Photo Credit: Malembe's Mônica Tavares, Daiane Menezes, Diana Rosa, and Milena Moraes
Bahia, Brazil's Malembe Food & Drinks Is Owned By Four Black Women
Located in the northeast region of Brazil, Bahia is known for being one of the Blackest states in the Americas. In its capital, Salvador, 80% of the population is composed of African descendants, who arrived in the country as enslaved people. The city offers a vibrant Black culture rooted in West African tradition, ranging from music to food. It is also home to Malembe Food & Drinks. This Black-owned restaurant stands out as one of the top restaurants within the community.
Malembe was opened in early June 2019, and was founded by four Black women: Mônica Tavares, Milena Moraes, Diana Rosa, and Daiane Menezes. The restaurant attracts young Black people in Salvador seeking authentic Afro-Brazilian cuisine, great music, and an atmosphere that celebrates Brazilian blackness.
“Malembe has been created to meet the need for Black locals, where we can feel comfortable offering quality products, good food, and welcoming music, as well as celebrating the Afro-Brazilian culture as a whole,” Monica Tavares told Travel Noire. “Malembe is beyond good music. It is also a cultural center that aims to rescue the connection with our ancestry.”
The name “Malembe” has different meanings. In Angola, Malembe is a rogatory chant addressed to certain Orishas (spirits that play a key role in the Yoruba religion of West Africa, as well as several other religions of the African diaspora), when one wishes to appease their fury or in difficult private or collective situations.
Malembe’s menu offers typical Afro-Brazilian dishes, such as moqueca (Brazilian seafood stew) and vatapá (a dish that combines stale bread, fish, shrimp, coconut milk, manioc flour, dendê palm oil, and cashews). As for the drinks, the most popular one is the Brazilian national liquor cachaça (sugar cane liquor) mixed with tropical fruits.
Menezes explains that the restaurant was created as a place for Blacks to embrace their African roots, in which issues such as history, culture, and Afro-Brazilian social problems are discussed in a comfortable setting.
“We have 100% support from the Black community in Salvador, as our customers embrace the idea of having a restaurant that not only offers good food, but also carries the African identity.”
Menezes says that the most important thing is to spark the normalization of businesses led by Black women in Brazil.
“None of us have had previous experiences as entrepreneurs. We decided to study and research to understand how to open a business. After three years, we managed to be successful. This is very interesting because we reinforce the idea that Black women can achieve good results as entrepreneurs in a society that is still very patriarchal and racist.”
Menezes told Travel Noire that their plans for the future are to expand the business and also help make a difference in the current structure of society. The women entrepreneurs hope to promote more inclusion and achievements of Black-owned businesses in Salvador and prove what is possible, using Malembe as an example.
“We want to see more Black-owned businesses open here in Salvador similar to ours. The more, the better.”
Malembe is located at Ladeira do Carmo St. in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. You can follow the restaurant on its Instagram account.