Through water and fire
Africa and Brazil has a long history of interchangeable relationship; from the dark past of slavery, Africa has provided Brazilian society with the most important aspects for its cultural heritage. Through Water and Fire, a textile art exhibition by the artist Bruno Vinhas, aims to translate the influence of African mythology in the Afro-Brazilian cult of Candomblé through the imagery of Oxum and Iansã goddesses.
There was a time when gods were associated with natural elements and prone to human behaviors, “there was no separation between the Orum, the sky of the Orixás, and the Aie, the land of men. Men and Deities came and went, coexisted and shared life and adventures” (PRANDI, 2000 p. 524). When the realms were split by a boundary imposed by Olorum, the Orixás had to find a way to still be able to walk among mankind. The Candomblé was born.
“The religion is a mixture of traditional Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs which originated from different regions in Africa, and it has also incorporated some aspects of the Catholic faith over time. The name itself means 'dance in honour (sic) of the gods', and music and dance are important parts of Candomblé ceremonies.” (bbc.co.uk). The Candomblé is considered one of the most important part of the Africa-Brazil relationship as it is often considered the purest repository of African culture in the diaspora (Wafer & Santana, 1990)
In the Candomblé pantheon of gods, two goddesses stand out either by the position they occupy or the functions attributed to them. Oxum represents the feminine, maternity and the flow of the river. She is the most important female force in the tribe, the Yalodê, and is the owner of the fecundity of women, the owner of the great feminine power. The second smartest goddess in the African-Brazilian pantheon Oxum controls all creativity and love that is given to mankind, but she also loves jewelries and wealth and therefore is considered vain and the keeper of gold and copper.
Iansã, (said to be translate as Mother of Nine by an extensive literature due to the fact that she was blessed to have nine children even after being proven sterile) is the Queen of the Dead, Goddess of Winds and Storms and Lightning, Guardian of the Gates of the Cemetery, Deity of commercialism and markets, mother of the Eguns. (PRANDI, 2000)
Using contemporary methods blended with the traditional Brazilian and European techniques to produce this body of work the artist intend to bring awareness to fact that cultural differences can come together in order to create beauty and an understanding of one’s history. The art pieces developed in this project will represent the fusion of cultural beliefs for the formation of Afro-Brazilian descendants’ cultural identity.
Mix movement and imagery is the perfect combination to portray these goddesses. Through the use of mixed-media to construct a sculpture, made with natural elements and adorned with textile elements, and the use of mechanical devices for an art installation, Through Water and Fire will present to the viewer the bonds created by the African heritage and the contemporary Brazilian society.
Iansa - A goddess in movement
Iansã is a great warrior, she is the owner of the fire sword that cuts the sky. She was also the wife of Ogun, and a paramour of Xango. She was seduced by Xango, and is part of the reason for their age old feud. Iansã and Xango have battled against each other many times, and so have she and Ogun, and neither was able to beat her in battle. Though she could not beat them, she was able to stand toe-to-toe with them in both martial and magical prowess.
Iansã, dances with the eruxin (a special whip made with horse tail hair) and her flaming sword. Usually dressed in red shades and with a copper crown, she is the most astute Orixá and learned most of her talents by seducing the other male Orixás. Although she can be a fierce deity she can also be extremely compassionate for those in need.
Oxum - an organic sculpture
Oxum is considered the most beautiful Yaba, her name comes for a river in Nigeria, more specific in the Ijexá, Ijebu e Oxogbó nations. The association with the river name makes this, in the African mythology, the sacred home of the Orixá where all the offerings are delivered on her honour.
The legend says that Oxum was given all the fresh waters of the world, but only those that have a calm surface and have strong currents underneath. She is mostly known for being the queen of all rivers and waterfalls.
Generous and dignified, Oxum is the most important female force in the tribe, the Yalodê, and is the owner of the fecundity of women, the owner of the great feminine power. The second smartest goddess in the African-Brazilian pantheon Oxum controls all creativity and love that is given to mankind, but she also loves jewelries and wealth and therefore is considered vain and the keeper of gold and copper.
From the tribal Africa to the Brazilian urban society, Oxum is the muse that dances in the terreiros (sacred spaces for the Candomblé) with an abebe (a fan with a mirror) and a sword in hand, one shows her beauty and the other her strength. Although she carries a sword, she is the only Ioruba Orixá that does not like the war or conflicts.