Yemayá Okuté (From the Seven Faces of Yemaya)
Woodblock prints on satin framed with batik cloth from Ghana
101 x 33 in
As a black Puerto Rican from the coastal town of Guayama, I am the descendant of enslaved Indigenous and African peoples. My artistic and spiritual development has been devoted to exploring the connections between the African Continent and the Diaspora. In an attempt to construct meaning from that identity and experience, I traveled throughout the Americas, the Caribbean, and Africa. My artistic process has been informed by these journey and my research, aimed at reclaiming my spiritual and cultural heritage.
My artwork draws upon the symbolism and language of the Yoruba people whose oral and aesthetic traditions use poetry, proverbs, legends, myths and imagery to express a majestic, complex and sophisticated worldview.
As a printmaker, papermaker, and bookmaker, who also works on multi media installations, I use materials such as paper, ink and paper-pulp to create prints and cast three dimensional forms, waxes to make batiks and encaustics, clay, and fabrics. I am inspired by the idea that art-making can be a ritual form of healing. This includes the notion that the energy of the materials used can be fused with my energy, or Ashe, to create artworks that not only illicit an intellectual or emotional response but a spiritual one as well. It is my intent to create Art that is a kind of medicine used to can heal the deep-seated collective wounds of history and to can celebrate the vibrancy and relevance of the legacy of those that came before me us.
My artwork speaks of the history and culture of the people who the made that journey to the New World and their descendants. It seeks to reveal the hidden iconography of those whose right to self-expression was denied but whose majestic and sophisticated worldview endures.The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade began a period of remarkable transformation and reinterpretation of the aesthetic and religious expression of the Yoruba people. The blending of cultures and religions in the New World created new forms and interpretations. This “trans-culturation” process continues to this day through subsequent migrations and technological advances that make the mingling of ideas even more prevalent.
The result is a dynamic, adaptive and responsive belief system that is firmly rooted in centuries old practices yet is as fresh, relevant and viable as any modern philosophy. These traditions are being adapted, recaptured and enriched by people of all backgrounds, from around the world, who have a need and desire to put together the pieces of this rich cultural legacy.
Agbola Iyalorisha of Obatalá Chief Yeye Agboola of Ido Osun