Solanke in Brazil?

Martiniano Eliseu do Bomfim



From Alcione Amos at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.


Martiniano Eliseu do Bomfim and Ladipo Solanke

In 1937, Edison Carneiro, a Brazilian journalist and ethnologist organized, along with Aydano do Couto Ferraz and Reginaldo Guimarães, the Second Afro-Brazilian Congress in Salvador, Bahia. The congress invited national and international figures in the fields of African and Afro-Brazilian studies to make contributions. Ladipo Solanke sent a contribution which was titled in its Portuguese version “A concepção de Deus entre os negros Yoruba” (The Conception of God Among the Yoruba.) It is not clear if Solanke’s paper was originally written in English or Yoruba, but it is for certain that its translation into Portuguese was attributed to Martiniano Eliseu do Bomfim. It is also not clear if Solanke presented the paper himself. It is most likely that he mailed the original to Carneiro, as Melville Herskovits, another international contributor, did.

Martiniano Eliseu do Bomfim African name was Òjélàdé, (“Òjé has emerged again”) is the name given to a child born in a family belonging to the Yoruba Egúngún ancestor worship. It signified that Martiniano would continue with his family’s Egúngún worship practice. He was born in Brazil on the 16th of October, 1859 of African parents who had been able to buy their freedom before his birth. A 16-year-old Martiniano accompanied his father, Eliseu do Bomfim, who was an import/export trader of African goods, on a trip from Salvador, Bahia to Lagos in 1875 for the purpose of attending school and learning a trade. In Lagos he attended the Church Missionary Society Alápákó Fàájì School for almost 11 years. He arrived back in Salvador on January 30, 1886. During his time in Lagos Martiniano became fluent not only in English but also in Yoruba. He also acquired knowledge of Ifá the Yoruba system of divination and became a babalawo, as well as being trained as a bricklayer and house painter. Back in Bahia he worked as an English teacher for well to do Afro-Brazilians. He also translated the Yoruba text titled Iwe Kika Ekerin Li Ede Yoruba (The Fourth Primer in Yoruba Language) for Nina Rodrigues, one of the first ethnologists to study Afro-Brazilian culture. He also exercised his functions as babalawo, and was a participant in the Egúngún cult and in Candomblé ceremonies. Martiniano died on November 1, 1943 in Salvador, Bahia.