation of other churches?
Just a few steps in the streets of Salvador reveal new places of worship every 10 metres Universities, televisions, internet sites, newspapers, books, and tracts: Evangelists and their star pastors have the means to convert the entire planet. Their intolerance clashes in this tolerant multiracial Brazilian society. They are the sworn enemies of religious syncretism by which the Indians and black slaves maintained their culture when integrating the Catholic religion imposed on them.
If the Candomblé was the re-invention of an African religion in Bahia, how could it survive in the Togo, Nigeria or in the Benin (previously Dahomey), communist countries from 1974 to 1989 ? Curiously, the Bonfim church of Salvador was rebuilt in identical form in the Bénin by freed slaves, who had returned to their country. Religious syncretisms of the same nature are present in the Réunion. In Nigeria, one can find the highest concentration of churches and mosques in the world, but there are also many traditional African organisations. More than 250 different ethnic groups still worship ancestral goddesses. In black Africa, how do traditional religions integrate or reject the recent expansion of Islam?
Having begun this Photographic and Artistic work on the possible cohabitation of “Spiritual families”, we would now like to pursue our research in the Caribbean,Cuba, French Guyana and the Indian Ocean.