Tag Archives: Yoruba

Modern Griots Reviews: The Summer of Gods and Panel Discussion

Some of the best stories are the ones that connect back to original tales and cultural rituals that are part of the human journey. Today, sometimes the universal meanings, archetypes and principles behind our modern stories are hidden because we are disconnected from those ancient tales and rituals. Think of, for example, Little Red Riding Hood, which can be interpreted as an initiation fairytale with the grandmother as the grand wise mother or crone figure and the wolf as an Anubis-like figure leading her onto a path of rebirth of herself.

Eliciana Nascimento captures that universal story of returning to one’s roots and the ancient continuing to live in the new in her Afro-Brazilian and Yoruba Orisha-inspired film, The Summer of Gods. Opening with a boat ride, a young girl, Lili, is traveling with her mother and brothers to visit her grandmother and right from the start, we see she has the ability to hear and see spirits around her. Lucumi priestess and professor of afrofuturism, Koko Zauditu-Selassie, said during the panel that this establishing scene of the family going across the water symbolizes fluidity of generational memory and listening to the past, and that despite being abducted and forced across the water during the transatlantic slave trade, it did not change us completely. Water is a theme throughout the film, including a honoring ritual at the waterfall in Brazil in the beginning of the film and the two water-related Orisha – Yemanja (whose is along with her Brazilian festival a main inspiration for the film) and Oshun (the Orisha of the life-giving rivers). The water represents for this young girl a return to her ancestral roots and traditions, but also a fertile creative place where her new life can begin.

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Modern Griots Reviews: Birth of a Dark Nation

Imagine seeing the journey of the Black Atlantic through the memories of a centuries-old vampiric human. A DC IT specialist working at an HIV organization Justin Kena is privileged with this information when he falls for one named Dante. As he falls in love, he learns of the ancient indigenous Yoruba group, the Razadi, who are vampiric and witnesses to pre-, during, and post-slavery times in Rashid Darden‘s Birth of a Dark Nation.

Birth of a Dark Nation flips the script on traditional vampire tales from its shifting narration to its inclusion of slave narration and cultural rituals to non-Western views of the vampire to it as a same-gender loving story that confronts those who say it is a recent Western phenomenon. Darden’s previous work, Lazarus, Covenant, and Epiphany has centered on black LGBT experiences, and now he has taken that and extended it to black speculative fiction.

The story begins with a Razadi receiving orders from an elder to watch over Justin because he is considered the “key,” similar to Neo in the Matrix or any messiah-like character. Later, we are introduced to Dante, a street hustler, who Justin randomly notices and to whom he has an instant attraction. When Dante finally reveals who he is to Justin, Justin begins his transformation from the computer guy at a dead-end job to part of the Razadi family and leader in his community.

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Moving on the Wires: ‘Re-Introducing Oshun’ Exhibition + Afrofuturist Affair Ball + Art Lov[H]er + Top Of The Heap + Alien Encounters

Re-Introducing Oshun LR*If you are in London, next month will have the opening of Re-introducing Oshun, which will be an interdisciplinary exhibition “discussing black women’s bodies, gender and sexual expression through the lens of the Orisha, Oshun” and re-imagining “black women’s bodies as sacred of places of, beauty, intimacy and love.” Featuring the work of an all female collective, the exhibition “demystifies the omnipresent gaze placed on black women’s bodies by creating images of black women that look, talk, feel and love like us and in doing so presenting our own truths.”
The exhibition is set to open on October 7 and hosted by Yinka Shinobare, MBE at his Guest Project Space in Hackney, London before culminating into an evening of live performances at Lyric Hammersmith on October 17. “It will be a participatory project moving away from ‘pretty-pictures-on-the-wall’ type exhibition by printing on organza thus allowing the ability of touch for our audience. More so, we wanted our audience to emerge themselves in to another time, space and reality where black women’s bodies are worshiped as the deacon of beauty.”
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*The Afrofuturist Affair having their third annual charity and costume ball on November 9 in Philadelphia. This year’s theme is Dark Phase Space. They are currently raising funds for it on Indiegogo. For more events from The Afrofuturist Affair, check out their tumblr and facebook, including the Afrofuturist Affair and Black Tribbles hosting their Return to Octavia City radio broadcast featuring speculative fiction stories two days before the ball.

