Oggu's Power

During my early times doing photography I decided to explore through my pictures the African heritage in Cuban culture, and more specifically on matters related to the influence of Haitian Vodou in the eastern part of the country. I must confess at the time I had no clue where to address my steps, despite the fact that I'm half Haitian descendant myself, but Vodou and Santeria are words I've never heard at home. When I started asking questions to my father and grandma they just changed the subject, not without first questioning my sudden interest on the matter and ending by saying: " If you do not know, do not get In".

I have to say I must thank both of them, as I'm not the kind of person that accepts a negative answer without first giving me a well-grounded reason. So it was the starting point which took me to a library, where to find a book in order to get familiar with some basic aspects of  African cultures and history, then I ran into " Voodoo"; an anthropological book written by Alfred Metraux and I was reading it by two weeks. Once I was done with the book, I though it was time to start getting in contact with people within the Haitian community in order to introduce myself and explain my interest in documenting some aspects of the culture.

I was lucky enough to meet the elder of a Haitian family who hardly spoke Spanish, but trusted me, was willing to help, to the point he considered myself as his son and several times I had to choose between " missing" a picture and enjoying a ceremony. The tricky part is that sometimes when you're working in a photo story where must of the aspects of it are considered secrets and you have created a relationship based on trust, then you have to find the way to create images strong enough to tell the story, but at the same time keeping secret elements " safe".

That's the main reason why I decided focusing in some key elements in Haitian voodoo such as the body language during the process of trance, as well as the Iron of machetes, fire, music and dances at ceremonies. The darkness of images is not related to race but I use it as a visual code to reinforce the idea of the mystery hidden in all the aspect related to some cultures in which the worship of ancestors is essential. This is a series I created after traveling repeatedly to Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, two of the spots through where slaves entered Cuba in the past to work at sugar cane plantations. They had to be strong to keep their traditions alive despite sometimes suffering severe punishment when their owners discovered they were holding a ceremony or meeting.

You might notice that when I talk about Vodou I don't use the word religion as I think it's mostly about culture, tradition and heritage. So I just decided to create a body of work representing a universe formed by the rituals of faith and oral tradition.