The Liquid Archive 12
This is a cosmogram from the Mbundu people, but can be generalized for groups of the region. Again, we can find local variations or distinctions, but generally speaking, this tells us how these West Central African peoples who were trafficked to Rio de Janeiro understood their world.
If you are standing on the west coast of Angola, the sun rises every morning from the land, travels across the sky and sets in the ocean. The ancients had pondered this mystery of the great fire, the sun, which disappeared every night into the great water, the ocean, but returned again every morning. This great fire was not extinguished by the great water, and great water was not boiled up by the great fire. The intersection of these two powerful elements centered the mysteries of the universe. So we have a cross – the vertical is the fire and the horizontal is the water.
So here at his point, we have 6am. Sunrise. Birth. And we travel to noon. The height of the great fire. Full adulthood. And this point is the concentration of masculine power. Continuing on, we age and arrive at 6pm. Sunset. Death. And here is where we cross the kalunga and enter the spirit world. From here we continue to midnight. This is the concentration of feminine power. And finally, we prepare for rebirth – completing the cycle. So we have a cross – fire and water, inside of a circle – the cycle of life.
Now, the Kongo River is the deepest river in the world, and the ancients had contemplated the depths of this river. They found that all of the creatures that lived at the bottom of the Kongo appeared white. The ancients understood this as a place of “no sunlight” and thus, were able to connect the relationship between melanin and sunlight. There is a world of sun and a world of no sun.
So our first quadrant is associated with the color black, the color of skin. The color of life in the world of the sun. Birth to adulthood. Then our second quadrant, from adulthood to death, is colored red – the color of blood. The red and black are for skin and blood and represent life in this physical material realm, the world of the sun.
Upon death, we cross the kalunga, the great water is the barrier between the physical world and the spirit world. The land of the ‘no sun’ exists on the other side of the water, where because there is no sun, there is no color. It’s white. The spirit world, and the beings in it, are white. The final quadrant is yellow – where we prepare for rebirth.
The kalunga, the great water, is the repository of all death – where we go when we die. And it is also how we cross back again when we are born. It is then, simultaneously, the source of all life.
These color combinations remain very powerfully significant in contemporary Brazilian life. I can give you several examples, but the one that’s most amusing to me... any football fans here today? Flamengo, the Rio football club, is the biggest, most supported football club in the world. Their uniforms – red and black. During the 2014 World Cup in Rio, the German team utterly humiliated Brazil registering the worst loss in the history of the Cup. Germany went on to the final and I saw Brazilians cheering for them! “How could you root for Germany after what just happened?!” The answer? “Sadakne, the red and black…. We can’t abandon the red and black!” That’s how powerful this color combination is.
As for white and yellow – You’ll see this on New Year’s Eve. People dress in white and yellow and go to the beach to offer gifts to the goddess Iemanjá (we’ll meet her later in the presentation). Ask anyone and they will tell you that white is for cleansing/purity and yellow is for prosperity. And this is how we mark the new year. A new cycle. A rebirth.
So if this can be our “map” or at least our compass, the captured Africans on the beaches of West Central Africa might have understood their journey like this…