Recognized as a Brazilian Cultural Territory by the Palmares Foundation, and as Cultural Heritage by the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN), Terreiro do Bate Folha, or Mansu Bandu Kenkê (Manso Banduquenqué) is an important centre of the Congo-Angola (or simply Angola) Nation Afro-Brazilian cult, located in the city of Salvador, Bahia.
The Terreiro do Bate Folha (Hit Leaf Yard) at 65-E Rua Dionísio Brito Santana, the former Travessa São Jorge, in the Mata Escura do Retiro neighbourhood, is the city’s largest in terms of space and one of the oldest in activity. Founded in 1916 by Manoel Bernardino da Paixão, or Ampumandezu, it occupies an area of 14.8 hectares, belonging to the Santa Barbara Beneficent Society, which represents it civically. It is dedicated to Inquice Bamburucema, who is equivalent to St Barbara among Catholics and Iansã in the candomblé deities (orixás).
Working with leaves grown in the sacred forest (manhonga) gave the terreiro (yard) its name. The appreciation and cultivation of knowledge associated to flora by the terreiro’s members make the place not only a cultural and spiritual centre, but also an environmental preservation area. Bate Folha is distinguished by a huge area of Atlantic forest, about 70% of its total area, which has centuries-old sacred trees.
Under the command of men, as the highest office in the rigid hierarchy must be occupied by male initiates who enter into trance, deities from the Bantu tradition, or inquices, are worshiped at the terreiro. Since its founding, Bate Folha has been led by six priests, called Tata:
• Manoel Bernardino da Paixão – Ampumandezu (1916–1946);
• Antônio José da Silva – Tata Bandanguame – (1949–1965);
• Pedro Ferreira – Tata Dijineuanga – (1965–1970);
• João José da Silva (Joca) – Tata Nebanji – (1970–1991);
• Eduarlindo Crispiano de Souza – Tata Molundurê – (1991–2007);
• Cícero Rodrigues Franco Lima - Tata Munguaxi – current.
The rituals of initiation and formation of novices are called “barco” (boat). Throughout its existence, fifteen barcos have been performed at Terreiro do Bate Folha. The initiation process includes a three-month period of total self-communion plus another three of partial self-communion in specific areas of the terreiro called “runcó”, which are closed and forbidden to lay people.
Terreiros, places of memory preservation, reflect aspects of their society of origin in their physical and symbolic spaces. In the case of Bate Folha, its occupation structure resembles that of Jêje-Nago terreiros, with the exception of the area for the initiation process. As description in Opinion no. 163/03 – 7th SR/IPHAN (IPHAN, 2003, f.147),
in the highest part, level and next to the current main entrance are the terreiro’s two main buildings: a big house or main temple – where the runcó, the ritual kitchen, living areas and rooms from the chief priests are – and the barracão (shed), where the public celebrations take place. Also in the latter building are the sanctuaries of Lembá (Oxalá), Bamburucema (Iansã) and Unzanzi (Xangô).[...]
In the area bordering these two buildings are the majority of small individual shrines dedicated to the divinities worshiped in the terreiro. [...] Behind the two main buildings is the house of Ogãs; the Time God’s sanctuary, in a fig tree; four seats for Ungira (Exu); and duly separated from the inquice cult’s worship area, inside the bush, the house of the Vumbi or ancestors.
The festivals promoted by the terreiro are moments of celebration and socialisation, as well as the demarcation of similarities and differences. The language used in rituals, called “Angola”, is actually a mixture of other African languages and Portuguese and according to Serra (2002, p.10) “functions as a religious code and an identity marker”.
According to Raul Lody (IPHAN, 2000 f.126-130), in a communication to IPHAN during the preservation process of Terreiro do Bate Folha, its annual festival cycle comprises eleven feasts, with public and private moments, strongly associated with the Catholic calendar:
• Feast of Lemba – on the first Saturday of January, lasting 16 days, private and public rituals in honour of the inquice responsible for creating the world and man;
• Feast of Kavungo and Zumbá – on the last Saturday of January, lasting 16 days, two of which open to the public, dedicated to the inquices related to land and the creation of the world;
• Closure – before Lent
• Opening – on Holy Saturday;
• Feast of Kukueto – on the last Saturday of May, lasting 16 days, in praise of the inquice of the sea and maternity;
• Feast of Unkossi and Mutacolombô – on 13 June (St Anthony’s Day) or on the following Saturday, lasting 16 days, devoted to the inquices of the forests and hunting;
• Feast of Unzazi – on 24 or 29 June, lasting 16 days, marked by bonfires;
• Feast of the Caboclo – 2 July, commemorating the independence of Bahia;
• Feast of Time – on 10 August (St Lawrence’s Day in the Christian calendar), lasting 16 days;
• Feast of Ongorô and Katendê – on 24 August or the following Saturday, lasting 16 days;
• Feast of Bamburucema and Dandalunda – on 4 December (St Barbara’s Day) or the following Saturday.
The prestige of Terreiro do Bate Folha in society in general and among other nations is such that Mother Stella de Oxóssi, Yalorixá of the Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá, requested its preservation at the federal level, citing the need to preserve a space of the Angola nation cult.
The term ‘nation’ used in Candomblé refers to the place of origin of its founders, and therefore the spoken language. Congolese and Angolans, as they were called in Brazil, are people from the Bantu ethno-linguistic group, originating from the region where Angola and Mozambique are today. Their presence in Brazil greatly influenced our culture and our way of speaking. We use numerous terms of Bantu origin (cachaça, quitute [delicacy], samba) daily, and ‘Candomblé’, which means to pray or worship.
Candomblé, the result of exchanges and adaptations between different religions from different African nations brought to Brazil under the slave regime, is an Afro-Brazilian cult born of the historical and social conformations of our country. The terreiros, like Bate Folha, besides being sacred, are places of cultural resistance and memory preservation, where values and knowledge are passed down.
Recife, 30 April 2014.
Translated by Peter Leamy, April 2015.
IPHAN. Processo de Tombamento n 1.486–T–01. Terreiro de Candomblé do Bate-Folha, município de Salvador, estado da Bahia. Salvador, 2001. v. I.
_____. Parecer n. 163/03 – 7ª SR, de 22 de abril de 2003. Ref.: Processo n. 1.486-T-01 – Terreiro do Bate Folha, em Salvador, BA. Salvador, 2003.
SERRA, Oderp José Trindade. Laudo antropológico – exposição de motivos para fundamentar pedido de tombamento do Terreiro do Bate-Folha como patrimônio histórico, paisagístico e etnográfico do Brasil. 2008. Available at: <https://ordepserra.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/laudo-bate-folha.pdf>. Accessed: 10 mar. 2014.
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Source: MORIM, Júlia. Bate Folha Yard. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar>. Accessed: day month year. Ex: 6 ago. 2009.