The video in the research of two Amefrican dances: the samba and the rumba.

Receipt: September 21, 2023

Acceptance: December 13, 2023


Through the case study of two families: that of Jelita, originally from Saubara, Bahia, Brazil, and the family headed by Lidia, in Trinidad, Cuba, two audiovisual works are presented that focus on the role of women in the matrilineal transmission of samba and rumba, generational changes and the male-female relationship present in body movements. As a complement, a text is included in which the methodology used, the cultural-historical context of each case and an analysis of the role of women in the processes of perpetuation of these female body memories and their places of transmission are presented.

Keywords: , , , ,

audiovisual research into two amefrican dances: samba and rumba

Two audiovisual works explore the role of women in the matrilineal transmission of samba and rumba, generational changes, and the relationship between men and women revealed in the body movements. The first case study follows the Jelita family, which hails from Saubara in the state of Bahia, Brazil, and the second, a family headed by a woman named Lidia in Trinidad, Cuba. A supplementary text lays out the methodology used for the study, the cultural and historical background of the two cases, and an analysis of women's role in perpetuating these female body memories and the places for their transmission.

Keywords: dance, Afro-American, matrilineal, video, memory.


First of all, I would like to ask permission to Jelita, God rest her soul, her family and her Afro-Brazilian ancestors. Also to Lidia, her family and Afro-Cuban ancestors, to present these works, made with much love and respect for the people, the cultures and the dances studied.

This text presents two videos made in parallel in Brazil and Cuba between 2012 and 2019. They are part of researches elaborated separately, since, in principle, it was not clearly intended to make a comparison between these two dances. amefrican.1

Por cima do medo coragem (2016) is a video tribute post mortem a Jelita do Samba, a sambadeira and marisquera woman from the Recôncavo Baiano. It is the result of a long-term anthropological research conducted for my PhD thesis in social memory (Lora, 2016), focusing on one of the three children's samba de roda groups studied; while Rumberas: the guaguancó (2019) is a short film about a family of three generations of women, made in a much shorter period. Lidia, Yuya and Ema are the protagonists of this story filmed in Trinidad, Cuba.

The video dedicated to Jelita was edited at a very sensitive moment for all of us who knew her. It was presented shortly after her death as a way of thanking her, but also as a way of making visible one of the most important conclusions of the research: the role of the sambaderas in the transmission of the corporal memory of samba.

On the other hand, the documentary short film Rumberasrecorded in Trinidad, Cuba, was based on my experience in Bahia, and in general in Brazil, where the communities themselves claimed (claim) the role of female teachers and teachers in their own communities. mestras2 of samba and other popular dance expressions. Based on this inspiration, I proposed to a friend, a Mexican visual artist and dancer, that, if possible, we could make a documentary about women rumberas on our trip to Trinidad, Cuba.

In recent years, affected by the feminist struggle in general and specifically by the black women's movement in the continent, it seemed to me of utmost importance to strengthen the audiovisual work done on these dancers, with the writing of these brief comparative reflections on matrilineal transmission in dance, because the experience has shown me, repeatedly and in different Afrodiasporic cultures, the role of women not only in generational continuity, but in the gestation and reproduction of these expressions of cultural resistance. Their value increases when we take into account the conditions of colonial and patriarchal oppression to which black women, their bodies and, therefore, their dances, have been subjected for centuries.

This text is made up of three sections: the first is dedicated to the methodology used in the making of both audiovisuals; the second presents a brief historical and cultural context of the dances, and I close with the theme of the house, the terreiro and the wheel as places of transmission and dance memory.


The methodological basis for the realization of these works is composed of audiovisual ethnography, collaborative and interdisciplinary work and what we have called participating body (Daniel and Lora, 2020). This way of working was built in the process of each of the productions, but it is also part of a long trajectory that has to do with my diverse training in arts and social sciences, which aspires to be increasingly transdisciplinary.

