SALVADOR DA BAHIA, Brazil—Come into the heart of this city, the capital of black Bahia, and there is Dique do Tororo, a picturesque, landscaped lake made awesome by a pantheon of Gods.
A dozen colorful sculptures —each 22 feet tall, two tons in weight and representing a powerful orisha of Brazil’s African derived religion Candomble— are arranged on the lake’s perimeter and grouped in a circle out on the water.
Tororo packs the emotional punch of the Lincoln Memorial housing instead a seated Malcolm X or Mount Rushmore picturing a Black Jesus. The male and female orishas, wearing their characteristic colors and carrying often lethal weapons of choice, are bold symbols of African power— this in a country where the Black population strives mightily to overcome a legacy of racial repression and where, not long ago, Candomble and the African martial art Capoeira were illegal.
The orishas, like the fiery Shango waving his axe or fearless Ochossi gripping his bow and arrow, provide bold silhouettes in the sun. At night, when lit from below, the fiberglass resin and iron forms appear to dance on the water in a circle, just as their worshippers here dance at ceremonies here in their honor. As an introduction to the city, Tororo gives the…