|Culture and music|
The Kalungas are African-Brazilians that descend from people who escaped from slavery, and lived in remote settlements in Goiás state, Brazil. The Kalungas are one group of Quilombola, or people of African origin who live in hinterland settlements founded during the period of escaped slaves. The Kalunga communities of Goiás have existed for approximately 250 years, and first came back into contact with researchers and the federal government in the 1960s. Most of the approximately 5,000 Kalungas, who are of mixed African and indigenous ancestry, live in very poor conditions.
All of the area occupied by the Kalungas was officially recognized by the state government in 1991 as a Historical Site and the Kalunga are preserved as Patrimônio Cultural Kalunga. The Kalungas settled in the mountains on both sides of the Paraná River, on slopes and in valleys, called Vãos. Today they occupy the territory of Cavalcante, Monte Alegre e Teresina de Goiás. The four main settlements are in the region of Contenda, the Vão do Calunga, the Vão de Almas, the Vão do Moleque and the Ribeirão dos Bois. Other Kalungas remain in unrecognized communities or in isolation.
There is confusion about the meaning of the word Kalunga or Calunga, which, despite the same sound, have totally different meanings: Kalunga – connected to religious beliefs, world of the ancestors, cult of the forefathers, from them came the force; Calunga – small or insignificant thing; a way to call Negros, considered inferior; a famous or important person.
In the land of the Kalunga people, calunga is the name of a plant – Simaba ferruginea – and the place where it grows, near a stream of the same name. It makes the land where it grows sacred, a land that never dries, good for planting food for all of life.
They chose the chapada region because of its inaccessibility, since their former owners would not risk searching for them in that place. It is a sea of mountains and hills full of buriti palms extending to the horizon. They are steep slopes, full of stones. The narrow trails wind and climb, almost lost in the dense vegetation and stone walls fall abruptly into the low valleys.
These descendants of slaves lived isolated from the towns of Goiás. They learned to live with what the cerrado gave them, in food as well in building materials and tools. Even living isolated from each other they considered themselves relatives. Periodically, they would make their way out of the wasteland to venture down to the towns to buy kitchen utensils or certain foods. Their means of transport was primitive boats or troops of donkeys.