Orishas: 1,2 or 3 Dimensional?!

One thing that bugs me about the continuous and unstoppable commercialisation and appropriation at times, is the tendency of the Orisha to be narrowed down to one, or two dimensional characters. The visualisation of Orisha has always been a fascination to me. For Example, how artists depict Orisha in their paintings; the stories and the four sentences you usually get when you google a particular  Orisha, as if this can describe all the complexities of the energy of each Orisha in four simple quotes. I also notice how on the net, there is a tendency to copy and paste from one source without question, without experience or investigation or relationship to the Orisha.

The Orisha have captured the attention of Film and Video makers and the for a while it has been in Vogue, the cartoon and super hero depiction of Orisha. In the end, Orisha are complex entities. Human beings are also complex. The good, the bad and the Ugly, would you say you were perfect as a human being? ……… ( I am expecting you to answer in the negative!) Neither are the Orisha. For every strength that each Orisha has, they will have a weakness, for every positive there is a negative for  they are complex and three dimensional and we cannot get to know them as easily as you may think. What we also believe and revere as positive characteristics is also cultural. What we believe to be right or wrong is dependent on so many factors.


I was particularly thinking about Obba ( Oba) for a while. I was thinking about how she is depicted and how often there is a concentration on one Patakin only, ( the one about the ear, if you don’t know about that Story, there are many versions on the net! Or  buy the book ” African Folktales in the New World by William Bascom”). In addition to perhaps being a loyal and loving woman to the point of self- sacrifice, she is also a warrior and remarkable swords woman. The Patakin raises so many questions . That quite violent act that is  repulsive and obscene to most people, takes strength and courage. Who would do that to themselves? and then on the other hand, doing things to please those one  loves, at the cost of our own health, is extremely common.  No one is one or two dimensional. We are all multifaceted and we can learn from the strengths and weaknesses of each Orisha.  Something to think about. Here is a little Video of the London Lucumi Choir with Yosvani Diaz singing a sequence for Obba which we recently recorded live.

Obba- Asojano: Join in the Singing!!!

Pinterest page: Interpretations of Orisha in Art and Dance

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