Maracatu Nação Noronha: Embodied cultural practice and its sustainability on an isolated Brazilian island

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Journal Article
Shima, 2017, 11 (2), pp. 205 - 219
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Fernando de Noronha is situated approximately 430 km from the northeast coast of Brazil, and is the only populated island within a UNESCO World Heritage-listed archipelago of the same name. This article focusses on the contemporary maracatu ensemble based on the island, Maracatu Nação Noronha, and its significance within the local community. Maracatu is a distinctive northeast Brazilian performance genre with historical links to Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that blends the African practice of worshipping multiple orixás (spirits) with the Catholic practice of worshipping multiple saints. Maracatu has a long history of grassroots performative traditions and is closely connected to Brazilian carnaval. Maracatu ensembles typically include percussionists, singers, dancing orixás and characters representing members of the court within African crowning ceremonies held during the era of slavery. The article examines the development of Maracatu Nação Noronha since 2002, with a particular focus on music, movement and dance. It explores links between Maracatu Nação Noronha's activities and the historical development of maracatu, and examines how the group has adapted to the island's sociocultural environment in the process of connecting with, and educating, local and tourist audiences. It discusses the significance and sustainability of embodied practices and cultural identity development and creation in the context of a small island whose community is still significantly rooted on mainland practices. The article draws on field trips by the authors in 2012 and 2014, as well as interviews with local residents heavily involved with establishment and maintenance of island maracatu.
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