Main Characteristics of Afro-Brazilian Culture

The african-Brazilian culture dates back to the colonial period, when the transatlantic slave trade forced millions Africans to come to Brazil. Thus, the largest population of African origin outside Africa was formed.

This culture is marked by its relationship with other cultural references, especially indigenous and European, which is constantly developing in Brazil.

Characteristics of Afro-Brazilian Culture

One of the main characteristics of Afro-Brazilian culture is that there is no cultural homogeneity throughout the national territory.

The distinct origin of the Africans brought to Brazil forced them to appropriate and adapt so that their cultural practices and representations would survive.

Thus, it is common to find the African cultural heritage represented in new cultural practices.

African demonstrations, rituals and customs were prohibited. They were not persecuted by the law until the 1930s, during Getúlio Vargas’ Estado Novo.

Thus, they started to be celebrated and valued, until, in 2003, law nº 10.639 (Law of Guidelines and Bases of Education) is enacted.

This law required that Brazilian elementary and secondary schools have in their curricula the teaching of Afro-Brazilian history and culture.

The two most prominent and influential groups in Brazil are:

  • the Bantos, brought from Angola, Congo and Mozambique;
  • the Sudanese, from West Africa, Sudan and the Guinea Coast.

We must emphasize that the most populated regions with African labor were: Bahia, Pernambuco, Maranhão, Alagoas, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.

This is due to the large number of slaves received (Northeast region) or the migration of slaves after the end of the sugar cane cycle (Southeast region).

See also: African Legends

Aspects of Afro-Brazilian Culture

From the outset, we must emphasize that Afro-Brazilian culture is a constituent part of Brazilian memory and history and that its aspects overflow the margins of this text.

It composes customs and traditions: mythology, folklore, language (spoken and written), cuisine, music, dance, religion, in short, the Brazilian cultural imagination.

See also: African Art: the cultural richness of this great continent

The Popular Festivities

Feast of Yemanja

Carnival, the biggest Brazilian popular party, celebrated at the beginning of the year and mobilizing the nation.

The Festa de São Benedito, the main party of the Congado (an expression of Afro-Brazilian culture), celebrated on the weekend after Easter.

And, finally, the Feast of Yemanjá, held on February 2nd.

Know the History and Origin of Carnival .

Music and Dance

Djembê, African Drum

The Afro-Brazilian influence is evident in expressions such as Samba , Jongo, Carimbó , Maxixe, Maculelê, Maracatu . They use various instruments, with emphasis on Afoxé, Atabaque, Berimbau and Tambor.

We must not lose sight of the fact that these musical expressions are also bodily. They reflect on the ways of dancing, as in the case of Maculelê, a Brazilian folk dance, and samba de roda , a musical variation of samba.

We have other expressions of music and dance, such as ritual dances, the creole drum, and more contemporary styles, such as samba-reggae and axé from Bahia.

Finally, Capoeira deserves special mention . It is a mix of dance, music and martial arts banned in Brazil for many years and declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014.

The Cuisine


Cuisine is another typical element of Afro-Brazilian culture. She introduced clay pots, coconut milk, black beans, okra, among many others.

However, the best known foods are those of Bahian cuisine, prepared with palm oil and peppers.

The highlights are Abará, Vatapá and Acarajé, as well as the Northeastern Quibebe, prepared with sun-dried meat or beef jerky; besides the pamonha and cocada candies

And finally, the most famous Brazilian dish of all: feijoada. It was created by the slaves as an appropriation of Portuguese feijoada and produced from the remains of meat that the planters did not consume.

See also: African masks: importance and meanings

The religion

Cult of Candomblé

The Afro-Brazilian religion was characterized by syncretism with Catholicism, from where it united aspects of Christianity to its religious traditions.

This was so that they could carry out African religious practices secretly (association of saints with orishas), since the conversion was only apparent.

Thus, Batuque, Xambá, Macumba and Umbanda syncretism were born , while some African variations of Quimbanda, Cabula and Candomblé were preserved.


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