At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with journey restrictions in place worldwide, we launched a brand new sequence — The World Through a Lens — wherein photojournalists assist transport you, just about, to a few of our planet’s most lovely and intriguing locations. This week, Stephanie Foden shares a set of photographs from Brazilian state of Bahia.
The first time I informed somebody I used to be touring to Salvador, I used to be discouraged from going. I used to be heading south alongside the coast when a Brazilian girl I had befriended at a pousada (a guesthouse) defined how unhealthy the crime was, and the way I used to be sure to get robbed.
Despite her warning, I nonetheless went.
As a naïve 22-year-old solo backpacker, I wasn’t the kind to alter my plans based mostly on one particular person’s recommendation. From what I had learn concerning the area, it was vibrant and in contrast to every other a part of Brazil. But after I arrived at my hostel in Pelourinho, Salvador’s candy-colored historic heart and a UNESCO World Heritage web site, I continued to listen to warnings that town was unsafe.
Typically, after I journey to a brand new place, I attempt to discover all of the nooks and crannies. I wander down alleyways and wish to get misplaced earlier than discovering my means again. This time it was totally different. I felt timid and not sure of the place to go. Certain streets, I’d been warned, had been no-go areas. I couldn’t loosen up or take within the metropolis.
The subsequent day I met a unusual Brazilian with a deep ardour for the state of Bahia and the remainder of northeast Brazil. It was refreshing to listen to about his model of Salvador. We turned quick associates, and he changed into my information, displaying me all around the metropolis. It was lovely to see the place by his eyes.
I fell in love with Salvador. I fell laborious — a lot in order that, earlier than I knew it, months had handed, then years. Salvador turned my residence for practically half a decade.
I at all times wished to share the model of town I got here to know and love with others — the model described by the famed Baiano author Jorge Amado: “The city of Bahia, Black and religious, is almost as mysterious as the green sea.”
Photographing here has always been a joy: The colors are plentiful, the light is sparkling and the people — they’re everything. Even in a country as culturally unique as Brazil, the state of Bahia still stands out to me like no other. There are sounds, smells, foods and music distinct to this region. At almost any time, you can hear drumming in the streets, smell the aroma of moqueca (a fish stew made with coconut-milk) or come across a group of capoeiristas (dancers of the Afro-Brazilian martial art).
Salvador’s culture stems from its African influences: about 80 percent of the city’s population is of African descent, according to figures from the 2010 census.
The city was once one of the largest slave-trade ports in the Americas. For more than 300 years, beginning in the 1500s, around 4.9 million enslaved Africans were transported to Brazil, according to data from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Around 1.5 million were brought to Bahia alone. By comparison, around 389,000 enslaved Africans were taken to mainland North America during the same period.
Brazil was also the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888. Now, despite centuries of repression, brutal treatment and collective trauma, African culture thrives in Salvador, finding expression in the city’s Afro-Brazilian musical, culinary, artistic and literary traditions.
Salvador faces many challenges. The state of Bahia is one of the least formally educated states in Brazil. It’s also impoverished, battling some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. And, in recent years, economic inequality has exacted a heavy toll on the city.
Bahia has also stood out politically: It is one of 11 states, all grouped near the northeast of Brazil, that Jair M. Bolsonaro, the far-right president, did not win in the 2018 election.
I left Salvador in 2018, and it’s been difficult to watch from afar as the city struggles through the coronavirus pandemic. Still, no matter the region’s stereotypes — good or bad, terrifying or vibrant — Bahia, I suspect, will continue to defy logic and expectation, and I’m hopeful for its future.