By audiovisual ethnography I mean audiovisual production based on anthropological research (Ardèvol, 1998). In the case of samba de roda, this research/recording process began in the Recôncavo Baiano, after a conversation with the Associação de Sambadores e Sambadeiras do Estado da Bahia (asseba) in Santo Amaro, where I introduced myself and asked if it was possible, in addition to writing the thesis, to make a documentary; to which they responded that they were already generating their own audiovisual materials and that they were not so interested in this collaboration. However, we agreed that I would record with the video camera meetings or activities organized by the network and share them with the association. This moment was fundamental in my trajectory as an anthropologist, because it generated questions about the methodology I had been using.

Thus, a fundamental part of the way of working was discussed with the sambadores/eiras of the community, resulting in a more conscious and critical proposal in relation to the place of the researcher. In this sense I thought, as Cusicanqui does, in the audiovisual as a practice of horizontal communication: feeling that our "intrusive eye" can become an ally in the production of knowledge with our interlocutors in the fieldwork, are all practices of a sociology that is dismantling the assumptions of enlightened reason, of colonial reason (Rivera, 2015: 313).

I became, then, an "allied" researcher for the assebaI presented my thesis to them at the end of my research accompanied by this video homage, which was completed in a short time with the help of Noel Lopez, the video editor.

As for the work on Cuban rumba, the process was different in the sense that we did not have financial support for the production/research, and therefore the time to record was very short. The methodology differed from the previous one because the documentary was co-directed by two women coming from different disciplines: ethnology and visual arts. However, we had in common being two dancers with the intention of learning to dance rumba. It is worth mentioning that during these years of research I assumed myself as a dancer/researcher, because reality showed how dance was also a research method that allowed me to access socially shared meanings, to understand dynamics of participation differentiated according to gender, distinctions in movements, etc. This methodology generated, in both experiences, a more empathetic and horizontal form of interaction with the women who taught us their art, since the interlocutors/characters considered us as students with a shared passion: dance. In both works, a dialogue between women was generated in which body language and audiovisuals participated actively. The fieldwork and interviews were carried out in the places where the dances were rehearsed, privileged spaces for the socialization of the danced memory.

In Rumberas: the guaguancóThe camera was made by Tania Diaz, with a photographic proposal close to what Bill Nichols (1997) would classify as a participatory documentary, in which I, as co-director, appeared in the frame dancing or interviewing, which shows my encounter with the dance and with the protagonists of the film. This mode of documentary:

It supposes an involvement of the filmed individual with the practice of its representation. Likewise, it invests a specific character with qualities of the author-person (he-who-films) who interacts with a given reality. This provokes a sense of immersion in the historical world and invigorates the impression of veracity of the work. Hence, this modality anchors a subject (narrator-implicit) in a specific place and time, in a i-was-there which certifies its function as a storyteller (Lloga Sanz, 2020).

Subsequently came a long transcription and review of the material from which the most important themes were chosen and the way to narrate them audiovisually was thought of. Finally, in the editing process of Rumberas We were honored to have the support of editor Mario Maya, Alessando Lameiras for color correction and Galileo Galaz for sound design.

When it was finished, the documentary was presented to Yuya, Lidia and Ema, in Trinidad, who gave their opinion about the result. The same happened with Courage over fearwhich was presented together with my thesis, and at the initiative of the sambadores/as themselves, to the children of the Mirim da Vovó Sinhá Group, who, upon seeing the tribute, fondly remembered Aunt Jelita's teachings. In both presentations, many collective memories emerged, both of the moment when it was recorded and of people who appear in the documentary and who are no longer with us. This was another important moment in methodological terms, since it was possible to see that both documentaries hold important memories for the Bahian children and the Cuban protagonists, which were expressed in the various reflections posted after the screening.

Patrimonialization and its impact on Amefrican dances

The samba de roda is characterized as a musical, choreographic, poetic and festive manifestation present throughout the state of Bahia, Brazil, but particularly in the Recôncavo (dossiê iphan2006: 23, author's translation). It comes from the dances and cultural traditions of the enslaved Africans who arrived in the region; it also contains elements of Portuguese and Arab culture, such as language, poetry and some musical instruments.

