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Artist Statement


|   Statement

There are endless stories of folklore and mythology that different cultures have elaborated at certain stages of their lives. Many times, those belonging to a specific culture transit to others and become part of them. They migrate with people to whom they originally belonged.

Frequently, those stories are confused with each other, and we end up not knowing exactly which are real facts of life of a culture and which belong to mythology and folklore.

They are stories that have their magic. They are counted repeatedly because they do not tire. They become part of the traditions. Shells are associated to mythology. Due to their habitat they are terrestrials and marines, but sometimes there is an emphasis in identifying them as marine but most of the time they are only called shells. On other occasions they are also called slugs, and sometimes snails. They have a strong presence in afro Cuban religious practices and still today are used in ceremonies, in divination, or as amulets and ornaments. They are given a mystical relationship with graves and spirits.

The more beautiful and colorful the snails are, more desired they are; beauty can be its worst enemy. Polymita shells are originally from eastern Cuba, they are the ones that have the most beautiful colors in the world: its splendor and chromatic variety is unique. That beauty has reduced their populations and they are no longer easily found, so in religious traditions its use has gradually been replaced by that of more common snails.

Using as a reference the chromatic beauty and the lines of the polymitas, which are like ruffled skirts of different colors used by the dancers, I look for a color pattern that the snail shares—even if it is in a minimal part—and the background of the image. Also, I took the shells to the plant world, where I associated their colors with those present in the flora. Finally, I raise the shells to the altars, where they have been used as an offering to Catholic saints and their Yoruba god alter egos.

The titles of the photos are in the lucumi language of the Yoruba. This is a West African language that only survives in two American Countries; in addition to Cuba in Brazil.

In this project I have been interested in exploring the polymita both in its particular beauty and in its associations with nature and Cuban popular religiosity. I am motivated by the fact that with polymita there is a very fruitful encounter between mythology, folklore, and that religiosity. This is a cultural encounter of multiple senses, but also an event of the imagination that has great visual power.


Mari Carmen Orizondo Díaz

May 2023