The backlash against Anitta’s music video evokes a painful history in Brazil

Anitta, a famous Brazilian singer, was the target of backlash over the release of a music video in an episode that highlighted persistent religious intolerance and racism in Brazil.

The controversy began on Monday, when the pop star turned 31 shared a video preview for her new song, “Aceita” (“Accepted” in Portuguese), with 65 million followers on Instagram. She said within two hours, she lost 200,000 followers.

The video depicts the practice of her faith, Candomblé. Her Instagram account shows images of the artist dressed in religious garb with a Candomblé priest and stills of spiritual items and other iconography associated with the faith.

Candomblé is considered a syncretistic religion, meaning it draws from many different beliefs and traditions.

It evolved from the fusion of Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs brought to present-day Brazil by enslaved West Africans during the colonial expansion of the Portuguese empire, scholars say.

Although they are practiced by only 2% of the population, Afro-Brazilian religions such as Candomblé account for a large number of reported cases of religious intolerance, according to one report. U.S. Department of State Report 2022 on religious freedom in Brazil

For centuries, Candomblé was lost in darkness. It was considered magical and a public danger in a predominantly Catholic society.

“They were prosecuted on the grounds that they were a danger to public health, because witchcraft was hidden under the code,” said Ana Paulina Lee, a professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University. public health”.

Despite this week’s backlash, reaction to Anitta’s video has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people praised her for paying homage to religion.

However, critics still flooded her Instagram posts.

“This is pure witchcraft, even a layman can see that it is Satanism,” one person wrote in Portuguese.

Her black-and-white video depicts other faiths, such as Catholicism, and the lyrics seem to speak broadly about the theme of acceptance, suggesting that the song is a commentary on religious intolerance. .

Born Larissa Machado, Anitta burst onto the scene in 2013 with the pop song, “Meiga e Abusada,” written in Portuguese and a huge hit in Brazil.

She consolidated her popularity with several albums in the 2010s and with a performance at the 2016 Olympic opening ceremony in her hometown of Rio de Janeiro.

After releasing several hits in Spanish featuring famous reggaeton artists, such as J Balvin, Anitta established herself among Latin American audiences. She is part of a wave of Latin American artists who has successfully penetrated the US market.

On Tuesday, she performed on “The Voice” on NBC and this month, Anitta joined Madonna at her performance. free concert in Rio de Janeiro attracted 1.6 million fans. Last year, Anitta performed at the MTV Video Music Awards and was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist. In 2022, she appeared on the main stage at the Coachella music festival.

As her fame grew, Anitta spoke candidly about questions about her faith.

In 2018, when she was criticized for not condemning Brazil’s newly elected far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, Anitta said she had been quarantined for weeks as required during her Candomblé initiative. me.

Characterized by percussion rituals and celebrations honoring certain deities, the faith has been forced underground since its inception.

At one point, practitioners hid their practice by adopting Catholic iconography, Professor Lee said.

Luis Nicolau Parés, a professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil, said it was not until the 20th century that mainstream society began to accept expressions of Candomblé in an effort to recognize its African heritage. Brazil and foster a stronger Brazilian national identity. , who wrote a book about Candomblé.

Brazilian artists and intellectuals in the 1970s and 1980s embraced and celebrated religion. Government officials have recognized that.

At the same time, the number of Christians in Brazil increased sharply, increase to 26% by 2022 from single-digit percentage in the 1991 population. The rise of Neo-Pentecostal churches helped revive anti-Candomblé sentiment.

“It has been demonized in a way that makes people convert to Christianity,” Professor Parés said of Candomblé.

It is an act of violence and discrimination targeting Candomblé and other Afro-Brazilian religions that persist, Activists have pointed to the issue of race, which they say is inextricably linked.

in one social media postsProfessor Lee said Anitta said she had been the subject of “religious racism,” a term coined by Candomblé leaders to describe acts of religious intolerance against religious believers. Afro-Brazilian threshold.

“What happened to Anitta happens every day,” said Professor Lee, who pointed to the murder. a famous Candomblé nun of last year.

“I think it’s extremely important to demonstrate that this is not new, but this is part of a long history of anti-black racism, and it’s not just skin”.

“When you pursue faith, you are pursuing the soul,” she added.

Leonardo Coelho Report contributions.


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