La Santera y el Profesor is an exhibition of environmental portraits and mystical symbolism exploring the relationship between a Santeria priestess, a Boxing professor and Cuban/Chinese martial arts in Havana ’s Chinatown. The exhibition contrasts the sacrifices of the warrior arts and that of religion. It examines how the idea of blood sacrifice as expressed in Catholicism, Santeria, politics and martial arts in Cuba. It includes topics such the death of Che Guevara and the Cuban missile crisis and reinterprets them in the context of the Cuban warrior and Santeria.
I came to appreciate the beauty of sacrifice during my unwanted traditional Christian education. I love the heroism of the fighting arts. The pathos and drama always appealed to me. I have been interested in magic and comparative religion as long as I can remember. These threads come together in this exhibition.
The practice of the martial arts requires dedication, daily training, observance, self sacrifice, commitment and blood, ones own and other peoples, mixed with sweat and tears. If not destroyed in the pursuit of their mission, martial artists can fade away desperately trying to stay in the game as their youthful power diminishes. From this a spiritual dimension may develop.
The idea of the cross is that of sacrifice, blood sacrifice as evidenced in the prayer of the blood of and body of Christ. Martial artists like to have a cause, something to believe in to make their suffering worthwhile. It could be a religion, an ideology or the pursuit of medals and titles. Like a religious observance it requires daily commitment.
Santeria is a religion that developed in Cuba from Yoruba beliefs and Catholicism. It is a mystical path that bridges the gap between Catholicism and older earthier magic. Santeria has included the saints of Christianity into its own pantheon. Its ideas of blood sacrifice differ from both the fighting arts and Christianity but have elements of both.
I have used the archetypal symbolism of magic, martial art and the cross to tell stories in a different way. These symbols resonate in the human psyche and add a hidden level of meaning that differs with every viewer. It is a bridge between life of the everyday person and extremes of the mind and body. The Profesor unites his community with his knowledge and charisma. Cuba has the most successful amateur boxing team in the world. They achieved this without modern technology, just old school training and music. Cubans are very proud of the international success of their boxing team. The professor epitomizes that success. Similarly the Santeras’ unite the disparate elements of the Cuban identity. Perhaps not in everyone’s eyes, but certainly in mine.
View the exhibition here.