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An African Spiritual Art Form Caught In Time-Lapse

Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo performs his Yoruba Ori Ritual Body Art on rising Ghanaian musician Azizaa in a new time-lapse video.


Laolu Senbanjo performs Ori Ritual Body Art on Azizaa

Earlier today we reported on Ori Inu: In Search of Self, a forthcoming afrofuturistic short film that tells the story of a young immigrant woman who must choose between conforming her identity and spirituality to America’s cultural norms or revisiting her roots in the Afro-Brazilian religion known as Candomblé. As the film's producer noted in an op-ed on Okayafrica, the project looks to tackle a number of questions about African spirituality, such as "Why the idea of African spirituality is generally characterized as other or evil, when Greek or Roman mythology is not portrayed in the same light? Why is African spirituality still seen as primitive and backwards, and how could we make a film that reverses these stigmas and shows the relevance of African spirituality in the present day and even into the future?"

On September 12th, the Ori Inu team held a party at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) in Brooklyn to celebrate the release of the film's stunning first trailer. Not surprisingly, the night served as a platform for creatives in the diaspora to showcase their ideas on spirituality. That evening, Nigerian visual artist and musician Laolu Senbanjo performed Yoruba Ritual Body Art as a spiritual ceremony on rising Ghanaian musician Azizaa. The entire piece was filmed by Mariona Lloreta, who turned the performance into a time-lapse that we're excited to premiere here today.

Senbanjo explained the significance of the performance in an email to Okayafrica:

"Art is always at the heart of all we do in the Motherland. We've always used art to express our pains, gains, and vanity. Africa is more than the dark continent, Africa is the source of creative ingenuity, our art keeps us connected with our roots and shines an endearing light to the rest of the world.

The ritual of painting one's 'ori' on them is a deeply spiritual ceremony between the artist and the canvas which is a person. It really doesn't get much deeper than that. It's the most powerful spiritual experience between both parties. Ori in Yoruba literally means head but is so much more than that. It also refers, in the spiritual sense to one's intuition, destiny (ayanmo), essence, and their consciousness that's part of them, and is also an Orisha unto it's own, meaning that the person is a God or Goddess them self. It is one of the most powerful parts of the Yoruba faith. In the Western world you would describe it as your soul + destiny + essence and more = Ori. It's as deep as it gets. Often you might even have a chant/mantra that is connected with your Ori that you sing or say aloud which is like a prayer to yourself and your own soul. Sharing this experience with others as an Artist gives a new meaning to my Art unlike ever before. It's changed the way I see myself as an Artist. It's taking my Afromysterics style of to a higher level. Afromysterics means, the mystery of the African thought pattern."

Azizaa, who grew up between Accra and New York, recently shared her own thoughts on spirituality in an interview with The FADER. "In Ghana, most people believe in following the crowd just to stay alive, not to be scrutinized. There is stigma attached to vodou [voodoo], so Christianity is a very safe choice," the musician told The FADER's Benjamin Lebrave. "But deep down, in their souls, hearts and minds, they can't fight or ignore the voice that tells them to go back to their roots, sankofa, it's the only thing that works. The Christian thing is just another way of slavery taking its toll and Ghanaians copying and pasting blindly."

For more on Laolu Senbanjo's ritual body art, head to his official site. Keep up with Senbanjo on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

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Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.



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