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Synopsis

The colonies are soon cleared of their indigenous populations and feed on the slave trade. In a torrent of iron and blood they produce incommensurable riches.
The colonial societies organise themselves so as to assure their perennity. They try, as far as possible, to keep the slaves from any idea of revolt. In order to achieve this each one reacts according to the geographical configuration which forms it and the country which constitutes its metropolis.
Brazil, with its wild and infinite expanses, applies an artful combination of harshness and tolerance: escaped slaves are severely punished, African rites are moderately tolerated. The Africans try to recreate their own rites and traditions within the spaces left to them by the colonists. The Portuguese, fervent Catholics, practice most of the festivals of their religious calendar, especially the Festival of the Kings. Weren’t they the only ones, with an eye to internationalising the myth, to introduce a fourth king, Indian as it happens, whose representation can be seen in the cathedral at Viseu?
The Festival of the Kings allows breathing space for the slaves converted to Catholicism to practice their rites without drawing suspicion.
Unlike the Candomblé, which is practiced in secret, the Festival of the Kings explodes into the streets.
The musical instruments and characters which make up the processions are an acceptable mixture of European and African culture in the eyes of the clergy in Brazil.
Moving into the social sphere of the colonists whilst preserving a fair amount of their traditions, the slaves are at an advantage and escape the prohibition which strikes other, too African, cultural forms.
Developing in states with a large African population such as Bahia and Minas Gérais, the tradition of the Festival of the Kings is handed down through families who imprint upon it their own particularity, whilst at the same time preserving a common structure. An oral tradition is established and culminates the year when slavery is abolished and the festival becomes madness.
The Folia de Reis does not cease to enliven the towns and villages of the interior of Brazil, assuring its populations of their African heritage through the centuries.
Today present throughout the country, several variants of the festival exist. Some of the more recent ones have taken on board Indian culture, thereby demonstrating the extreme flexibility of this form of festivity which has carried the Saturnalia all the way to the edge of the Amazon.

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