Creole Jewels from Northeast Brazil
The idea of these pieces is precisely the abundance, the quantity and in Brazil they were called balangandans or creole jewels and were typical of the northeastern region of the country. Most importantly from the state of Bahia and the city of Salvador, where a population of African origin has always prevailed. Up until now, Salvador is still the great African city in Brazil.
Balangandans, a Hidden Symbol of Freedom
At the beginning of the terrible slavery, when slave women arrived from Africa, there was a tradition of wearing jewelry. For instance necklaces with wooden pendants that carried meanings. After that, over the centuries, they started crafting jewels made of gold and silver. In other words black women used those jewelry as a symbol of their liberation. And it is explained: it was forbidden by law in those times (18th and 19th century) for slaves to use fine fabrics and jewelry as clothing. Then, the black women who managed to buy their freedom, as a result of their work, started to make jewelry of great originality, the so-called balangandãs. And the value of these jewels was also a way of keeping their fortunes close to their bodies. Therefore they wore the pieces in large quantities on their arms, around their waist, as brooches and as necklaces.
Balangandans, the First Brazilian Jewels
Many scholars maintain that those pieces were the first truly Brazilian jewels, born from the mixture and created by black women. Syncretic jewels. And each pendant also meant something: good luck (the fig, the clover or the horseshoe), abundance (fruit) or even the symbol of the orixás, the gods of the Afro-descendent religions. They were, above all, pieces of affirmation: of freedom, power and identity of black women. Practically a feminist manifesto of those times.