Noinha do Jongo

Intangible Cultural Heritage , People - Campos dos Goytacazes


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Jongo da Noinha is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Campos Photo: Tasso Marcelo/Diadorim Ideias
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"Cai, cai sereno. O maior do mundo é Deus e nós somos pequenos" (The dew falls. God is the greatest and we are small in his presence). The master of jongo (a dance and musical genre of communities of African origin from southeast Brazil) Geneci Maria da Penha (known as Noinha)  raises her eyes, moves her hips energetically and spins in a circle.

Drums and rattles make the rhythm for the African deities. The burnt wood perfumes the terreiro (an outdoor area where African origin religious practices take place).

The whole performance of the Jongo de Noinha, by 1944-born Geneci Maria da Penha, is considered an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Campos.

Noinha wrote the book A Voz do Tambor. Photo: Tasso Marcelo/Diadorim Ideias.

Her jongo group, Congola, has 20 members from family members to friends who sing and dance in her backyard and perform in thematic events in Campos. Noinha writes the jongo songs and verses. A nursing assistant with only four years of study, Noinha published, in 2010, the book  A voz do tambor - um mapeamento histórico do jongo em Campos dos Goytacazes, a book about jongo in Campos.

Children, parents and friends are members of the Congola. Photo: Tasso Marcelo/Diadorim Ideias

The self-published book is an introduction to jongo traditions, with information about renowned jongo performers, founders of the first samba schools in Campos. It also lists chants and prayers. "We have let people who were not part of our tradition to tell our story. I gathered knowledge for jongo to be preserved. We had two jongo groups in each neighborhood in Campos. When the masters died, their children did not keep the tradition alive. Sometimes they converted to different religions. Today, only three groups are left", says Noinha.

She tries to recruit new jongo members while visiting quilombos (hinterland settlements founded by fugitive slaves, mostly, but also revolutionaries and refugees during colonization) and says she is creating a new group in Imbé. It is a difficult task. "Christian tradition brought fear to people, saying jongo is a cult of the devil. Those who want to participate are not given permission by their ministers", she says.

Noinha says that, in the past, Evangelical churches in her neighborhood gathered in a procession to cast her out from the region. She resisted. "All I want to do is to show how beautiful our culture is, how it begins from the consecration of nature, which is our ground and gives everything to us". 


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