Categories
Africa

Santaria

Cuba

Santaria priest dog oil painting by Lee Lee
Priest’s dog | Cuba | oil on canvas | 5.2006

During a visit to Cuba in the winter of 2000, we had the opportunity to partake in a blessing performed by a Santaria Priest, just outside of Havana. We witnessed the sacrifice of a pure white chicken, the blood of which added to the layers caked upon his shrines, which added a deeply visceral quality to the forms sculpted by use over many years. The room was dark, lit only by a couple of small windows and candles that were nestled into the organic forms of the shrines. The practice largely grew from African traditions brought to the island during the forced migration of slaves. The materials that were used could be seen as common, yet they were imbued with significant symbolism which allowed them to be used as tools for prayer during these dynamic rituals. Chains represented enslavement and rusted railroad spikes carried the sleek energy of the rail as a passageway or path down which we may release our energy in the world. Tree branches were incorporated as representations of the transfer of energy between earth and sky. Home made dolls incorporated a human element into the mix. Eggs were incorporated within the act of the ritual as a powerful symbol of regeneration. Feathers used as symbols for freedom. It took many years for the experience to settle. Ultimately I created a series of mixed media works on paper integrating stone lithography, collage, rust stains and drawing with oil pastel, spraypaint, chalk and pencils. The largely abstract works are intended to capture the feeling of the space, and the shifting, almost swirling energy produced by the act of the ritual, which culminated in the representations of the shrines as fragmented. It’s as if the energy imbued in the symbols that made up the shrine were breaking apart to lend their energy to the acts performed within this space.

Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee
Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee
Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee
Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee
Santaria Shrine - mixed medial work on paper by Lee Lee