Orishas for children | Quatro Cinco Um
Public teacher presents the African Gods in children book
It began the afternoon that Róbson Gil came home excited and told his mother that he would be Zeus in a play at school about the Greek myths. It was when Waldete Tristão, a publi school teacher and doctor in children education from USP, questioned the curriculum of Brazilian education.
Knowing the Orishas, from Eshu to Oshala is an important contribution of African faith and mythology to children's literature in the country. With precious illustrations, it brings the itans - passages that conjugate myths, songs, stories - and describes the characteristics of the black Orishas that compose the pantheon of the gods of candomblé. It thus transmits ethics and a way of thinking that is worshiped by the orality of the peoples of African matrices who have endured throughout history, in a work very representative for children and adolescents (recommended even for adults not well versed in the subject), who may have an experience culturally enriching - unlike my generation, who went to school in Brazil without references to their ancestry, bitter fruit of the historical process of racism.
Initiated to the Orisha Oxaguiã, Waldete presented to the son classic books of the African mythology, and Róbson soon began to make comparisons between the African and Greek gods: he, who would be Zeus in that play, went on to say that it would be Xango. The associations abounded and the two, half jokingly, agreed that they would make a book. Intellectual of vast production, she would write the itans, while the boy, an expert draftsman, would illustrate the material to disseminate the content to children and adolescents. There came projects and drafts, but life was passing, came the academic commitments, the demands of day to day. When they had blinked, almost ten years had gone by and Róbson, to general sadness, was gone.
The mother needed a lot to rebuild, and at the thought of a friend (her future editor), she resumed the book. Owner of Cultural Arolê, Diego de Oxóssi met Waldete at the Book Biennial of 2018. What was to be just a courtesy visit became an invitation to write a children's book. Upon learning of the writer's project with her son, the editor put her in contact with the illustrator Caco Bressane.
Also son of Oxaguiã, Bressane developed with mastery the mission initiated by Robson Gil. His illustrations stimulate deep discussions even for those familiar with the subject. For example, some understand that the Orishas would be abstract representations of energy, without face or skin tone - which erases their blackness. This interpretation is strongly criticized by the authors:
"In our case, this is non-negotiable. We are dealing with deities of the Afro-Brazilian religions, and there are scarce black characters in children's books. Although we have in the popular imaginary representations like the one of Iemanjá with the white skin, or other images fruit of the religious syncretism, Orishas are black. Even so, we try to vary a lot the physical traits, types and physical dimensions of each character, the skin tones, the types of hair, the hairstyles. We have been very concerned about presenting this diversity", explains Bressane.
The ambiance of the work seeks to portray the dominion of each Orisha about a phenomenon of life or nature. The scenarios, therefore, are also protagonists. "It's as if one is the other: the waterfall and Oshun, the storm and Iansã, the road and Ogun, the ocean and Yemaya", says Bressane.
The didatism of Waldete Tristão's text and the art of Caco Bressane form not only an honorable homage to Rubio Gil but also a culturally precious book for children and adolescents, especially in a country that has demonized these traditions for a long time. That is why, in view of Law 10.639 / 2003 - which amended the Education Guidelines Law to include the study of African culture in public and private education - it is a fundamental work to compose the libraries of Brazilian schools , and so that in the classrooms one learns who Zeus is, but also who Xango is.
By Djamila Ribeiro; original text at https://www.quatrocincoum.com.br/br/resenhas/infantojuvenil/orixas-para-pequenos