Learning about Candomblé / by Edna Bonhomme

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The African diaspora is so saturated with beauty, knowledge and strength and we have so many stories to tell. While in Paris, I learned about Candomblé an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition that was developed by enslaved Africans who originated from West African and were forced to migrate to settler colonial South America. The slaves and their descendants carry the traditions of Yoruba, Fon and other beliefs to honor Oludumaré and the many Orishas among us. She taught us that the practice is abot love, negotiation, collective power, and acceptance. I learned so much but was also struck by the positivity and love that was received by this practice which can be contrasted with the massive stigmatization of Voodoo in Haiti and by non-Haitians.

When a Gabonese friend and I discussed we could not help to think that it boiled down to one thing—Haiti has and will continue to be punished for what they do. As a Haitian person, I find that our African derived practices are not generally celebrated nor are they understood by outsiders. People rarely bother to learn Kreyol and often see Haiti (in the contemporary context) as a site of disease and poverty. But that is plain old wrong. I have been digging deep in my family’s history to challenge the lies I have been told and to unravel them so that I can see the beauty of my African descended cousins who speak Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, etc, as well. Our traditions can be celebrated and taken up as an act of resistance not a subject of shame.