Since the declaration of the samba de roda as World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2005, a series of safeguarding policies have been created in Brazil during the government of the Workers' Party (PT).pt), in which the iphan (Instituto do Patrimonio Histórico e Artístico Nacional), the Secretariat of Culture of the State of Bahia and, mainly, the community of sambadores and sambaderas of the region actively participated in the creation of a regional network of samba de roda. The children and youth groups played a central role in the process as they were conceived from the very first moment of patrimonialization, with the idea of fulfilling the community's expectation that "samba would not die", a phrase that I repeatedly heard by mestras of samba.

The research was developed in this context. Jose Jorge de Carvalho called this moment "sarau of popular cultures", finding that this was a time of possibility of "radical transformation of the founding injustices of the relationship of the State with popular cultures. A process in which popular culture could become a place of demand for citizenship, equality and equity" (De Carvalho, 2005: 34). If previously the Brazilian elite exercised control over cultural manifestations by valorizing European artistic expressions, this was the time for popular culture to claim its culture and the rights of those who exercise it. Women occupied a strategic place in this process.

In addition, and this is where the work focused more strongly, traditional spaces for teaching and performing samba de roda were revitalized, and events and festivals were held to reinforce the performance and transmission to new generations. The sambadeiras raised the importance of continuing to perpetuate the expression to the new generations, teaching them not only dance, song and music, but also their place in community and religious life.

Rumba, on the other hand, is a manifestation originating in Afro-Cuban culture, with elements of Antillean culture and flamenco. Rumba emerged in the past in marginalized neighborhoods of some cities such as Havana and Matanzas, as well as in the vicinity of some ports and in shantytowns, becoming especially popular in rural areas inhabited by communities of enslaved Africans (Unesco).

As for the dynamics of this dance/song/music expression, we can say that its form of organization is also circular or in a wheel, very similar to the samba de roda from Bahia and many other Amefrican dances, where the center is used for dancing and the contour for playing, singing, watching and/or waiting for the turn to dance. Rumba has three subgenres: guaguancó, columbia and yambú.

In 2016, when the research in Brazil was finished and the documentary film was already recorded Rumberas: the guaguancóRumba was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. However, prior to this important event, it already occupied a place of great importance in the Afro-Cuban identity, which is why there were some spaces for its perpetuation and dissemination. In the filming of the documentary RumberasWe visited some of these spaces in Trinidad and Havana, where rumba groups perform and exhibit for the local population, but also for tourists. One of them was directed by Yuya, the protagonist of the short film.

Although the research/production context was different from that of Bahia, in the sense that there were no specific public policies for rumba, there were for the city of Trinidad, which directly affected the lives of the protagonists. More than 30 years ago, the center of Trinidad and its valley of sugar mills was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which gave the city more support in the repair of monuments and cultural activities. The increase in tourism generated a large migration to Trinidad. In this context, Lidia and Yuya (mother and daughter) migrated from the city of Santa Clara to work in the teaching, practice and dissemination of Afro-Cuban dance and arts in the tourist environment of Trinidad. Today, this family of rumberas continues to instruct new generations of dancers, giving continuity to their tradition.

These cases show how cultural patrimonialization policies play/played a central role in the new socio-cultural dynamics in the Americas related to dance, in which the strong participation of women in all the processes and dynamics of transmission to the new generations stands out. In the current moment of patrimonialization, together with the powerful Afro-feminist movement in both countries, they have contributed to the recognition and demand for the place of women in the preservation and perpetuation of cultural memory.

The house, the terreiro and the wheel, female transmission spaces

In the audiovisual ethnography carried out on samba in Bahia, Brazil, and rumba in Trinidad, Cuba, it was observed how old and new cultural forms coexist with the new elements of modernity. The premise of this work is that if these elements remain, it is because there is a memory that is being transmitted from one generation to another, and that, even with the new components that are added, samba and rumba maintain a continuity.

Still from the video tribute Por encima del miedo coraje. Photograph: Claudia Lora.

