Mãe Menininha do Gantois

Just like Besouro Preto, Mestre Pastinha, and Princess Isabel, Mãe Menininha is another important figure from popular Brazilian culture who makes regular appearances in Capoeira Angola music. Her presences also demonstrates further the links between capoeira and candomblé that Mestre Poloca talked about in his article.

In February of this year, viver Bahia! a magazine that promotes the popular culture of Bahia, published and article about Mãe Menininha. Here, we present an excerpt from that article “A Oxum mais linda tá no Gantois” (The most lovely Oxum is in Gantois):
Admired for her wisdom, grace, knowledge, humility, and firm hand, for 64 years, the incomparable Mãe Menininha held the highest rank in the Candomblé hierarchy, that of Ialorixá, or Mãe de Santo, a position that combines religious guidance, political leadership and therapeutic power at the Terreiro do Gantois… with great spiritual powers and rare personal charisma, Mãe Menininha was largely responsible for the diffusion and popularization of Candomblé in Bahia.

With her immaculate lace skirts in turquois blue, golden yellow, and eyeglasses with strong lenses, she was na eloquent woman, sought out by politicians, celebrities, regular folks, and non-believers, by anthropologists, sociologists who in her found a precious font of information for their academic studies. She was a friend and spiritual guide for artists such as Pierre Verger, Carybé, Gal Costa, and the Mãe-de-Santo of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil...

… A daughter of Oxum, the goddess associated with fresh water and love, the religious leader had various characteristics of her orixá.

… Granddaugher of slaves from Nigeris, she was named Maria Escolástica da Conceição Nazareth upon her birthday, February 10, 1894, in the neighborhood of Saldinha, in Salvador. She came from a family devoted to Candomblé. Her grandmother, Maria Júlia da Conceição Nazareth, founded Ilê Iya Omin Axé Iyamassê, the Terreiro do Gantois, in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Terreiro was later led by Mãe Menininha´s mother…

... When Mãe Menininha became an Ialorixá, the times were not easy for practitioners of Candomblé. There was much prejudice, and practitioners suffered great persecution and violence. “There was not freedom to practice our religion. The houses were persecuted and invaded by the police. They came in mounted on horses, with their swords drawn they would cut the skins of the drums and destroy everything in their path,” said her daughter and current Mãe de Santo of Gantois, Carmen Oliveira da Silva.

Mâe Menininha died on August 13, 1986 at the age of 92 of natural causes.

This is a great article with a lot more information on Mãe Menininha, the Terreiro of Gantois, and its followers. The article is available in English and Portuguese in the library of FICA-Bahia.

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