Every year on the 2nd of February, thousands of people make offers to the sea goddess Iemanjá*, by lighting candles and taking offers of food and flowers to the shores. Although most cultures possess a pantheon of entities representing the natural forces, a remarkably complex example of a spiritual system can be found among the Yoruba of West Africa. The Yoruba people arrived in the Americas during the infamous slave trade that followed colonization. In Brazil, the Yoruba cult of the orixás – sacred representations of primal natural elements – took root strongly in the city of Salvador, where great numbers of followers pay homage to the goddess of the sea on her day.
Iemanjá is a visual allegory of the commemoration of the sea entity Iemanjá, an important cultural event in Brazil, and particularly in the northeastern estate of Bahia. Iemanjá is a female entity, represented by the color blue, worn in the beads donned by her followers. Within the orixás belief system, the entity is a motherly and protective force that lovingly looks after her children, and like the ocean, is a provider of life.
Renata Padovan’s film was captured with her mobile phone camera during the festival in Bahia. She focuses on the symbolic materials and the body movement of the women participating in the celebration: white robes and colorful beads are at the center of the images, bringing to mind African and Arab influences. Both the aesthetic synthesis achieved through a selection of few composition elements and the sounds taken from the percussion track are slowed down to reflect the intensity of the moment, evoking the spell of ecstasy. Rhythmic circular movements performed by the women induce an incantation and reverence that are at the core of the annual ritual, where people honor the sea in gratitude, surpassing class, ethnicity, and age divisions. The syncretic celebration highlights the coexistence of a multitude of belief systems, which encompass Catholicism, Umbanda, and Candomblé.
* One of the orixás of the Yoruba pantheon, Iemanjá is The ‘Mother’, the ‘Queen of the Ocean’ in Umbanda religion.
Renata Padovan (b. São Paulo, Brazil) employs video, sound, drawing, and landscape interventions to explore a number of issues including cartography, borders, and the endangerment of both human culture and the environment. Along the years, she has performed a number of poetic actions in nature to trace its relationship with the body through an act of marking with different materials including fire, grass, and paint.
Thursday, 3 November, 2016