Angolan Monarch of Bailundo Honors Ancestral Ties with Visit to Rio’s Quilombo do Camorim
In a poignant journey, the King of the Bailundo Kingdom in Angola, Tchongolola Tchongonga Ekuikui VI, visited the Quilombo do Camorim on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro during his three-week-long trip to Brazil. Residents joyously welcomed the monarch, dancing and chanting in celebration of the historic occasion.
Camorim, dating back to 1614, stands as the area’s oldest quilombo, a community formed by self-escaped slaves. With nearly 100 residents today, the community preserves its traditional practices, including religion, medicinal plants, and an archaeological site. King Ekuikui VI’s visit holds profound significance as many residents trace their ancestry to Angola.
The King’s presence resonated deeply with the community, fostering a sense of unity and pride in their heritage. Marilene Lopes de Jesus, a biologist and nurse, remarked, “Receiving the visit of the King reminds us of this glorious and pretty past, we are not slaves, we were enslaved, descendants of kings and queens, and we have this in our veins.”
Erik da Silva Santos, a student, expressed hope for unity, saying, “For a long time, we were disjointed and disunited. And with the presence of the King saying that we are all part of the same family, that we are kings and queens, descendants of kings and queens, this strengthens us for our everyday fight.”
King Ekuikui VI, representing the Ovimbundu peoples, the largest ethnic group in Angola, holds significant political importance despite Bailundo being a non-sovereign kingdom. His counsel is often sought by Angolan authorities.
Prior to the Quilombo do Camorim visit, on November 7, the King paid homage to Rio’s Valongo Wharf, a UNESCO world heritage site where as many as 900,000 slaves made landfall after enduring the harrowing journey across the Atlantic Ocean. This site is considered “the most important physical trace of the arrival of African slaves on the American continent.”
Brazil’s historical connection to the trans-Atlantic slave trade is deeply rooted, with over a third of the 10.5 million captured Africans disembarking in Brazil, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Brazil, the last Western Hemisphere country to abolish slavery in 1888, has seen the persistence of communities of formerly enslaved people. Recognition of their right to the lands they occupy came a century later, enshrined in the constitution.
As Brazil’s most recent census reveals quilombos in nearly 1,700 municipalities, home to 1.3 million people, the King’s visit underscores the enduring legacy and cultural significance of these communities within the larger fabric of Brazilian society.