Amid the sweltering rainforests, jewel blue coast lines and bustling cities, sways the rhythm of a colourful nation. Brazil’s identity is forged through; diverse wildlife, scenic beauty and most importantly its people. Holding a large portion of the east coast of South America, Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, making the country’s biodiversity and varied landscapes a realistic concept.
Brazil has become synonymous for annual events that create vivid, celebratory atmospheres throughout the country. Festivals such as; Carnival, Festa Junina and New Year’s at Copacabana supply world wide travellers who witness this Brazilian nation celebrate their culture with energy and flair. One integral part of Brazilian culture that has become an unforgettable event is the Boi Bumba festival. Known under many names such as; Bumba Meu Boi, Boi Calemba, etc throughout the states of Brazil, the roots of this celebration lie in folklore, legends and symbolism.
This week is the last chance to view this theatrical folk story tradition also known as the Ox festival, celebrated throughout the country. It is story telling told through the mediums of; music, dance, costumes and drums, about a bull brought back to life. Originating in the north east of Brazil, researchers suggest this feast began during the Brazilian cattle cycle (19th century) when the bull held great symbolism and economic importance. Swayed heavily by the African, Indian and Portuguese influences of those colonial times.
The Boi Bumba festival revolves around a simple folk story, with many interpretations throughout history and many parts of Brazil honour different versions. What many agree on, is the tale of a slave husband Francisco and his pregnant wife Catirina. When she craves to eat ox tongue, he uses his master’s best ox, upon realising his prized ox’s demise, the owner calls upon priests and shamans’ to bring the bull back to life. The community rejoices and the slave couple are reunited.
A simple folklore tale that in 1913 was a modest scale celebratory procession. Over the last 100 years however, this festival has grown into a musical performance, religious procession and tribal celebration sourced from a long standing tale. Characters, parades, costumes, sets and performances are now heavily incorporated into this festival.
Most parades have several characters from this ancient tale; Francisco, Catirina, the owner, the priest and of course the bull. A master of ceremonies is usually present to tell the story and introduce the characters, using elaborate costumes to represent the story. Motifs of mythological creatures and legends from many eras, have been incorporated into this festival, in Parintins city the festival might also be called the Parintins Folklore festival.
Two of the biggest Boi Bumba celebrations may be found in the northern states of Amazonas and Maranhao. Their capital’s Parintins and Sao Luis respectively host this Boi Bumba festival tailored to their own specific style. In Parintins, huge floats and exotic costumes bring this tale roaring to life, with two competitive samba schools; Garantido and Caprichoso holding annual performances in a show of tradition and rivalry. In Sao Luis music is everything, varied costumed musical groups called Sotaques each bring their own celebration and style to this parade. From orchestra, percussion and drums, the streets of Sao Luis are filled with an unforgettable reverberating rhythm.
The Boi Bumba festival fills Brazil with passion, fun and energy. Celebrating in a light hearted fashion, what has become an essential piece of Brazilian culture. It demonstrates that patriotism can exist without the need to be deeply rooted in religion or historical events, it may be a tale of symbolism, a story from long past ancestors, honoured and celebrated by a nation.
What makes folklore become so important to a nation’s culture?