October 01, 2010
What is Ritual practice and its ensuing place in the sphere of art and religion?
This project, Sacred Essence, was developed through extensive study into five spiritual systems the origins of which are African. Sacred essence explores five spiritual systems through examination and association of the corresponding Deities. It is comprised of seven triptychs. The work departs with a mapping of the ritual objects, characteristics, and symbols associated using its numerical affiliation. Continues through construction of a amalgamated shrine encompassing attributes for each of the five “Deities” and concludes with a drawing that is a visual key to each of the five systems. The maps used are each related to the places or affiliations of the spirits addressed throughout. Within each shrine there is a Wanga bottle a source of power and activation of energies.
When scores of people were taken out of Africa for the slave trade they carried with them their own ritual practice. These practices were transformed into many other derivations of the original rituals. Because people were taken from many regions these practices were also from differing origins, a fact that makes it difficult to directly correlate transformations into other systems. This piece examines seven ”Deities” within five systems beginning with the “Deity” or Orisa in Yoruba faith traveling through to the Orisha of Santeria into the Lwa of the Vodoun, the Orixa of Macumba and finally the adaptation of the Saints of Catholism. It is commonly accepted that Santeria is derived from the Yoruba faith, Vodoun from the Dahomey and Congo. While Macumba and Candomble primarily borne in Brazil have shared Orixa, the Practice is not entirely the same. The slave population was additionally persecuted by disallowing worship in the ritual practices they carried with them. To get around this, the synchronization into Catholic practice was born. Saints were associated based on visually imagery. This varies widely not only from system to system, but from area of practice and prevailing accessible imagery. This explains why the Deities have multiple saints affiliated to them.
Although I come from a secular perspective in working to create this piece I have participated in rituals from some of the systems. In doing so I add an element of living practice to the research that enhanced my explorations. I have not been initiated into any particular system preferring rather view them through an artistic lens. However careful attention has been paid to the details of each practice with sensitivity to honoring each. In reading about these systems the author will vilify another system as a negative and inferior to their own system, which is deemed superior warning practitioners to stay away from those “other” practices. The fact is the systems are all born from African history and the ensuing experience of the diaspora. It is through this understanding I attempt to offer a better understanding of Ritual connection to one another and ultimately social acceptance.