SAO PAULO – From an emotional tribute to Kenyan culture to the saga of an enslaved black warrior to a colorful exaltation of cinematic history, the inaugural day of Carnival celebrations in Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, offered up something for everyone.
The Colorado do Bras samba school opened the first night of parades in that extended into well through the early hours of Saturday morning at the city’s Anhembi Sambadrome with a performance paying homage to the “warrior spirit” of the East African nation of Kenya, regaling spectators with a story of its history, from the years of slavery to freedom.
“The chain broke, the ground shuddered, freedom dawned in beautiful reddish light,” the members of the school bellowed in unison in their elaborate costumes evoking Kenyan culture.
The troupe’s 2,000 members won over the crowd with their vibrant performance as it made its way down the 530-meter track at the Sambadrome, designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Immediately after Colorado do Bras came the Imperio Casa Verde samba school, which this year took the crowd on a journey through 124 years of cinema.
Joining them was not just one, but 215 Darth Vaders.
Drawing inspiration from Hollywood, the school’s movers and groovers embodied other well-known characters from Luke Skywalker to E.T. They were accompanied by a selection of imposing and dazzlingly-adorned floats.
“The light of imagination shines in our hearts,” sang the members of this school, not allowing the torrential rain on their parade to dampen their spirits.
As is the tradition in Brazil’s carnival celebrations, other samba schools incorporated social criticism into their displays.
Thus, the Mancha Verde, which is linked to popular soccer club Palmeiras, interpreted the story of Aqcualtune, an African princess who, according to legend, was the grandmother of Ganga Zumba, a slave brought to Brazil from the Congo (then, Kingdom of Kongo) who later led a revolt and escaped.
Their performance highlighted the socio-economic challenges and inequality experienced by Brazil’s black population to this day.
The Mancha Verde was followed by the Academicos de Tucuruvi, which, in turn, put on a show drenched in color that spoke of Brazil’s historic fight for independence against its Portuguese colonizers.
The rest of Sao Paulo’s elite samba schools are set to take to the stage Sunday.