Diaspora Expressions on Spirituality & Ritual: A second look

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Elisa McKay (The St. Thomas Source) reviews “Diaspora Expressions: On Spirituality & Rituals.” Also see previous post Exhibition: Diaspora Expressions.]

Diaspora Expressions: On Spirituality & Rituals opened at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts Nov. 18 with art patrons in the community expressing their connection to the theme and their desire to revisit the exhibit. The visual creations of six artists from the Caribbean fill the walls in the upstairs galleries giving reverence and storytelling of the culture and practices of their homelands.

Noted curator Anderson Pilgrim worked with each artist visiting their studios, observing them as they worked, and selecting the pieces that would become the Diaspora Expressions on Spirituality & Ritual exhibit. Pilgrim is President of Diaspora Now Inc., an artist management and exhibition company as well as executive director of Caribbean Fine Art Fair Barbados, the Caribbean’s only fine art fair held within the region. Pilgrim began his career in the arts and was part of the CARIFESTA stage management in his native Barbados in 1981.

[. . .] “As African people were scattered across the New World during the Middle Passage and 400 years of human trade, so too were many of their cultural practices, modes of worship and rituals surrounding life moments. These ancestral elements manifest themselves in religious movements, cultural expressions such as dance, visual arts, and carnival arts, many of which have entered the mainstream, while some other have been maligned in popular culture. Growing up in the Caribbean, I would venture to say that most of my contemporaries and I were taught to disavow the practices of Vodou/Santeria/Obeah in whichever island we lived…

‘Black Magic’ they called it. How ironic. However, there is a movement among contemporary practitioners, in the Americas especially, to try and dispel those misconceptions and reclaim the public narrative about the religion,” Pilgrim said.

The article “Black Religion That’s Been Misaligned for Centuries” written in The Atlantic, June 2022 by Haitian American, environmental educator Alain Pierre Louis says, “Vodou is very big on respecting nature, remembering the ancestors, and the rhythm and vibration through dance, through dance, song, and the drum. Vodou is energy.” [. . .]

Native Virgin Islander, Artist-in-Residence Ademola Olugebefola and Pilgrim worked together for many years. “We decided we would focus on my printmaking created in the 1960s and 1970s that are part of my development and give people the opportunity to see some of my earlier work. I am happy that he [Pilgrim] chose so many of the woodcuts that highlight my career. The museum has a printmaking workshop for teens under my tutelage and we can use these,” he said. 

[. . .] “Listening to the artist in the zoom exchange gave me a better understanding of what their work was about. Ademola Olugebefola spoke of the psychology of colors and how colors can impact our behavior. The colors created a mood and opened my mind to the many different beliefs, customs, and practices their art portrayed,” she said. They all conveyed a story to this patron and their connection to the Diaspora from Africa to the Caribbean. 

“When I looked at Patricia Brintle’s art from Haiti, i could see the Catholic faith come out in her work. I liked the objects in the Yemaya piece from Arlette St.Hill. There were stones and shells and familiar colors of the Caribbean.” The late Earl Darius Etienne of Dominica showed fabric and costumes that reminded her of the masqueraders here on St. Croix when she was growing up. The costumes took her back to the days of seeing them dancing in the streets and the performances they had at that time, she said. [. . .]

For full article, see https://stthomassource.com/content/2022/11/29/diaspora-expressions-on-spirituality-ritual-a-second-look

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