In the cases studied, it was observed that generational sociability through women was the main way of learning dance. Transmission was presented as an intra- and interpersonal social process, which took place within various collective environments: the community, the group and the family; dance learning was mediated by an essentially corporal language given by women, through bodily actions or gestures.

By communal, I refer to the broad community that is part of the rumba and samba, who call themselves rumberos/rumberas and sambaderas/sambadores. And by grupal, I mean the dance groups to which each of these women belong. In the case of the Cuban family, Yuya belonged to the rumba group Ache Shure, and led the Grupo Imagen. Jelita's family was responsible for three samba groups that exist today in the city of Saubara, Bahia.

In addition, both belonged to African religions: Santeria and Candomblé. The terreiro (saint's house) and the family house appear as privileged places for the transmission of the corporal memory of samba and rumba, where the participation of the female figure stands out.

In the Yoruba religions mentioned above, the term "saint's house" and "saint's family" are used to refer to the space for gathering and creating rituals, and to the members of that house, respectively. The "saint's family", as the community created around believers of the Yoruba religion is called internally, does not necessarily have blood ties, but they are related through symbolic ties generated by their worldview (Da Costa, 2003).

The house then becomes the place of transmission of the dance memory, inherited by these two women to their descendants. The house is, for the girls and boys, a family space for socialization, relaxation, fun and remembrance, suitable for teaching and learning dance habits, since it is here where they have the freedom to socialize, but also to repeat and practice constantly, to later present it in public spaces of socialization, either in the community or on stage.

Image 2. Poster of the short film Rumberas. Design: Tania Diaz.

The memory embodied in dance and preserved and transmitted by women is also propagated in ritual spaces. The female teaching process is vital because, in addition to transmitting knowledge and corporal memory, it shows a sense of family and community identity.

In relation to these spaces of family transmission, Roger Bastide thought that the black population of the Americas, in order to reconstruct their culture and history, had had to recondition the new settlement space to which they had migrated by rebuilding their villages; only in this way could their memories emerge from the depths of collective memory. For the author, society reinvents itself in a symbolic way, provided that this symbolism is supported by a spatial dimension. In the book African religions in BrazilThe author points out how the structures of African societies transported to Brazil were not reconstructed, but reinvented (Bastide, 1971).

Here it is proposed that the house and the terreiro are spaces of matrilineal transmission, places of gathering, remembrance and creation. In the case of samba and rumba, traditionally danced in circular spaces, this reinvention occurs within this choreographic space in the form of dance, song, music and poetry. Memory within the rodas is transmitted and recreated by oral and corporal repertoires, gestures and habits whose transmission techniques and procedures are means of creation, passage, reproduction and preservation of knowledge.

In conclusion

These initial reflections on the two audiovisual works, their contexts and places of transmission have first of all the intention of highlighting the place of women in the perpetuation of the dances called here Amefrican. I claim this term placed by Léila Gonzalez, Afro-Brazilian researcher, thinking about the urgency of new categories proposed from within, which help us to think from other places, in this case, their places. Following this proposal which, as I mentioned, "incorporates a whole historical process of intense cultural dynamics (adaptation, resistance, reinterpretation and creation of new forms)" (Gonzalez, 2021), it seemed important to me to present the historical moment in which the works were filmed, as well as some reflections in terms of the shared spaces of transmission, as part of this exercise of comparative analysis.

On the other hand, I am grateful for the invitation of the magazine Encartes and its commentators to deepen in the methodological procedures used in the audiovisual anthropological work, which, although briefly, places some guidelines to continue analyzing and proposing.

This study demonstrates that rumba and samba have been forms of resilience and perpetuation of female memories. The experience not only generated through observation, but also as an apprentice of these dances, led me to conclude that, in these cultures, the bodily memory of dance has been largely preserved and reproduced by women, and that these, the ancestral memories unified in the body, have been transmitted through bodily techniques.

Finally, I invite you to review audiovisual works and consider them as another way of constructing and apprehending knowledge, of equal value to written language.


Alveranga, Oneyda (1960). Música popular brasileira. Porto Alegre: Globo.

