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By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The second night of Carnival 2017’s Grupo Especial (Special Group) competition will take place on Monday, February 27th in the Sambódromo. The evening will begin with a performance from samba school União da Ilha at 10PM, opening the Sambódromo’s celebrations for the evening.

União da Ilha's 2016 performance, photo by Raphael David/Riotur. Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro, Carnival Carnival 2017, Special Group, Grupo Especial
União da Ilha’s 2016 performance, photo by Raphael David/Riotur.

União da Ilha won the Série A championship in 2009 and has remained in the Grupo Especial since. However, the school has never been crowned champion of the Grupo Especial and placed 11th in last year’s competition, narrowly avoiding slipping back down into the Série A competition.

This year, the samba school will present Angolan Bantu legends of the creation of the universe with their enredo (plot). ‘Nzara Ndembu – glória ao Senhor Tempo’ (Nzara Ndembu – Glory to the Lord Time), tells how the Bantu creator of the universe Nzambi Mpungu called upon the Angolan king Kitembo and transformed him into the god of time, belief, reason and emotion.

Within Bantu mythology, Kitembo guides the creation of life on the planet, and his transformation gives meaning to life, from lightning and thunder to seasons, day and night. Kitembo also leads human civilization and struggles, but most importantly his position as a godly inhabitant on earth creates an enduring connection between the material and the supernatural.

In the course of the enredo, Kitembo meets and falls in love with Matamba, who is the restless wind and storms. “Together, they return to Africa and create the Nzambi kingdom of great prosperity, wealth and love for all mankind,” said Carnavalesco (Carnival designer) Severo Luzardo Filho to G1.

União da Ilha will tell this story as a reminder of Brazil’s African cultural heritage and ancestry, but also as a reminder of humanity’s connection to the planet and the importance of preserving nature for future generations.

União da Ilha's 2016 performance, photo by LIESA/Fat Press. Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janiero, Carnival 2017, Samba schools, Grupo Especial, Sambódromo
União da Ilha’s 2016 performance, photo by LIESA/Fat Press.

According to Filho, Bantu is the Angolan equivalent of Candomblé, but far less well-known in Brazil. “The legend is beautiful and will be told for the first time in Sapucaí. In Bantu legends, we do not have orixás, we have inquices.”

“My job is to pick up the depleted material and turn it into a beautiful costume,” said Filho, who was also the costume designer for Oscar-nominated 2016 Brazilian film ‘Pequeno Segredo. According to Filho, this year’s costumes will use a selection of fabrics with Angolan prints and designs, as well as natural materials such as straw.

He also promises that União da Ilha’s costumes will feature the school’s signature red, white and blue of its flag. “Anyone who sees the parade from above, as from the bleachers, will see the school flag, with its colors on the avenue.”

Be sure to stay with The Rio Times to learn more about the other competing schools, winners and additional events during this year’s Carnival.

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