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Afro-Brazilian Culture


44208Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadalupe, 1932

Verger came into contact with African culture in the beginning of the 30s in Paris, France, where he lived, given his regular visits to the Trocadero Museum - which later became the Museum of Man – as well as the Bal Nègre on Rue Blomet.

His proximity with African culture strengthened during his first trips getting to know the African-American culture in the French Antilles and in the black neighborhoods of American cities like New York and New Orleans. In addition, in 1936, Verger spent five months in Africa and traveled through several countries between North and West Africa.

Only in 1946, upon his arrival in Bahia, would the course of Verger's work and life change. Until then a "free" photographer, when faced with Afro-Bahian culture, Verger began to dedicate himself entirely to following the traces of African and African-American culture.

His discovery of Candomblé in Bahia and Xango in Recife, which revealed the strong presence of African culture in Bahia and in northeastern Brazil, encouraged Verger to return to Africa. Verger was able to make that trip thanks to the help of Théodore Monod (then, director of IFAN in Dakar). During his visit, Verger devoted himself to an in depth understanding of the strong cultural and historical connections between the coast of Benin and Bahia.

Once he completed that journey, where he took many pictures, Verger revealed that he felt compelled to write about and publish what he had experienced. Then, in 1954, he published Dieux d'Afrique: Culte des Orishas et Vodouns à l'ancienne Côte des Esclaves en Afrique et à Bahia, Baie de Tous les Saints au Brésil, the first of several books he wrote approaching the Candomblé religious universe and that of the African and Afro-Bahian culture. From then until the late eighties, Verger became a messenger of sorts between Brazil and Africa, dividing his time and attention between the two continents. As a result, he created museums on both sides of the Atlantic, encouraged cultural, academic and religious exchanges between Bahia and the Gulf of Benin, and promoted various exchanges, primarily between Ife, Nigeria, and Salvador, Brazil.

61934With King Hounon Dagbo, Ouidah, Benin, in the 90s

Ever since Verger began to show interest in Candomblé, he had been drawing the attention of several priests; he received various religious "titles" in Brazil and in Africa. In 1952, in Ketu, after deepening his knowledge of the Fon-Yoruba culture, Verger becomes a Babalawo, a seer through the Ifa game, reborn with the name Fatumbi.

In Salvador, Verger becomes a major character in certain historical terreiros of the city, mainly in the Terreiro Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá and in the Terreiro do Gantois. In turn, Verger also works in creating the Terreiro Ilê Axé Opô Aganju in 1972.
From the 80s on, Verger virtually quit traveling and lived mostly at his home, located in the district of Engenho Velho de Brotas, where he continued researching and disseminating Afro-Bahian culture. There, Verger received continuous visits from researchers, artists and Candomblé adepts who went to his house to research in his rich library specialized in African and Afro-Brazilian culture, or simply to chat.