The legendary figure of Luiza Mahin, portrayed by designer Amy Hood.

Resistance was part of the daily life of the Malês, as the Muslim blacks of the Nagô ethnic group became known, brought as slaves to the city of Salvador in the 2019th century. In a country where most of the gentlemen were illiterate, the Malês had knowledge of mathematics, they knew how to read and write in Arabic, as well as investing in the literacy of their children born in Brazil. Protagonists of one of the fiercest revolts against the slave regime, they are in the lyrics of Mangueira's XNUMX samba-plot, alongside Marielle Franco, the activist murdered this year in Rio; the caboclos de Julho, main symbols of the struggle for independence in Bahia; and those who resisted the military dictatorship.

“Hail the caboclos of July / Who was made of steel in the years of lead / Brazil, the time has come / To hear the Marias, Mahins, Marielles, Malês”, says an excerpt from the school’s samba-plot, “I want a Brazil that doesn’t is in the picture”. The reference to the Mahins, in turn, is linked to the figure of the free African Luiza Mahin. According to accounts handed down from generation to generation, Luiza was among the leaders of the Levante dos Malês, planned to erupt at dawn on January 25, 1835, the end of Ramadan, the month of Muslims' continual fasting and prayers. On Luiza's trays, instead of delicacies, boys linked to the movement would get instructions in Arabic to distribute through the streets of Salvador.

Luiza was the mother of the lawyer, poet and abolitionist Luiz Gama, who was sold into slavery as a child by his own father, the former master of the Malê leader. Taken to São Paulo, Luiz Gama (1830-1880) won freedom and fame. Two years before he died, he recorded in a letter to journalist Lúcio de Mendonça that he was “the natural son of a free black African woman named Luiza Mahin”, who had always refused Christian doctrine: “My mother was short in stature, thin, beautiful, the color she was dark black and unglazed, her teeth were as white as snow, she was very proud, temperate, insufferable and vindictive. She gave herself to commerce – she was a greengrocer, very industrious, and more than once, in Bahia, she was arrested as a suspect of being involved in plans for slave insurrections, which had no effect”.

The Levante dos Malês, like other minority uprisings, was reported to the police on the eve of happening. It turned into a street battle between soldiers with guns and blacks wielding swords. They were the so-called “blacks of gain”, enslaved people who did not cut sugarcane or live in slave quarters. They had relative freedom and were paid small sums for their services. By the end of the uprising, an estimated 70 insurgents were dead and 500 in prison. Punishments involved whipping for slaves and deportation for freedmen, but repression increased for all slaves, Malese or not. Fifty-three years later, however, slavery was abolished.

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