My View on filming and Photography of the Sacred

FILMING AND PHOTOGRAPHY:   I hold very strong views about the filming and photography of certain things in our religion. In my house,( and I may soon be alone in this, however I am determined to hang on to what I sincerely believe in ) I do not allow the filming or photo taking of anything once a ceremony has started. IE  I allow no filming or taking photos of  and during TAMBORS, GUIROS,  etc. I also do not allow anyone to take photos of my thrones or altars, expect by invitation. WHY is this may you ask?  There are thousands of tambors, guiros posted onto you tube every day from all over from the US to CUBA and BEYOND! Well here are my reasons.

FILMING OF TAMBORS ; GUIROS ETC:

For me it is all about motive. WHY would you want to film a ceremony which is a spiritual coming together to honour and  bring down the Orisha? It makes no sense to me. I have said this on various occasions. These are not gigs, they are not concerts; they are not about how famous your godparents are or who was playing at your tambor. It is not about how amazing the Akpwon sung, what a good time we all had, how so and so dances. It is a spiritual ceremony. When there is a camera, human beings seem to forget to be themselves. There is posing, there is acting, and a whole lot of ridiculousness. The Akpwon starts to sing to the camera and not serving the purpose of singing to the Orisha and motivating the congregation. As for bringing down the Orisha. I find it inappropriate and intrusive, indeed voyeristic. Now you might be following this path, but once it is out there on the WWW. anyone can see it. There are also enough imposters around without encouraging them by putting out so much information about what goes on within a tambor. Where there are no cameras, there is more or less complete focus. People forget about how they are going to look infront of the camera, how they dance, if they look nice today. There are no distractions. Everything is documented these days, can we not just have some sacred space please?  Somewhere that is camera free, where the motive is to worship?  The capturing of images I also prohibit during tambors. A camera is a camera and recording a ceremony whether still or moving image, is the recording and documentation of the ceremony. I always let people know that they are to leave their cameras at home. Anyone caught filming in my house would be asked to leave, since I feel so strongly about this. The filming serves no purpose accept to enhance the ego of whoever particpated, perhaps, if that………… for those of you who film or allow the filming of these occasions, I hope that I may have opened your eyes to why it is really at odds with our religion. A few years ago a very arrogant man approached me and asked if he could film some ceremonies in my house. He was making a documentary and wanted to “dispel myths” about the religion. I turned him down. Why? First of all he was not a practitioner. Second of all I do not believe it is necessary to “educate” people. We are not here to convert people or to try and justify our practices and third of all whatever is filmed can be taken out of context and turned against us as it has done many times in the past. I also believe that our religion has survived intact because of the secrecy that surrounds much of our practise. Although a tambor is open to the public I believe that the filming of them may be just the beginning and before long other ceremonies within are religion are very likely to be filmed, I do not believe there is a purpose or anything positive to be gained by this.

TAKING PICTURES OF ALTARS. I also prohibit this as a general rule in my house, although I may invite someone  or if someone asks I may say yes. Why? Our religion can be extremely visual, our Elekes, our thrones and how we dress our Orisha and decorate our altars attract the artist eye.  Indeed many people seem to be drawn to our religion whether it be because of it’s visual beauty or it’s songs and rhythms yet for me those things are the periphery of a religion which is all encompassing and  very deep since it really does address the spirituality and journey of each individual person and challenges the perceptions and ideas that one has about what one may want and how one should behave. The concept of Iwa Pele ( good character) is fundamental and also the idea that you give in to a higher power in how you live your life. This is not an easy path. And I have seen few who truly follow it as they should. Often, people do not address their motives, look at their behaviour or challenge themselves and their egos.  I have many people who visit my house whether it be for a class or other purpose.  Not all my visitors and friends  follow the same path. Many people I find with an artistic eye are drawn to the visual, but very rarely wish to go beyond that.  I have so many requests and people who wish to take photos, and I usually turn them down, since I believe that if I just allow it to become a free for all, it will end up being a paparazzi fest of people click clicking away and I do find that intrusive and inappropriate. Then it becomes  a voyeurs spectacle, motive being that the throne or altar becomes an object of someone’s artistic eye rather than an altar for the Orisha. When I build a throne the love and thought that goes into the process is so much deeper than how it will appear visually. I hope that people will understand this. I know others those who do not agree or think in this way, but as I said some things I say on this blog are said because I truly believe them, they are my opinions and my interpretation and I do not expect everyone including Olorishas to agree with everything I say. But I hope what I write will be thought provoking. When people view a throne, or see or visit my Ocha room and see my Orisha displayed, I would like people to see the beauty in their mind’s eye with appreciation and respect without thinking too much about how to record the scene.

Thankyou for taking the time to read this

2 Comments

  1. I’m with you on this, some things should NOT be photographed or recorded. There is no reason to do that, and it distracts from the real purpose, as you explain. Thank you for addressing this important topic.

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