When you enter Pelourinho in Salvador you’ll be met by baiana women wearing traditional Bahian dresses.
The outfit of a baiana woman is turban, starched skirts of colourful pattern, shawl over the shoulder - or tied to the breast - and bracelets and necklaces.
Today the dress is normally used in religious ceremonies – or by the women you’ll meet in Pelourinho.
A photo of the baiana women in Pelourinho will cost you a few reais.
All over the older part of Salvador, and especially in Pelorinho, you will see women dressed in the traditional style. Some of these work in the tourist-aimed shops, e.g. crafts, and wear the dress to attract customers, while others pose on street corners and hope to earn money by being photographed. Unlike in Havana, where a similar custom prevails, the women are quite aggressive in their “sales technique”, so I found myself trying to bypass it and take a few shots for free!
The dress, like so much else in Salvador, has its origins in Africa and in slavery – costumes similar to this would have been worn by slave women. It consists of a colourful turban-style headdress, a full dress with starched skirts, a shawl and plenty of jewellery.
Bahia is the state with the largest population descended from slaves, hence the African culture is more prominent here.
The typical Bahian dress is white, lacy top with huge, bouncy skirt. They look like they are wearing layers and layers of doilies. Sometimes, instead of white, various bright colours of used.
Many Afro-Brazilian women dressed in these white Bahian dresses can be seen selling snacks on the streets.
Baianas are the women you'll see dressed in the traditional white hoop skirt, lace blouse and African turban. They represent the cultural impact that bringing slaves from Africa has left on Bahia and Brazil on the whole.
Many of the traditions that the slaves brought with them still persist to this day. The religion of Candomble was brought from West Africa and then blended with Catholicism as slaves got creative while their masters attempted to forced them into practicing Catholicism.
Capoeira, the dancing, kicking, spinning and wildly athletic martial art practiced all over Brazil, but more prevalently in Salvador, is thought to have been brought by slaves from Angola.
And of course, the music in Salvador and all over Brazil is largely influenced by the drum beats and rhythms of African music.