When Paula Akugizibwe and I were planning our SPIRIT WOMEN conversation at CHALE WOTE 2016, we knew we wanted our session to be multi-faceted. We wanted thought-provoking readings, inspired conversations amongst the panelists and audience as well as the incorporation of strong audiovisual elements.
That element came to us 48 hours before our session – the perfect accompaniment to our wide-ranging conversation on spirituality, sex, African traditions, dance and witchcraft was Sokari Ekine’s Spirit Desire, a series of photographic essays that explore African Diasporic spiritual practices as spaces of resistance, imagination and sacred memories.
In Sokari’s own words,
Exploring the dance, song, possession, drumming, aesthetics and ritual of Vodoun through photography allows me to express the freedom of an unbound imagination that recognizes the power of the self and the spirit within us as a multidimensional force which stretches far into the past and into the future.
The series also reflected many of the themes our panelists had discussed, Timehin Adegbeye for example, shared about accessing spirituality and power through dancing, and in my mind’s eye I could see the strong images of dance that run through Sokari’s images of Vodoun living, ritual and ceremony. Sokari’s photographs shift the gaze from representations that depict Vodoun as negative and present a decolonizing narrative: one in which Vodouwizan engage with a consciousness and spirituality that celebrates our humanity rather than focusing on a set of prescribed normative identities.