In my last post, I reflected on the lack of wildfowl on the Dique do Tororó. I failed to mention another element that has become a permanent part of the landscape so far, heightening its status as a tourist attraction and picture postcard while causing some controversy. I’m referring to the statues of orishas, Afro-Brazilian divinities, created by sculptor Tatti Moreno and installed in and around Tororó during the most recent landscaping project completed in 1998.
The statues are controversial because the Pentecostals disapprove of religious imagery in general. The previous mayor, João Henrique Carneiro, was of that persuasion. He allegedly wanted to remove them for religious reasons, but their scenic and tourist value spoke louder. For practitioners of Candomblé, as orisha worship is called in Bahia, the statues are just that. Statues. They do not contain any ashé – the divine energy of creation. The lagoon is sacred for its waters and is still the site of offerings, although they have to be made discreetly since the landscaping project was carried out.
Previously, the picturesque boats that transport pedestrians from one side to the other in lieu of a bridge could also be hired to go out to the deepest parts of the Dique that are sacred to Oshun and Yemanjá, and place offerings in the waters. To this day, in the wee hours before the Yemanjá Festival on 2 February, devotees head for Tororó to make offerings for Oshun, the divinity of fresh water, motherhood and prosperity, beforehand. That is because the feast of Our Lady of Light is actually Oshun’s day, according to the traditions that associate Afro-Brazilian divinities with Catholic saints (see my post on Afro-Brazilian syncretism).