The Syncretisms of el otro lado del alma

Above: Álvarez Pupo, Jorge Luis, Untitled, 2000, Gelatin silver print

El otro lado del alma: Syncretisms in Contemporary Cuban Photography is the first comprehensive exhibition to showcase the influence of Afro-Cuban religion in photography and video art. This exhibition is being installed in our Main Gallery at this very moment. In anticipation of its opening on January 21, I thought I would write a little about Santería,which is the main focus of the exhibition’s photographs and videos.

Santería, also known as La Regla Lucumi and the Rule of Osha, is a system of beliefs that merge mythology brought by Yoruba slaves with Christianity and Indigenous American traditions. It is a ‘syncretric’ religion, meaning it incorporates elements of different religions. Mainly rooted in Cuba, it has spread to nearby countries, including the United States.

The basis of Santería is the belief in connecting with Orishas, which are mortal, powerful spirits. There is a very close relationship between Santería followers and Orishas. Orishas only continue to exist if worshiped. Followers look to Orishas for direction in life and their destiny which was chosen for them before birth.

Rituals, such as drumming, dancing, eating and singing connect followers with Orishas. Most of these rituals are done in homes or halls, as there are not many buildings designated to Santería practices.

The Catholic influences of Santería are seen in the adaptation of Yoruba beliefs to coincide with Catholic tradition. Orishas are closely associated with Catholic Saints. For instance Our Lady of Charity is associated with the Yoruba goddess of the river, water, yellow, sweets, money, and love and Saint Lazarus [Babalú-Ayé] is associated with the sick.

El otro lado del alma features artists residing in Cuba, who have close ties to these Afro-Cuban religions, including Marta María Pérez, Sandra Ramos, Humberto Mayol, Juan Carlos Alóm, Tania Bruguera, Raúl Cañibano René Peña and others. Through an observational lens these artists provide an intimate look into this secretive and fascinating culture.

el otro lado del alma: Syncretisms in Contemporary Cuban Photography, Curated by Moritz Neumüller, January 21 – May 24, LUAG Main Gallery, Zoellner Arts Center

Gallery talk with curator Moritz Neumüller, March 17 at 5 pm

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