Located in the Salvador, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Bahia is the country’s oldest Church known as the Sao Francisco Cathedral. Besides the Cathedral is a small replica church. Both houses of worship were built in the 19th century by African slaves of West African descent. These migrants brought their flavour unto the agricultural, architectural, religious and culinary sectors of the Brazilian society. Salvador which is the historical and cultural heart of Brazil happens to be the birthplace of many notable Brazilian artistes, writers and musicians is considered to possess the greatest and most distinctive African imprint interns of culture and customs.
By 1834, when slave trade was abolished, many of the African migrants returned to their native countries leaving behind indelible traces of their cultural values. Incidentally, the African society began to feel the impact of the returnees in more ways than one. For example, the city centre in Nigeria’s capital of Lagos developed not only a “Brazilian quarters” but indeed the huge Lagos Cathedral was constructed complete with un-mistakable Brazilian architecture!.
The cultural traffic was not one way. As the returnees came back with Brazilian influences in music, worship, architecture, dress sense, technologies, traditions and so on, Nigerians who remained back in Brazil transferred their cultures and other attributes to the Brazilians too.
The Yoruba influence is seen in the daily life of Brazil centuries later, Its not surprising therefore that we have this fascinating discovery of a particular Nigerian delicacy “AKARA” which is known as “ACARAJE” in Salvador. Acaraje is a street food made from peeled beans formed into ball and then deep- fried in dende (palm oil). It is traditionally encountered in Brazil’s north eastern state of Bahia, especially in the city of Salvador. Acaraje serves as both a religion and as street food. The dish was brought by slaves from West Africa, and can be found in various forms in Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali, Gambia and Sierra Leone.
It is therefore not a huge surprise that Nigeria and Brazil have so much in common, from their history of trade ties which dates to when the returnees from Brazil got to Lagos and dominated export trade by selling cotton, traditional artefacts and kola nuts to Africans in Bahia. Another area of similarity between both countries is the worship of Orisha, a deity of western Nigeria. Yemoja is the patroness of motherhood, childbirth, the womb, giver of life, and all things relating to femininity. She is the great nurturing force linked to water and the seas, as water is the major sustenance of life. “Yemoja” is widely revered in these two countries. In Brazil, she is known as Yemanja and the religion is adapted into what is known as Candomble.
In the modern era, the unique dribbling skills of Nigerian football has made many including FIFA to dub her as the ‘Brazil’ of the African continent. Nigerian footballer Richard Owobokiri actually did play professional football in Brazil and just a few years ago, Ifeanyi Uba Football Club of Nnewi not only employed a Brazilian coach but indeed paraded three Brazilian players in its league squad. The concept of the famous Rio Carnival has also been successfully replicated in the southern state of Cross River with many international tourists flocking there for the annual Calabar Carnival.
These and many other elements propelled Michael Olusegun Akinruli to establish the Yoruba Institute of Art and Culture in Brazil in 2006. According to him “Brazil and Nigeria are twin sisters who share the same interest, culture and challenges. Yoruba culture is a profoundly important influence in Brazil life, and there is a great deal of interest among the descendants of the slaves brought to the country in retracing their roots and learning their family histories”.
The views of Mr. Akinruli are shared by Ambassador Adamu Emozozo, who was Nigeria’s Ambassador when Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2016.He revealed some other obvious similarities which range from their unique positions in their respective continents, their population, their locations on the world map, dressing, food, their complexion, their style and pattern of playing football and other essential interest which make the two countries endowed with leadership qualities. In his words ”the most striking semblance between Nigeria and Brazil is their size and challenges.