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A Brazilian Story by:


Put Germany, Angola, Italy, Portugal and Japan in a blender. Shake it for a while and what will probably come out is a Japanese speaking German, dancing like an African and wearing Italian designer clothes. Close the blender, shake it again and what wil l c ome ou t is a p aradise b e ach full of gorgeous bikini women “samba-ing” away, bullets passing by with favela boys and police apologizing by saying: “tudo joia, belezza”. And if you close the shaker one more time to give it a really good shake, then what do you get? A groovy Catholic church with a cool Black Jesus and a trendy Black Mary, that’s right! We didn’t see this story coming, this is why it became the story of our Brazilian collection. And this is how it goes... 1


* T he African King who was taken to Brazil as a slave

In the beginning of the 1700s was Galanga, a King from Congo, a King without a kingdom. All he was left with were his people, chained like him to the damp and dark hold of a slave ship. They had been betrayed by a neighbouring King who wanted to steal their land to fulfill his lust for canons and wealth. Their villages were burnt down, their fields destroyed and the only survivors from the fightings were sold to Portuguese traders as slaves. 2

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* T  he Spirits from the sea

During the horrible trip at sea, a terrifying storm threatened to sink the ship. The Portugueses believing they needed to appease the furious gods from the sea decided to seize the Queen Djal么 and her daughter the princess Itulo and to throw them into the waters. The ship was saved as the waters calmed and Galanga saw his wife and daughter turned into sirens waving them goodbye. 4

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At that time, gold and precious stones had * T he Queen who was thrown into the sea and became a siren

been discovered in amazing quantities in Brazil. To extract all this gold and to transport it to the Portuguese ships, the colonists needed slaves, many slaves, slaves in such quantities that the landlords of the mines were buying ships full of them. This is how the King without a kingdom and his people were sold on their arrival in Rio de Janeiro to the rich owner of a gold mine. They were sent to work in the faraway land of the mine country. Before their departure holy water was thrown on them and they were baptised with Portuguese names like Pedro, Juca, Jose‌ all easier for their guards to remember. The King was given the name Chico. Between the harbour and the mines the road was long. It crossed rivers, dense forests, it climbed harsh peaks and went down deep ravins. During the journey the guards noticed Chico and his way of leading the rest of his companions. They had seen him stopping fights, checking that the food was equally split, making sure the strongest would carry the weakest. 7


Since all his companions obeyed him at all times the guards decided he would become responsible for the group. Out of mockery they nicknamed him Chico the King (Chico Rei). The country was at its richest time. The mines produced fabulous fortunes for the King of Portugal and for all the officials in charge of their exploitation. The city was dotted with churches covered in gold, magnificent mansions, paved

---------“I promised that I would fight for our liberation. As a result I observed and listened carefully and I decided there are two paths to achieve it. The first path is the rebellion. We are plenty and our masters are fewer. They are armed but we could get hold of their riffles. Others did so before. An African King named Zumbi even

streets, squares and fountains in all corners.

managed to create an African kingdom in

The wealth coming out of the mines was so well

of Zumbi resisted the Portuguese soldiers and

protected that all the workers, be them freemen

this country. For almost 100 years the kingdom the Dutch merchants until they were surrounded

or slaves were carefully checked when leaving

and finally defeated.

work. Hiding the smallest of gold nuggets or a tiny

The second path hasn’t been tried yet. It is

diamond was punished with a death sentence.

liberation through work and redemption of our

After observing the customs of this new land for a few weeks, one night Chico Rei gathered his people and said:

freedom. As we all know, we slaves are allowed to work for ourselves on weekends and bank holidays. We can save the money we will make from this work and buy our freedom with it. I leave it up to you to decide which path you want to follow. I know the path I prefer but I will help you whichever one you choose.�

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There was a long silence. The elders of the tribe gathered and debated. * The Spirits of the sky

They concluded: ---------“We will follow the path you recommend. After all without you we would know neither of these two paths in the first place.�

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Chico answered:

could see it. But after they had all washed their hair in the fountain and after the women had

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come to collect water from it, they came back

“Very well. Since you are giving me your trust we will take the second path. We will swear to work without stoping until the last one of us gets his freedom. And we will swear to not cut our hair during all this time and to only wash it in a single fountain of our choice. Our women will come to this fountain to get their water and this until the day we all become free again. I forbid anyone to steal gold from the mines,

with a small layer of gold covering the bottom of their pitcher. After one year they could chose the first couple whose freedom they could buy. The man who had been set free carried on working in the mine on his own account while his wife started baking cakes and sold them in the streets. After a few more months, another couple was set free, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth…

to drink alcohol or to start a fight. We must act swiftly so not to arouse any suspicion in our guards. Nobody must keep what they will earn for themselves. We must put all the money in

* T he slave who bought his freedom and became

a common box and we will decide together

a bird of freedom

when and how the first of us will be liberated.” That night they all swore to follow Chico’s plan. The men stopped cutting their hair and started washing it in one single fountain. During their work in the mines a very fine coat of gold powder was getting nto their hair. Of course, it was an extremely small quantity, so small that nobody 12

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Each freed couple carried on working to help set free the rest of the tribe. The remissions happened one after another in an ever growing rythme as the men’s hair growing longer carried more gold powder which the women carried to their houses. The years passed, the ones who had arrived as children became adults and joined the remission plan until the last one of the slaves was set free. ---------“Our task will only be finished the day we have a place to meet freely, a place where we will feel like equals to the men of this land� said Chico.

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For many years after the men carried on going from the mine to the fountain, and the women from the fountain to the market. The gold powder was transformed into coins, the coins into bricks and stones and the bricks and stones into houses... Chico Rei bought a piece of land on the supposely exhausted mine of Encardedeira, becoming the first black landlord of the country. And Chico ended up finding gold in his mine! So he finished buying the freedom of the 400 members of his tribe and began constructing a church for his community, Santa Efigenia do Alto da Cruz, which can still been seen today. The day the church was inogurated, Chico Rei, was the first one to enter it followed by his people. And all together they started singing a song of freedom from their motherland.

* Santa Efigenia

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* T he church constructed by the Black community

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This is how Chico Rei has become part of the Brazilian folklore and the admirable tale of his fight for freedom has captured the imagination of many Brazilian storytellers.

Bibliography: An African King in Brazil by Béatrice Tanaka, Samba Enredo “Chico Rei” from Salgueiro

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©Kore Kamino 2011 www.korekamino.com

SOL DA LIBERDADE - A Brazilian Story  

This is the incredible story of an African king slaved with his tribe to hard labor in a Brazilian gold mine. He managed to buy out their fr...