A Brazilian television series is planning to put the largely-unknown history of the country's numerous slave descendants under the spotlight using DNA tests, news outlet O Globo reported Wednesday.
Brazil was the last place in the Americas to abolish slavery when it formally ended the practice on May 13, 1888.
Now, tests in the United States using samples from 150 Afro-Brazilians participating in a project "Brazil DNA Africa" will shed light on their long lost lineage.
Brazil's Cine Group is producing five documentaries, to be broadcast in July, linking Afro-Brazilians with ancestors forcibly brought across the Atlantic to South America and examining the slaves' influence on Brazilian culture.
Series participants were selected from five federal states -- Rio and Minas Gerais in the southeast and the northeastern states of Bahia, Pernambuco and Maranhao -- which received an estimated 4.5 million slaves over four centuries.
Before being abolished 127 years ago, many slaves were forced to adopt Portuguese names, adding to the difficulty of tracing their lineage.
Today, a majority of Brazil's 202 million inhabitants are either black (7.6 percent) or mixed race (43.1 percent).
Cine Group says one participant from each state involved is invited to travel to Africa to establish contact with their ancestors' homeland.
- DNA results -
Rio resident Luis Sacopa, 73, last month opened an envelope containing information on his DNA sequence showing his ancestors were Yoruba who lived in what is now Nigeria.
"My mother did not like to talk about her past. When people asked questions she bowed her head," Sacopa told news outlet O Globo.
"One day she let slip that our grandmother had been raped by the son of a slave owner and ended up committing suicide in a river," he said.
Zulu Araujo discovered he is descended from Cameroon's Tikar ethnic group and has visited them for the documentary.
"There are evident physical and cultural similarities," said Araujo, adding that he shared an affinity for music with the Tikar.
Araujo, politically active within Brazil's black rights movement, told Globo: "I am sure any black person from anywhere in the world would like to know his origins."
"In Brazil, that was ripped from us in sophisticated and brutal fashion. They destroyed the papers of our ancestors and changed our family names," he said.
Of an estimated nine million Africans transported into slavery in the Americas, roughly half ended up in Brazil.
The documentary series comprises five 52-minute documentaries, each focusing on a personal history.
"Although Angola was one of the main slave departure points we are discovering that these men actually came from various places and we want to talk about these different routes," said Cine Group director Monica Monteiro.