University of Wisconsin–Madison

Little Africa

Jamie Dawson
May 23, 2016

All around the world there are populations of descendants of Africans who endured forced migration as a result of centuries of slave trade, but no population is larger than that of Brazil. We learned in class that Little Africa, also called Cidade Nova, was a place where the free Africans would settle. Through the decades, Little Africa was a hub for cultural expression, and I could tell just by walking down the street; this is the part of Rio where I saw the most Afrocentric graffiti. Long jawed, dark skinned cartoons with large afros spoke futurism from the walls where they were painted. In Little Africa, our group joined our tour guide Gabby. In our visit to Little Africa we saw the ports and markets where the enslaved men, women and children first arrived in Rio. The most striking historic site we visited though was the Museu dos Pretos Novos (Museum of the New Blacks). This house turned museum was actually the site of an enormous mass grave for the humans that didn’t survive shipment from Africa to Brazil. The crazy thing about Rio is that museums don’t believe in replicas or recreating likeness, everything, whether it be a crown, a chair, or a photo, is the original. So knowing that through a 3ft by 3 ft hole in the ground I was staring at the actual not yet excavated bones of some 50,000 people who would have had descendents that looked like me was a moving, unbelievable experience.

PC: Ali Khan
PC: Ali Khan