Afro-Brazilians seek connection to Brazil

The Tabom people in Ghana are descendents of Afro-Brazilian slaves who repatriated to West Africa soon after Brazil gained independence in 1822.

“The first batch arrived in 1835. But we had other batches after them too who started coming, because they made known to their brothers and sister [in Brazil] that they were comfortable here,” explains the current chief of the Taboms, Nii Azumah V.

After arriving, the Tabom assimilated into the Ga tribe in Ghana’s capital Accra and quickly became a part of the social fabric of the city.

The returnees acquired the name Tabom from a local adaptation of the Portuguese greeting es ta bom, or “it is well,” that they used to greet one other.

They have managed to preserve their identity as Brazilian descendants and continue to be viewed as a distinct people whose history differs from other tribes.

The Taboms have made notable contributions to Ghanaian society. Some prominent names include current Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, boxing hall-of-famer and three time world champion Azuma “Professor” Nelson and presidential tailor and national icon Dan Morton.

Now, some are seeking closer ties with Brazil and their distant relatives there, hoping to initiate business ties and periodical cultural get-togethers in both countries.

“We have a very nice connection to the Brazilian government, right from the president,” Chief Azumah explains. “The problem is that we don’t know Brazil, and we have been agitating for the embassy to at least have a gathering with our brethren [there].”

Azuma and the Tabom Council of Elders envision a reunion where prominent descendants of Afro-Brazilian slaves from Nigeria, Togo, Benin and Ghana would reunite with their kin in Brazil.

They would use this opportunity to initiate commerce between the two communities on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Azumah stresses that it’s an opportune time to invest in Ghana, and would like the chance to attract his Brazilian relations to consider.

“We have a very good climate for industry. We’re a democracy, we don’t have wars and all those things, so investors should be assured that they will get returns,” he says.

Azuma expressed that he recently appealed to the Brazilian embassy for assistance with the conference, but has yet to get a response.

Luis Fernando Serra, the Brazilian ambassador to Ghana, stressed the embassy’s close ties with the Tabom.  However, he explained that the conference is an issue of finances.

“It depends on sponsors,” he says. “To make feasible an idea of this kind, you need funds.”

Azuma feels the Brazilian government can afford it, and that it will be easy to facilitate since direct flights from Brazil to West Africa will begin soon.

Azuma remains hopeful. “If we are able to reach there and sit down with our brothers and sisters, and financial institutions over there, we will able to convince them to come.”

Ambassador Serra suggests the returnees organize a regional conference in West Africa prior to an international one with the diaspora.

“I think that they should start meeting in one of these four countries and work towards a second edition of this congress in Brazil. We are going to support it,” Serra says. “They are the oldest and most precious link between Brazil and Africa.”

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About Atkilt Geleta

Born and raised in Ethiopia until he was seven, Atkilt Geleta spent much of his youth traveling—first to Japan, then to Canada, and then to Switzerland, where he lived for six years. He’s now landed in Ghana—for the second time—where he’s working at the Daily Guide newspaper to report on human rights issues. Geleta says he hopes to immerse himself in Ghana’s rich culture and looks forward to exploring the country in search of stories. “Divinely guided” towards journalism, as he puts it, he got his introduction to the field with internships at Eye Weekly andSway Magazine in Toronto. “This opportunity combines my passion for journalism and development work,” he says. “It’s a chance to work with local journalists to shed light on issues that are often marginalized or forgotten about.” Geleta has a degree in Political Science and International Development Studies from the University of Toronto.

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