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IROKO, Tree of Life Drawing Series

Imna Arroyo's IROKO project centers around several mixed media installations inspired by the sacred tree of life also known as Iroko to the Yoruba people of West Africa and those of the African Diaspora; Yaxche/Yax te' to the Maya people of Central America and northern South America; Kapok in MalaysiaKapok;  Cotton Tree to the Dakota people of North America ; and La Ceiba in the Caribbean. These cultures have identified this tree through their myths as the first tree of creation and as the essence of reproductive life. It is a home of the gods, goddess, Orishas and deities whose enormous presence links humans both to the world of the ancestors through its roots and the realm of the celestial divinities through its branches.

Through the exploration of materials old and new, traditional and innovative technologies this mixed media installation which incorporares a 10 minute video uses the Iroko / Kapok / La Ceiba / Cotton Wood tree as an anchor to express the marvelous power of nature, its continuity and resiliency which hold the promise for a sustainable future if nurtured and honored.  

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Salvador de Bahia, Brazil in the Summer of 2014 was a significant landmark in the pathImna Arroyo had embarked upon many years before - a journey, albeit a spiritual one,where the artistic and the intellectual intertwined in a seamless yet distinct evolution.Bahia with its prodigious African cultural traditions, the African derived Candomblé, has played an important role in the formation of Afro-Brazilian ethnic identity. Candomblé's rituals, celebrations, dances presented new ways of interpreting the Yoruba traditionsArroyo had for many years, researched in Cuba. It was during this trip that Arroyo was inspired while witnessing the ritual dance, moved by the dancer's powerful ritual movements, Arroyo inquired its meaning and learned it was “IROKO, the Tree of Life”.


Thus, sprouted the seedling of the extended Iroko multimedia installation which like a tree beginning as a singular sapling, grows - branches sprout, and those branches sprout branches of their own, all eventually forming a mature living entity whose canopy is a complex continuously growing web always connected to its  original source.  Thus invoking our ancestral connections, those from our past whose blood we carry and whose personal histories become part of the seamless interconnected evolution of humanity.


Iroko in Yoruba Land is an Orisha that lives in the tree also called Iroko. In the Americas for the African Diaspora is the orisha that lives inside the Ceiba tree. It is the place where the gods , humanity and the ancestors meet. It is a tree of great symbolic, spiritual, mythological, medicinal, magical, commercial, ecological and aesthetic import. Iroko is prominent in many Nigerian practices and is considered to be the gateway between the heavens and the Earth and its roots stretch to the four corners of the earth representing the four quarters of the earth. The top of the tree represents the heavens and the root signifies the earth.  --Migdalia Salas, 2017


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