Throughout my formal education from elementary up through college I never heard tale of African deities. A little over a month ago I began to research online to find information in regards to the gods & goddesses of Africa. To my surprise there were many, however the ones that stood out the most were the deities of Nigeria and Benin, West Africa which they referred to as ORISHAS.
This entire belief in the Orishas was directly linked to the Yoruba of the Ifa Tradition. Immediately I became inspired to do a photo series on each of the Orishas that I had recently discovered. I later learned that nothing of this magnitude had ever been done before, so it came as quite a surprise when the project went completely viral overnight. As soon as I uploaded them on Facebook they took off like wildfire through dry fields of grass and the responses were overwhelmingly abundant. Most of the feedback was phenomenal, but as always you have those who feel the need to be super critical and just plain knit picky. Overall, it has been wonderful to receive correspondence from all over the globe from men, women and children of color who have been honored to see themselves depicted in the likes of the Yoruba African Orishas. It’s also been great learning that I’ve opened people’s eyes to something that many, like myself, never knew existed.
I wanted to portray the regal beauty of each Orisha while also representing their majestic sensuality. Each iconic depiction was rendered to lend strength to our resilience as a great race of people and to show our youth that they are beautiful, bold and brilliant just they way God created them to be. Although I am aware that the Ifa Tradition traveled in the Ori “Head” of those Blacks that were captured as slaves and sent to other parts of the diaspora, I chose to focus on the true origin of the faith. Therefore each Orisha’s name is written in the Yoruba dialect and captures imagery of powerful men, women & children of various complexions who are all of African descent.
To all critics of my artwork who feel that I have misrepresented, over-sexualized, over-modernized, mis-colorized or overall disrespected the Orishas I would like to draw your attention to my favorite phrase….”INTERPRETATION…MUCH LIKE THE BIBLE IS BASED UPON THE TRANSLATOR”. There is no wrong when it comes to an artist’s creative interpretation, one must learn to become fluid with your perception and open up your mind to what the creator of the work is trying to convey. To all of my faithful supporters I would just like to say that I appreciate you more than words could ever express.
In no way, shape or form am I advocating the Ifa tradition, as I myself am not a practitioner of the faith, however I wish to shed light on our rich history in hopes that it will enlighten those who wish to dismiss our culture and heritage as merely rubbish. I am not the source of wisdom surrounding the Ifa Tradition as previously stated…I am merely the artist, however the door has been opened for you to research and learn more for yourself…Take that opportunity!
Finally…To anyone who is interested in learning more about my artwork, interviewing me for a magazine/blog writeup or live appearance, please feel free to contact my assistant/consultant Kenisha at firstname.lastname@example.org. To anyone who is interested in purchasing these works of art, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/YorubaAfricanOrishas/app_309028460694
Written by: Photographer, James C. Lewis | CEO of Noire3000 | N3K Photo Studios | Atlanta,GA