In the case of Vodun, being one of the most powerful spiritual practices in the world, we belief that the mystery that involves these cults are the reasons why many people feels terrified about it (us included). The more we read and watch documentaries about African Vodun, the more doubts we have. It is not easy to understand, it has a complex system of practices, not quite familiar to us, culturally far from the African continent.
The accessible information has, in most of the cases, doubtful sources and we read so many contradictions that we experienced a particularly hard time studying it.
It is truth that the “Voodoo” in the Americas has much more reliable content available but it is a little different form his African roots. It seems to us that the African diaspora in the Americas developed an independent type of cults that integrated a considerable influence from the established christianity.
Focusing essentially on the African beliefs, we tried to establish a connection between the many versions and theories about this very ancient practice.
The culture and language obstacles may define some interpretation issues and for that reason we cannot be 100% sure about the ideas we are exploring.
On the other hand, we actually like this mysterious environment that embraces the whole background, making us run in circles, unable to understand it. It looks like a heavy shield that prevent us to get in and explain it by words.
The African Vodun, (different from Voodoo or Hoodoo) is said to be practiced essentially in the Western Africa, but there are many known reports across the continent. The Vodun cosmology support the existence of spirits (Loa), hierarchically arranged, that govern the Earth and control specific elements. It is an animist faith, believing that all natural things, such as plants, animals, rocks, etc, have spirits and can influence human events.
During the ceremonies, the invoked spirits may possess the bodies of the people who participates, transmitting knowledge such as advice or warnings. These rituals were normally performed to celebrate positive events and to trade food and gifts with the Loa for aid and protection.
The Vodun has a tremendously interesting system of rituals, involving strange dances, drumming, singing or even animal sacrifices.
It is important to note that in tribal Africa the concepts of protection or surviving have a very different meaning than ours, in our society.
In our design we portray a young tribal priestess as main figure. His nude body exalts the sexual, creative energy that commands life. It is said that she is mystically chosen by the oracle to be the spiritual guide of his community, someone who organises the most important ceremonies of her village.
In this image, she leads the frenzy, erotical dances, celebrating fertility on her tribe and on the land. The rites include the shedding of the sacrificial blood into the soil, intensifying the fecundity of the earth, on which they depend enormously. For them, the blood honours and consecrates everything it touches.
If you ever see videos/documentaries about his kind of dances (or be lucky enough to watch it personally), you can almost feel the invisible, potent energy that emanates from the bodies. Allied to the bizarre, continuous prayers, it proclaims an irresistible invitation for the spirits.
The spectacle seems so intense that we feel virtually compelled to join the marvellous performance, totally hypnotised.
Her link with the supernatural world is depicted as a web on the dark, where she must use her higher intuition to find her way to connect the two worlds.
Her body, covered in sacred, unintelligible signs, grant her protection while in the threshold between the sphere of the living and the sphere of the dead. Making this bridge, she may gain access to details, hidden from the visible world.
The sacred cycles between life and death are celebrated in Vodun, like in no other religion. The straight relation with the Death is probably what we all considered the most obscure side of Vodun. Again, because we don’t understand it, we used to demonise it.
The wooden skull at the bottom, pierced by nails, represents a kind of talisman called “fetish”. Normally, the masks are more related to the conjuring ceremonies, wore by the Vodun “shamans” during the sacred events. In this case, we wanted to have them merged, being totally aware that they symbolise different things. Appearing here, the mask represents an active ceremony.
The fetishes, contrary to what we thought are not exclusevely linked to Vodun.
The African people often say that Vodun is more connected to a community and a common welfare; while some Fetishes use spiritual energy to satisfy more personal desires and needs.
A fetish is normally an object or an animal relic that is believed to have great supernatural powers, especially associated with animistic, religious practices.
There are many fetish markets across the Western Africa, selling supplies to create greater amulets. Probably the most well-known is Togo’s Akodessewa Fetish Market, where we can still find the most bizarre things, from the typical Vodun wooden statues, to dry animal heads, horns, skulls, herbs, etc.
To enchant an amulet, the féticheur decorate
Having the item perfectly set up, the charmer pours different substances over it, reciting prayers and offering sacrifices to give the energy to the unanimated object. The more difficult and persistent the problem they need to solve, the more powerful the fetish must be, requiring bigger animal sacrifices.
It is said that most of the Western Africans feel more secure wearing or owning a powerful occult protection. That affirms the importance of such fetishes in the lives of these people.
The fetish that we used on the lower side of the design represents one of the most popular types. The wooden figures, having a piece of hair or nail of someone, create a direct connection between the object and the real person.
Piercing the nails or blades on the object, the féticheur may have different intentions: It may want to afflict some kind of damage on the corresponding human; It can protect against enemies and witchcraft or may just represent an agreement or oath between two parts.
Some of these fetishes may be public, seen by everyone or completely secret, hidden from the people.
The two standing men on the sides wear masks with horns, affirming their connection with both natural and spiritual world. These mysterious characters assume the role of guardians of the threshold, protecting the thin passage between realms.