Candomblé, the cult of the orixás, is one of the Afroamerican religions practiced in Brazil. It began with priests enslaved and brought from Africa between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although at first it was limited to slaves, prohibited by the Catholic church and even criminalized by some governments, Camdomblé remained strong over four centuries and expanded considerably after slavery ended in 1888. Today it is one of the principal established religions, with followers in all social classes and tens of thousands of temples. In Salvador de Bahia there are at least two thousands terreiros (Candomblé temples). In the whole of Brazil, dozens of millions of people participate, regularly or occasionally, in Candomblé rituals. Its orixás and festivals are now a fundamental part of Brazilian culture and folklore.
Over time and with increasing syncretism with the Christian religion, Candomblé has absorbed devotees of all races and social levels, becoming a powerful symbol of the racial and cultural mixing of our continent. At present it is an essentially urban cult, in which elements of nature are reinterpreted from the perspective of city dwellers.
The one god for the Yoruba nation is Olorum. The orixás were created by Olorum and are regularly worshipped with offerings, singing, dancing and special costumes. They were originally historical characters from Yoruba culture, and their worship is in this sense an ancestor cult. The orixás have individual personalities, skills, preferences and rituals, and are each bound to some natural phenomenon. Each person is chosen at birth by one or several orixás, that a babalaorixá will identify. The children of the orixás have distinctive physical and personality traits, which make them amazingly like their parents.
Besides, the orixás are beings that incarnate in their initiated children when they go into trance (in rituals), and it is there that we can see them manifested. That is, we see the incarnation of the orixás, materialized in their children. Jungian psychology has also identified surprising likenesses between the Greek gods and goddesses and different images in the human psyche which it calls archetypes. According to this concept, the gods are inside us and the greater or lesser degree of their manifestation in our personality makes us children of one or the other.
Attracted by this distinctive and contemporary relationship between gods and mortals, in 2010, in the city of Salvador de Bahia, I began a project, which I am still developing, called Filhos dos Orixás (children of the orixás), through which I am portraying the qualities of the gods in their human manifestation, that is, in their children. I want to reveal what in reality, in daily life, we see of the orixás. There are more of them, but I will work with 18 orixás, the ones most commonly represented in the terreiros.
To create the representations, I choose one person as a child of each orixá, and photograph them in front of graffiti made for this project, allegories of the orixás. Of this group I have already made eleven images (the photos shown at the end), between May and July 2010; I still have seven to produce. To create the backgrounds, with the animals, colors, instruments and other elements associated with each orixá, I have been working with street artists from Salvador. Each background has been done by a different artist, to emphasize the diversity of the languages involved, and these will be left as murals for the city. The graffiti have been done at the terreiros, beside the houses belonging to the respective orixás, or at places in the city connected with particular orixás. In the city of Bahia, the art of graffiti has achieved superlative levels of development, not only as a medium of creative expression but also as an instrument of alternative expression and of protest. Many of the street artists belong to Candomblé.
The search for the people to photograph, the children of the different orixás, was carried out with the help of babalaos, although which orixá each person belongs as a son or daughter is general knowledge. The babalaos also advised us on the context of the graffiti and the texts, background colors, numbers associated with each orixá, etc.