Bahia’s treasured costume, Baiana de Acarajé, is an extravagant piece of clothing worn by the beautiful women of Bahia. This group of people is in Salvador, a town on the northeastern coast of Brazil. It is impossible to stroll through the streets without seeing a woman or a group of women in this special attire.
The Transatlantic slave trade has had so much influence on Brazilian pop culture. The clothing of the women of Bahia carries a piece of this history.
Their traditional dress is made up of the Camino (a type of white cotton trousers), worn underneath a long maxi skirt, made extra flowy, and which is usually white. The dress also comes with a bodice that sinches at the waist and drapes slightly over the top of the skirt.
Although most of the styles are similar, every woman is at liberty to make their style more unique and personalized. The style inspiration for the traditional dress is that of ancient European Baroque — white lace and tons of layers. The headwraps, which are made with white lace, can be traced to the dress’s Afro-Islamic roots. The accessories include colorful bead necklaces and rings stacked upon each other.
In other parts of Brazil, the traditional dresses come in different colors and patterns but when it comes to the Baiana de Acarajé traditional dress in Bahia, it is an all-white affair. This is because it pays tribute to the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé.
Candomblé was formed in the late 19th century in Bahia where most of the enslaved can be traced. People from Yorubaland, Dahomey kingdoms (present-day southwestern Nigeria and Benin), and Bantu Africa were the larger groups in the settlement at the time.
Yoruba and Ewe-Fon rituals have heavily influenced Candomblé from the language of incantations to their religious organization and their mythology. The Candomblé faithful believe in several deities referred to as orishas (orixás) that are sometimes even likened to Catholic saints.
The Baiana de Acarajé traditional dress is also worn by women in Bahia who sell Acarajé, a dish made from peeled beans formed into a ball and then deep-fried in palm oil or vegetable oil. The meal serves as both a religious offering to the gods in the Candomblé religion and as street food.
Aside from the Acarajé, which is variously made with fried beef, mutton, dried shrimp, pigweed, fufu Osun sauce, and coconut, the women wear the traditional attire to sell other tasty street foods as well. They stress that donning the Baianas de Acarajé traditional dress is an intricate part of their culture that warms the hearts of the locals and tourists alike.