The cult of Iemanjá in Rio

Ana Paula Alves Ribeiro and Cristiano Cardoso
Photographs: Cristiano Cardoso, Zaíra Bosco and Ana Paula Alves Ribeiro.

Present in the calendar of religious celebrations in the City of Rio de Janeiro in two distinct moments of the year, the tributes to Iemanjá also have distinct meanings. While the celebration that takes place on Copacabana Beach on New Year’s Eve reflects a rite of passage, the one that happens on February 2nd – and is the object of this photographic essay – is intended only to please the Queen of the Sea. The first is about the start of a new year and the countless new possibilities that it brings, and the latter is a moment to lavish Iemanjá with gifts. The procession meets at Cinelândia, in downtown Rio – a place of economic, cultural, legal and political significance. From there, it follows to Praça XV square, where devotees can use the barges and send their gifts off towards the Guanabara Bay.
It is a peculiar date, because stores are open and people are working on weekdays. That gives the celebration a singular importance, since, in addition to gathering a large number of people who are there for religious reasons and who come specifically to pay homage to Iemanjá, bystanders and passersby also seize the opportunity to join in and leave Her their gifts. Flowers, notes, small bottles of perfume and trinkets are often found in the baskets they bring for Her. Drumming, chanting, dancing and partying are expressions of their tributes. Our collection of photos endeavors to show this moment of devotion.

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