Modern Griots Reviews: The Burning Bush by Kenya Wright

https://futuristicallyancient.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/burning.jpg“Motherpounder!” That left me speechless! And by speechless, I am talking about Kenya Wright’s sequel to Fire Baptized, The Burning Bush. In this novel, Wright takes readers deeper into the fantasy world of the Santeria Habitat and main character, Lanore Vesta, expanding on the history and relationships of the beings who live there.

Opening with the bombing of the Linderman’s Blood Factory by her organization MFE (Mixbreeds for Equality) and the shapeshifting Rebels, Lanore’s world becomes chaotic once again as she is dragged back into being an amateur detective solving the murders of two women while trying to enact revenge on the Vampire Dante Botteli, who owns the factory, for killing mixbreeds. Trying to solve the murders, Lanore realizes that who she thought was her enemy and who she thought she could trust may not be so true, and that her problems are much bigger than Dante or even the habitat.

Lanore’s character is the brains in the book; she is observant and logical in her thinking even when others around her may be incompetent, particularly the habbie detective Rivera. The second book in the Habitat series shows Wrights ability in fantasy world-building and characterization; she creates a world that is strange and exciting, yet feels familiar. She is great with the imagery (I can picture it as a film) and providing detailed descriptions of the characters and the cities they are from in the habitat. For example, Wright gives us a look into shapeshifters grieving process and their “seasons” (puberty) and the different types of elemental witches and how they look.

We are also introduced to more characters, like Zulu’s (Lanore’s boyfriend) curious sister, Cassie, the next Palero, Angel, and Lanore’s mentally unstable, druggie demon father, Graham, as well as seeing the connection between main characters deepen. The love triangle between Lanore, Zulu, the MFE leader, and Meshack returns. Meshack constantly flirts with Lanore despite her new relationship with Zulu creating tension, but these scenes often provide needed breaks or moments of levity balancing the tragic moments throughout the book that had me almost in tears.

The only issue with the book is that sometimes the sexual scenes can be a bit too much, specifically at the end. I would have preferred a different memory of one of the characters so that it would not have been so striking of a scene and would have given us a different look into the relationship. But then again, that could have been the connecting essence of their relationship. Other than that, Wright has written another strong story and I can’t wait for the next book. By the way, when you read about Graham, I am kind of picturing Keith David as him in a film, if I haven’t made it obvious that I would like to see this as a film.

Modern Griots Review: Kenya Wright’s “Fire Baptized”

Towns named after on Santeria gods and goddesses in Miami. Supernaturals forced to live in caged cities and branded with symbols. A city of fairies, vampires, trolls, shapeshifters, witches, mermaids, and pixies as pets. A love triangle and a romance between college revolutionaries who are fighting against social system hierarchy. A serial killer detective story. By themselves, each descriptions alone could offshoot into its own story, together they make one that is strangely compelling filled with action, mystery and love. In this urban fantasy novel, the mystical world meets the gritty underworld of strip clubs, seedy street dwellers and crime-ridden poverty.

Kenya Wright‘s novel Fire Baptized follows Lanore Vesta, a mixbreed fairy and demon activist and college student living in the poverty-stricken Shango District. The story begins with her happening to see a murder of a young mother. Forced into solving the murder to stop the serial killer from attacking her and people she knows, she receives help from her playboy rocker, were-cheetah “step-brother” Meshack, and her enigmatic partner from Mixbreeds for Equality, Zulu, for both of whom she has romantic feelings.

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Modern Griots Review: Oya and Anyanwu — The Faces of Change

Without stories, we are nothing but shells, only giving others the physical form of ourselves. Stories ground the spirits and forces around us and make them real.

Oya priestess Isoke Nia expressed this sentiment last night at the Schomburg Center in Harlem at the enlightening tribute to the Yoruba orisha, Oya, and writer Octavia Butler. Part of Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute’s Roots and Stars series, Oya and Anyanwu was the first program of what will be a series of five programs for the end of this year and going into early next year. Hosted by program director Desiree Gordon, this year’s theme is “change,” slightly evoking President Obama’s slogan from four years ago. But this was for the divinity of changer herself, Oya, and her manifestation in the works of Octavia Butler.

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Otherworldly Videos: Root Shock

What is the opposite of future shock? Is it root shock? This is the latest performance from artist and dancer Ni’ Ja Whitson. Whitson puts contemporary and postmodern dance and art performance within an African diasporic context. Her work, Root Shock, re-imagines Yoruba diasporic and Orisa storytelling traditions, and explores the relationship between trauma and the ancestral and spiritual world.  Watch an interview with her here.