Luisa Mahin

Luisa Mahin was a former African slave and mother of Brazilian abolitionist Luis Gama she was taken from the tribe of Mahi (hence her surname), who were Yoruba people, of Dahomey and she was part of the Nago peoples in Brazil who were Brazilians of Yoruba descent, her son Luis Gama has stated that she had been an African princess, which could be true considering the degree of political education she had.

Luiza refused to be submitted to the Catholic rites and rejected the Christian sacrament and continued to reject this until her death, professing belief in deities that came from Africa (no syncretism) she was literate in Arabic and read the Koran, and was responsible for the spread of prophet Muhammad’s words to the unconverted blacks, she united with a group of more than 600 people and participated in the organization of the Revolt of Malês, 1835.

Malê was the name by which the Islamized Africans (Muslims) who were literate in Arabic, were known in Bahia.

The goal was beyond freedom from slavery, it was an imposition of Islam as the official religion in the kingdom to be established in Salvador the capital of Bahia. If they were successful they Luisa would’ve been Queen of Bahia.

Luisa Mahin’s son Luis Gama

Unfortunamentely the Revolt of Malês was defeated because it did not have support from the entire black population, because the organizers sought only the blacks who were converted to Islam and certain African ethnic groups. The excluded, fearful of a black government, imagined it would be even worse under Islam than it was under Catholicism so didn’t join.

Betrayed, the leaders were arrested and executed and the revolt brutally dispersed, with several murders of slaves and former slaves of Yoruba origin.

Luisa and other leaders managed to escape and flee to Rio De Janiero and unfortunately she had to leave her son behind with his father a white man who later sold his son into slavey over a gambling debt at the age of 10.

Luis Gama later went on to be a Romantic poet, journalist, lawyer and a prominent abolitionist who saved hundreds of slaves from perscuation. Even though Gama was also a Pardo he found great pride in his blackness and saw himself as black and was proud to have had such a strong and beautiful black mother.

In his biographical notes, the poet and abolitionist Gama , recorded about his mother:

“I am a native son of black African, free and of the Nago nation, my mother’s name is Luisa Mahin, a pagan, who always refused baptism and Christian doctrine. My mother was short, thin, beautiful, with skin jet black and unglazed and teeth as white as snow. She was haughty, generous, a sufferer but strong and sometimes vindictive, she was a beautiful woman.

To read more about Luis Gama

Toyin Ashiru


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