Commissaire / Curator : Bisi Silva
Acclaimed for his conceptual use of photography, video, as well as performance and installation, Ayrson Heráclito’s work explores histories of slavery and their legacies as manifested in contemporary formations of Brazilian culture. Through the use of mainly organic materials such as salt, sugar, meat and palm oil, the artist imbues banal and everyday foodstuffs with dense layers of historical and cultural significance in ways that link Brazil to its African past. In so doing, Heráclito challenges the “forgetting” of a past that so vividly continues to impact the present.
The exhibition presents two works by the artist. Heráclito’s performance-based photographic series Bori—Offering to the Head (2008 – 2011) takes the syncretic religion of Candomblé as an overarching theme. Inspired by the Afro-Brazilian practice of offering food “to the head” during religious ceremonies, Bori consists of twelve elegantly com- posed color photographs each of which extends from separate performances by the artist where- in food is sacrificed in honor of an orisha deity. Taking its title from the fusion of Yoruba words bó (meaning “offering”) and ori (meaning “head”), the series consists of portraits of subjects lying on raffia mats with their heads surrounded by vibrantly colored foodstuffs. In the photographs, the participants of Heráclito’s performances ap- pear tranquil and at peace, reflecting the desires and spiritual ambitions that inspire Candomblé followers to feed the head.
The video work Funfun (2012) is poetic homage to Estelita de Souza Santana one of the leaders of the Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death, Cachoeira, Salvador de Bahia. Titled after the Yoruba (Nigeria) word for “white,” Funfun high- lights the symbolic meanings of the color through a range of evocative images such as a flock of herons, or Obatalá worshippers holding white candles and wearing pristine white robes to express spiritual purity.