A Cottage for Yemanja
Installation in a bunker for the BunkerLove festival 2013 in Hirtshals.
A collaboration with Sandro Masai and Michael Richardt Petersen.
‘A Cottage for Yemanja’ was an installation inside a WWII bunker which included a performance of the Brazilian Yemanja ceremony by the Semente do Samba dancers led by Sandro Masai.
Yemanja is an orisha (a spirit or deity) thought to reflect one of the manifestations of God in the Yoruba religion and has become prominent in many Afro-American religions. Africans
from what is now called Yorubaland (which spans the modern states of Nigeria, Benin and Togo) brought Yemanja with them when they were brought to the Americas as slaves.
She is the patron saint of the fisherman and the survivors of shipwrecks, the spirit of moonlight and the ocean, the essence of motherhood, and a protector of children.
Because the Catholic church prohibited the worship of traditional African deities, Yemanja was worshiped in secret, often in the guise of ceremonies apparently devoted to the Virgin Mary.
Over time, a syncretism of Yemanja and the Catholic Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes (Our Lady of Seafaring) developed and now the two figures are often celebrated on the same day every
year in a ceremony in which gifts and flowers are gathered in baskets and floated out to sea to worship her.
We saw a link between the state of occupation and slavery and its accompanying restrictions on freedom and freedom of expression as well as the religious repression suffered by the
slaves embarking on foreign soils and were interested in the inclusiveness of syncretism and its ability to find common cultural and religious ground whilst still providing room for individuality.
We also had a focus on the permanent nature of impermanence, the fragility of power.
The bunkers, with their brutal architecture, represent an attempt by mankind to control both other human beings as well as nature, just as the slave trade attempted to obliterate the individuality and freedom of many different cultures.
We used the installation in the bunker and the accompanying ceremony to celebrate the ability of the human spirit to overcome
apparently overwhelming odds and the ability of nature and time to heal over old wounds. The planting of flowers and grasses inside the bunker returned the bunker to nature again, temporarily, just as nature is slowly reclaiming the structures as they fall into the sea.
The bunker installation remained in situ for two months in the bunker museum in Hirtshals from July to September 2013.
A video of the performance and installation can be viewed here
In addition to creating the installation, I also curated and coordinated the festival and accompanying events in Hirtshals.
Yemanja ceremony performed by Semente do Samba·
Photos on this page by Chris brock