I ran into this intriguing rucksack on my travels and thought I’d share it with you. There’s more to it than meets the eye…
“The exhibition features the work of those artists, writers and musicians who acknowledge the need to reach a heightened or ‘altered state’ in order to create their work. We are concerned with the mystery of the creative act. Not the inexplicable ’spark’, aka inspiration, but the fire; the non-doing before the doing, the summoning up of elemental spirits from within, or without, during the preparation of some visual or musical work, some theory or idea. This welling-up or ‘possession’, this ‘fever in the heart of man’, this spirit, this spell, might sometimes be referred to as Voodoo.”
“When slaves from West Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and the Gambia were taken by Europeans to the West Indies, many were destined for Haiti (Hispaniola). As they mingled on the tiny island, no groups’ influence was greater than that of the Yoruba and Fon people who ruled the huge kingdom of Dahomey which sprawled across most of the countries today known as Benin, Togo and Nigeria. The majority of the Haitian slaves were taken from Dahomey.
“The core function of Vodoun – the Fon-Ewe word for spirit – is to attempt to explain the forces of the universe, influence those forces, and thereby influence human behaviour. Permitted by Haiti’s 1987 constitution, books and films published in that country have sensationalized the practice as black magic based on animal and human sacrifices. Today in West Africa, the religion is estimated to be practised by over 30 million people. Vodoun became the official religion of Benin in 1996.”
A majority of people fail to understand that monotheism such as Christianity and Islam were not the original religious practices of our ancestors, if like me you are of afro-caribbean decent, they were enforced through crusades, invasions and slavery. Spiritualism in West Africa is as diverse and popular as it was pre slavery. People often practice both belief systems side by side as they do in Brazil with Candomblé.
“Candomblé, Umbanda, Batuque, Xango, and Tambor de Mina, were originally brought by black slaves shipped from Africa to Brazil. These black slaves would summon their gods, called Orixas, Voduns or Inkices with chants and dances they had brought from Africa. These cults were persecuted throughout most of Brazilian history, largely because they were believed to be pagan or evensatanic. However, the Brazilian republican government legalized all of them on the grounds of the necessary separation between the State and the Church in 1889.
In current practice, Umbanda followers leave offerings of food, candles and flowers in public places for the spirits. Candomblé terreiros are more hidden from general view, except in famous festivals such as Iyemanja Festival and the Waters of Oxala in the Northeast.
From Bahia northwards there are different practices such as Catimbo, Jurema with heavy Indigenous elements. All over the country, but mainly in the Amazon rainforest, there are many Indians still practicing their original traditions. Many of their beliefs and use of naturally occurring plant derivatives are incorporated into African, Spirtitualists and folk religion.”
I’ve witnessed this first hand upon my travels into West Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Our perception to religion and spiritualism, collectively throughout society, is very elitist, ignorant and snobbish. When you travel further outside of the western culture you begin to witness spiritualism as a way of life, there’s no line between the two, it’s a totally different set of guidelines, there’s no co existing either, it’s servitude to the most high and the divine spirits throughout the cosmos which grants some explanation to someones existence…
Maybe it’s time to reconnect with the spiritual practices of our ancestors.
My views aside, I just wanted to share this rucksack with you and the conception behind the idea. If you are interested in reading up on the exhibition, artwork, designers, and history behind the concept, click here.