God is a cloud
God is a plant
God is life and death
God is present
A bridge between past and future Seen and unseen
Adorned in intricate and meticulously constructed costumes, the Egungun are the spirit catchers of Benin. As powerful intermediaries who navigate the realm between past and present, and by extension the future, the Egungun embody and perform the role of priest or priestess, not unlike the mystic or shaman
of the indigenous Americas. As forebears of a type of double-consciousness and intersectionality we still carry and negotiate abroad, as children of one diaspora, the Egungun offer a connection to our ancestral past.
This collection of images is my testament to the power of ancestral kinship, and a reflection of a privileged invitation extended to me to chronicle and bear respectful witness to a sacred and dynamic spiritual tradition.
Just as everyday people of Benin transform into Egungun through Voodun rites that navigate along pathways that are both treacherous and revelatory, I was forced to calibrate my practice to a pulse in keeping with the spirit catchers. Egungun was present long before colonial influences or even the dominant faiths of Islam and Christianity, which are practiced today in Benin. Moving past the popularized distortions of Voodoo—visual tropes historically presented in westernized, stereotypical or Hollywood contexts—I brought my own energy and training to the project. In making these images, I sought to bridge my lens of perspective, experience, and awareness of the histories of representation and misrepresentation. It is with a deep commitment to
humanism—embodied broadly in my oeuvre—which resonates at the roots to all things seen and unseen and is the spiritual foundation of the Egungun.