Photo shows bust of Brazilian slave resistance hero, not 'founder of Islamic State in Brazil'

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

A picture has been shared on Indonesian social media along with a false claim that it shows a bust of "Gangga Zombie, the founder of the Islamic State in Brazil". The photo actually shows the bust of Zumbi, also known as Zumbi dos Palmares, a 17th-century slave resistance hero who led the largest settlement of runaway slaves in colonial Brazil. The photo has been doctored to add Arabic text, which does not exist on the actual plinth.

The photo, which shows a bust of a man on a plinth, was shared in this Indonesian-language post, published on Facebook on March 25, 2023.

Arabic script inscribed on the plinth reads: "Masterpieces from Islamic history". The plinth also bears a Portuguese plaque, which says: "Zumbi dos Palmares" -- which means Zumbi of Palmares -- and "Black Leader of All Races".

Meanwhile, the post's lengthy caption partly reads: "He is the Muslim hero 'Gangga Zombie.' He is a great personality and a hero of the Islamic State in Brazil, of African descent.

"After the Portuguese occupied Brazil, and after attacking the West African Islamic coast and capturing its people and transporting them on ships in 1539 AD, they were enslaved and forcibly converted to Christianity. Zombie emerged in 1775 AD among these slaves; he began calling people to the true faith and encouraged them to break free from slavery.

"As his followers increased, he announced the establishment of the Islamic State in Brazil, with its center in 'Palmares'. After the expansion of the Islamic State in Brazil, Christians were united to destroy this state. Several crusades took place over decades to eradicate the Islamic State in Brazil."

It also purported that after the Portuguese succeeded in overthrowing Zombie's state, they killed and beheaded him.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on April 5, 2023

The photo circulated with a similar claim elsewhere on Facebook here and here, and on Twitter here, where it has been reshared more than 150 times.

But the claim is false.

Bust of Zumbi dos Palmares

A reverse image search, followed by keyword searches, found that the photo was previously published in a report by EBC Radios, the Brazilian public radio, on July 3, 2017.

The photo is captioned: "Zumbi of Palmares", and is credited to Elza Fiuza, a photographer with Agencia Brasil, the national public news agency of Brazil.

The plinth of the bust only shows a plaque in Portuguese, which reads: "Zumbi dos Palmares, the Black Leader of All Races". No Arabic script is seen on the genuine photo.

Below is a screenshot of the genuine photo in the EBC Radios report:

Screenshot of the genuine photo in the EBC Radios report

The identical Agencia Brasil photo also appeared in this report from Brazilian TV broadcaster TVitape, with a caption that reads: "Bust of Zumbi dos Palmares, in Brasilia".

The bust of Zumbi in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, can be seen on Google Street View here.

From slave to national hero

Zumbi dos Palmares (1655-1695) was the last leader of Palmares, an autonomous settlement founded by fugitive slaves in 1630 in northeastern Brazil.

Born into freedom in Palmares, Zumbi was captured at the age of six and given as a slave to a Catholic priest, who baptised him and gave him a Christian name, Francisco. Zumbi learned Portuguese and Latin, even helping the priest in celebrating Masses.

However, at the age of 15, he escaped and returned to Palmares -- which at that time was ruled by his uncle Gangga Zumba (1630-1678).

A haven for runaway slaves, Palmares frequently had to fend off attacks from the Portuguese. In 1677, a devastating Portuguese offensive killed one of Gangga Zumba's sons and took 47 prisoners -- including another two of his sons, grandchildren and nephews.

The following year, Gangga Zumba signed a peace treaty with the Portuguese, which required the inhabitants of Palmares to move to the Cucau Valley. Some of the inhabitants, including Zumbi, opposed the peace agreement and stayed in Palmares. Gangga Zumba died of poisoning shortly after.

For the next 17 years, Zumbi commanded Palmares, the largest settlement of runaway slaves in colonial Brazil. He led guerrilla attacks on plantations, freeing slaves and seizing weapons. However, betrayed by one of his followers, Zumbi was killed and beheaded by the Portuguese on November 20, 1695.

Zumbi dos Palmares was recognised as a national hero in Brazil in 1997, and the date of his death, November 20, was adopted as Black Consciousness Day in 2003.