Ardèvol, Elisenda (1998). “Por una antropología de la mirada: etnografía, representación y construcción de datos audiovisuales”, Disparidades. Revista de Antropología, 53(2), 217–240.

Bastide, Roger (1971). As religiões africanas no Brasil. Sao Paulo: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo.

Da Costa Lima, Vivaldo (2003). A Família de Santo. Nos Candomblés Jejes-Nagôs da Bahia. Bahía: Corrupio.

De Carvalho, José Jorge (2005). Seminário Nacional de Politicas Publicas para as Culturas Populares. Ministério de Cultura, Brasilia, Brasil.

Daniel, Camila y Claudia Lora (2020). “La investigación corporificada: la danza en la construcción del conocimiento antropológico”, Dimensión Antropológica, 79, pp. 72-92. Recuperado a partir de

Gonzalez, Léila, María Pilar Cabanzo Chaparro y Camila Daniel (2021). “La categoría político-cultural de amefricanidad”, Conexión, (15),pp. 133-144. Recuperado a partir de

dossiê iphan (2006). Samba de Roda do Recôncacavo Baiano. Instituto do Património Histórico e Artístico Nacional, Ministério de Cultura, Brasilia, Brasil. Recuperado a partir de

Lloga Sanz, Carlos Guillermo (2020). “Los modos del cine documental. Análisis de tres modelos”, Aisthesis. Revista Chilena de Investigaciones Estéticas, núm. 67, pp. 75-102.

Lora Krstulovic, Rosa Claudia (2016). “A transmissão do Patrimonio Cultural Imaterial: O samba de roda do recôncavo baiano”. Tesis de doctorado en Memoria social en unirio, Río de Janeiro, Brasil.

Nichols, Bill (1997). La representación de la realidad. Madrid: Paidós.

Rivera Cusicanqui, Silvia (2015). Sociología de la imagen. Miradas ch´ixi desde la historia andina. La Paz: Plural Editores.

unesco (2016). “La rumba cubana, mezcla festiva de baile y música, y todas las prácticas culturales inherentes”,


Por cima do medo coragem (On top of fear courage)

Documentary short film. Director: Claudia Lora. Brazil, 2016. Screenplay: Noel López, Claudia Lora. Production: Claudia Lora. Camera: Claudia Lora. Editing: Noel López. Translation: Claudia Martínez. Length: 11:11 minutes.

Rumberas: the guaguancó

Directed and cameraman: Claudia Lora and Tania Díaz. Cuba, 2019. Production: Ver de Adentro. Editing: Mario Maya. Running time: 20 minutes.

Claudia Lora Krstulovic is a dance anthropologist and visual anthropologist. She researches Afro-diasporic dances in Latin America, focusing for several years on the study of the Danzas de diablos and Danzas de roda or circular dances. Her topics of interest are memory, cultural transmission, performance and heritage. He has made ethnographic documentaries, as well as anthropological research for independent documentaries and television series. inah. Currently, she directs the Afrodescendencias Arts Festival and is a postdoctoral researcher at the ciesas cdmx.


Inline Feedbacks
Ver todos los comentarios


ISSN: 2594-2999.

Unless expressly mentioned, all content on this site is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Download legal provisions complete

EncartesVol. 7, No. 13, March 2024-September 2024, is an open access digital academic journal published biannually by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Calle Juárez, No. 87, Col. Tlalpan, C. P. 14000, México, D. F., Apdo. Postal 22-048, Tel. 54 87 35 70, Fax 56 55 55 76, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, A. C.., Carretera Escénica Tijuana-Ensenada km 18.5, San Antonio del Mar, No. 22560, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Tel. +52 (664) 631 6344, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C., Periférico Sur Manuel Gómez Morin, No. 8585, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Tel. (33) 3669 3434, and El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., Parque de Macul, No. 155, Fracc. Colinas del Parque, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Tel. (444) 811 01 01. Contact: Director of the journal: Ángela Renée de la Torre Castellanos. Hosted at Responsible for the last update of this issue: Arthur Temporal Ventura. Date last modified: March 25, 2024.