Escrava Anastácia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint

2009 (J. S. Handler and K. E. Hayes) “Escrava Anastácia: The Iconographic History of a Brazilian Popular Saint.” African Diaspora: Journal of Transnational Africa in a Global World 2: 1-27.

This article describes the transformation of an image depicting an unnamed, enslaved African man wearing a metal facemask, a common form of punishment in colonial Brazil, into the iconic representation of the martyred slave Anastácia/Anastasia, the focus of a growing religious and political movement in Brazil. The authors trace the image to an early 19th century engraving based on a drawing by the Frenchman Jacques Arago. Well over a century later, Arago’s image increasingly became associated with a corpus of myths describing the virtuous suffering and painful death of a female slave named Anastácia. By the 1990s, Arago’s image (and variations of it), now identified as the martyred Anastácia/Anastasia, had proliferated throughout Brazil, an object of devotion for Catholics and practitioners of Umbanda, as well as a symbol of black pride.

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