Dayme Arocena. Photo courtesy of the artist.

4 Artists Preserving Santería, Kumina & Yoruba Religion Through Their Music

Acts like Ibeyi, Daymé Arocena, Zara McFarlane and Sibusile Xaba are creating spaces for spirituality and religion in their songs.

Contemporary African music does a great job at mirroring the vibrant culture that inspires it. A cross section of its genres will mirror the dominant themes in the lives of Africans, from the infectious dance rhythms of gqom and afrobeats fertilizing the joy in celebration to the soulful meditation of desert rock or Ethio-jazz for pensive days. One aspect of current African music that's quite apparent but often minimized is the space it has created for spirituality and religion.

Over the past few years, artists such as Ibeyi, Daymé Arocena, Sibusile Xaba, Zara McFarlane and many others have etched a major conduit for the flow or spiritual energy through contemporary and popular music. They define their work by various religious and spiritual practices such as Yoruba, Kumina and Santeria. Music is one of the few ways through which you learn about indigenous African traditions as the intricacies of these doctrines are largely overshadowed and eroded by the rapid growth of Islam and Christianity. But what are the ways in which these musicians are instrumentalizing their spirituality and how is it preserving the culture?

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Photo by Nii Kotei.

Ghana's Winneba Fancy Dress Festival Is a Living Museum

This photo story shows the annual celebration of sheer ingenuity and living history.

Where would you see Mortal Kombat characters, Black Jesus, Donald Trump, members of a royal wedding party and cowboys wielding Supreme cash guns in one place at the same time? At the start of the year in Winneba, a town in the central region of Ghana, these characters and more draped the coastal town in iridescent color for the Winneba Fancy Dress Festival.

The annual masquerade festival is a celebration of sheer ingenuity and living history. The tradition of masquerading emerged from contact with Dutch colonizers who introduced putting on masks and wearing fanciful attires to socialize in many coastal towns in Ghana. The people of Winneba adopted and owned this practice by setting up various masquerade troupes—as far back as the 1930s—to create elaborate characters and perform with marching bands for their townsfolk. In 1957, the institution was formalized by Ghana's first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who sponsored the first parade to mark Ghana's independence. The 60th edition of the festival was spread over an entire week and comprises, exhibitions, panel discussion, tours, various marching floats, all of which culminated into the final parade on new year's day where the four troupes competed for a trophy.

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Photo by Nii Kotei Nikoi.

These Ghanaian Women Artists Publicly Chart Paths to Healing from Sexual Violence

Mixtape Notes To The Shadows is a collaborative mixed media exhibition that uses art to show the complex process of healing.

How do you trap a shadow? How do you hold onto to something that slips out of your hands and appears when you step into the light? In Ghanaian society, which is predominantly patriarchal, issues like sexual violence and harassment are treated as shadows, suppressed and left to brood in the dark, unspoken and unaddressed. Despite the undocumented number of people who are tormented by these shadows, it's hard to confront something that society does not believe exists in the way that you experience it.

Dr. Sionne Rameah Neely and Josephine Ngminvielu Kuuire, who are artists and survivors of sexual violence, decided to draw out these demons and shadows by leaving notes for them through art. Mixtape Notes To The Shadows, their collaborative mixed media exhibition and performance, was an open surgery on sexual trauma inviting witnesses as they chart their respective journeys to healing.

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