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Tracing Brazilian Heritage Back To Africa by abiolaalabi(m): 7:02pm On Mar 08, 2013
While most people would consider South America to be a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and Native roots, a huge cultural debt is also owed to the slaves that were taken from West Africa. In Brazil, the link is particularly strong and there are over 150 million people of African descent living there, with more than a third descendants of the Yoruba who make up 21% of Nigeria’s population.

Ever since the United Nations Proclaimed 2011 as the year for the “People of African Descent”, there have been more concerted efforts to help showcase the rich cultural heritage that the people of Africa possess and the extent to which they have influenced cultures around the world.
In Brazil, Salvador is the largest Afro-Brazilian metropolitan region and the depth at which the roots of the two peoples are entwined can be seen in one of Brazil's staple dish. Known as Feijoada (a stew comprised of beef and pork), this dish was actually prepared and introduced to Brazil by African slaves and is common in many African regions as well.

The fact that the people of Africa were once brought to Brazil as slaves does not surprise the newer generation as much as their traditions and customs. It’s not uncommon to see the Yoruba traditions on the streets of Brazil during the carnivals and as so many of the people are of Nigerian descent, the Yoruba traditions are clearly understandable to many in Brazil.

Encouraging people of African origin in Brazil to establish their own community and explore their roots has been a top priority for several organisations across the globe. For instance, Lagrant Communications, a firm based in Los Angeles that focuses on African American and Hispanic markets, started a site called Afro-Brazilian.com, which is an active effort towards educating the world about these two similar cultures.

Lagos State in Nigeria plans to host the next cultural showcase that will offer millions of people an opportunity to experience and revel in the rich cultures that Brazil's population of African descendants have to offer. Known as the Lagos Black Heritage Festival, it is an annual event to highlight the reach of African culture to the Mediterranean and beyond, this year the festival has a focus on Brazil, with Thobias de Vai Vai, singer, actor, former leader of Carnival Brazilian and president of the samba school Sao Paolo Vai-Vai being a highlight.

The Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka is the Festival coordinator and under his stewardship the program promises to be exciting, vibrant and highly educational with traditional dances, art exhibitions, contemporary mixes and photo expansions, along with several symposiums and dramas on the schedule.
During the inauguration of the festival, Professor Soyinka explained, “Our children do not understand why we have people who practice Nigerian cultures in Brazil; all they know is that in Brazil they have blacks who are descendants of slaves from Nigeria. They are astonished to see traditions of the Yoruba on streets of places such as Salvador during carnivals”

This year the planning committee were able to rely on expertise from Trico Capital International, a specialist financial advisory practice focused on developing infrastructure projects in West Africa. Their CEO, Austine Ometoruwa [url]twitter.com/AustineOmetoruw[/url], was able to help structure and arrange the financing that enabled the Festival to continue despite early fears about the ability to secure sponsors.

The Lagos Black Heritage Festival opened on the 22nd of December 2012 and is expected to continue until October 2013, with the main festivities running from the 23rd of March until the 1st of April 2013.

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