BENEATH ALL WATER AND LAND STATEMENT
In the religion known as Regla Lucumí or Ocha (also called Santería), the word ile, or house, means not only a home but also a community of believers. These photographs were taken in Havana, Cuba, where I traveled with my friend and godsister, the poet Iyawo Kristin Naca, for her initiation into the religion. My photographs document the houses and communities of those who practice Ocha, which originated in West Africa and traveled with the Atlantic slave trade to the island, where it has flourished. In unassuming homes all over Cuba (and beyond, in other parts of the Caribbean, as well as in the United States and Brazil), practitioners prepare offerings and elaborate ceremonies for the orishas, the deities of the religion. Many distinctive elements of this religious tradition have migrated into mainstream Cuban dance and music. Yet the most important rituals are intimate affairs, taking place behind closed doors within private homes. Photography of such rituals is generally forbidden, even for practitioners. These photographs focus on the interiors of such homes, lingering just beyond the room where rituals take place, the boundary that separates the outside world from igbodu, or sacred space. These photographs were taken in 2014, just a few months before the reinstatement of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. In this critical period of transition, it remains to be seen how traditional religious cultures will be affected by the political and economic changes to come. An account of our trip appears in the March/April 2015 issue of Art Papers: http://www.artpapers.org/feature_articles/2015_0304-lifealtars.html.