Escarava Anastacia

Salvador, Bahia 

November 2015

I spotted these images in the back of one of Salvador, Bahia’s most famous (black) churches, “Our Lady of the Rosary of Black People”. There’s a small “museum”, two glass cases, really, containing religious imagery featuring people of African descent.

The images of Anastacia caught my eye for obvious reasons; she’s a blue-eyed Black woman bound in iron chains and wearing a muzzle. She is considered a saint among (some) Brazilians. 

There isn’t an official history of Anastacia, but stories about her begin in the late 19th century. It’s unclear if she was born in Africa or Brazil. What is agreed upon is that she was an enslaved woman with special healing powers, who was treated horribly by her owners. Her spirit remained unbroken and she treated everyone, including her masters, with love and compassion. 

She was forced to wear a muzzle and heavy iron collar, a punishment for… one version of her story says she was helping other enslaved people escape, others say she rejected the “amorous advances” of her Master and another version says her Mistress was jealous of beauty. Anastacia died of complications related to her bridle or iron collar..

In the 1980s, Petrobras oil company sought to canonize (i.e., make her into an actual saint) Anastacia, a measure that was rejected by the Catholic Church. 

Images provided by Demetria Lucas D'Oyley. All rights reserved.