The first thing that comes to an average Nigerian’s mind when the word ‘Brazil’ is mentioned is football. The name always conjures up football’s icons and demi-gods as Pele, Bebeto, Kaka, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Nigerians used to be blown away at the way Brazilians did the samba around the round leather, that is, until that jinx was broken in 1994, in the United States, US. Other not so passionate things that Nigerians know about Brazil may include their experiment at attempting to convert ethanol from sugar as a bio-fuel and the production of those giant Marco polo buses used as luxury buses in Nigeria.
Ironically, for a Brazilian like Jose Montalvo Aguilera, curator of the Instituto do Patrimonio Historico e Artistico Nacional, IPHAN, football is hardly second nature, unlike the way it is with Brazilians back home who see it as a national sport. Where his heart is, together with that of Cesario Alexandria’s, Deputy Consul-General of the Brazilian Consulate-General, is in what they could achieve in a showcasing the terra cotta of language, painting, carving and sculpture that Africans brought back with them from Brazil before and after the triangular slave trade. ‘’We are trying to bring out the seeming coincidence between African and Brazilian cultures and maybe to establish cooperation between the two continents in that regard’’, Aguilera told the magazine at the IPHAN Exhibition at the Brazilian Embassy, on December 6, put together at the instance of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture.
Certainly, it was not the convivial atmosphere, with the generous helpings of café com leite, coffee with milk, bread, cheese or marmalade, and butter, or the barbecue and Batidas, drinks of fruit juices, which prompted Alexandria’s excitement that evening. Rather, it was at the prospect that Victor Olaiya, OON, owner of the 19th Century Brazilian-style building in the Brazilian quarters of Lagos was now willing to ‘cooperate’ with IPHAN to use it as a monument of the cultural diversity and a signal of the interrelatedness and the common heritage between the Yorubas in Diaspora in Bahia and their brethren in Nigeria. Olaiya told the magazine that his decision to agree to the IPHAN request was that it would help in strengthening whatever ties that exist between Nigeria and Brazil. According to him, before Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State governor vacated office in 2007, he made a public announcement on May 24, at State House Marina, that the building was going to become a national monument.
That seemed like a cue for the glasses to begin to clink, and rightly so. But John Godwin, OBE, and professor of architecture with the University of Lagos, said that ‘’the last two remaining real Brazilian-style buildings are in this town. They are something to be proud of. I know where they are and what state they are. Unfortunately, we tend to throw an awful lot of our heritage way. What we need to do is throw money at them, now, now, now’’, he said.
What easily symbolizes the cultural and artistic heritage that the IPHAN sought to nuture with the exhibition of December 6, was unarguably, Paul Martin. A Nigerian chief who recently bagged the highest Brazilian honour equivalent to the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, Martin said that he was very impressed with the attitude of the staff of the Brazilian Embassy staff who dresses on Yoruba attire every Friday of the week. ‘My great-grand parents were taken to Brazil during the slave trade. Today, my family house in Brazil is Abule-Bamgbose in Bambgose Street in Salvador, Bahia. My cousins live there. Brazilians in Bahia have a religious connection with the Yoruba that is not just skin deep. My aunt’s son, a lawyer and police commissioner belongs to the Yoruba Baba-Olorisha, transported from here. The dress and food we eat here is almost just about the same you find in any Brazilian home’, Martin stressed.