‘Endurance to thrive’: Yelaine Rodriguez makes use of costume to defy stereotypes of Afro Latinx and Caribbean religions

2021-08-26 15:02:01

Written by Sarah Molano, CNN

This characteristic is a part of CNN Fashion’s sequence Hyphenated, which explores the complicated situation of identification amongst minorities in the US.

Yelaine Rodriguez is used to individuals making assumptions about her identification and what she does.

A primary-generation Afro Dominican American born and raised within the Bronx, the now-30-year-old artist remembers the backhanded compliments she would obtain as a teen and younger grownup — feedback like, “Oh, you do not seem to be you are from the Bronx,” weren’t unusual.

Even after Rodriguez began educating at her alma mater, Parsons College of Design, some dad and mom of her college students appeared shocked by her background: “Your dad and mom should be so happy with you,” she will be able to recall being instructed.

“That was actually irritating to me as a result of it reveals that they did not actually care sufficient to coach themselves about folks that have been residing above 86th avenue,” stated Rodriguez, referring to the subway cease the place she stated most White individuals on the time acquired off the practice because it approached the Bronx.

“I by no means hid that I used to be from the Bronx, that I used to be Afro Dominican,” she continued. “I all the time cherished placing individuals of their place by telling them, ‘Yeah, I’m from there, why are you shocked about that?'”

In the present day, Rodriguez makes use of her paintings to problem different problematic assumptions referring to Afro Latinx and Caribbean tradition.

Rodriguez directed, produced and designed the "wearable art" for "Ebbó," a production that blends Afro Caribbean religion, aesthetics and music.

Rodriguez directed, produced and designed the “wearable artwork” for “Ebbó,” a manufacturing that blends Afro Caribbean faith, aesthetics and music. Credit score: Yelaine Rodriguez

With a background in style design, she crafts what she calls wearable artwork, inserting her daring designs, usually modeled by associates and different artists and creatives of colour, into visible narratives depicting deities and tales in African-derived or African diaspora religions like Santeria and Vodou.

Acknowledging the stereotypes

In America and Europe, standard tradition has usually mischaracterized religions akin to Vodou as evil, revenge-seeking practices, utilizing tropes that embrace inserting pins into dolls and zombies. In George A. Romeros’ 1968 basic, “Evening of the Dwelling Useless,” for instance, the flesh-eating monsters might have roots Vodou folklore, however their grotesque Hollywood depiction is a far cry from their Haitian origins.

However Rodriguez additionally believes destructive stigmas have been hooked up to those religions a lot earlier on. “For me the explanation (the religions) have these destructive issues hooked up to them is as a result of they arrive from Black tradition,” she stated. “In case you truly do the analysis to know why they have been condemned, you’d understand it was a plot by the colonizer to make these Afro-derived traditions or cultures into one thing that they are not.”

The artist's project "Shango: We Are Here Because You Were There" was inspired by the god of thunder and lightning in Santeria.

The artist’s undertaking “Shango: We Are Right here As a result of You Had been There” was impressed by the god of thunder and lightning in Santeria. Credit score: Melanie Gonzalez

Finally, Rodriguez believes the misconceptions stem from a lack of know-how and schooling.

Syncretic religions, or religions derived from a number of influences, are traditionally wealthy in and sophisticated of their traditions. Voudou blends the beliefs of the Yoruba individuals of West Africa with Roman Catholicism and was born in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) on account of slave buying and selling through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Santeria is an analogous mix of Catholicism and Yoruba traditions, however its origins hint again to Cuba.

That embrace of Christian imagery was a calculated transfer on the slaves’ half, Rodriguez stated, as a way to protect their heritage.

Rodriguez is impressed by an “endurance to thrive” as an Afro Latinx individual navigating each the Caribbean and American Black experiences. Syncretic religions “are types of resistance” themselves, she stated.

“They weren’t in a position to apply it at occasions, it was unlawful, it turned so stigmatized.”

Rodriguez’s multimedia artwork apply goals to problem misconceptions about these religions and present their true magnificence, power and continued connection to Black and African diaspora cultures in the present day.

Rodriguez's design for Orula The Witness in the production of "Ebbó."

Rodriguez’s design for Orula The Witness within the manufacturing of “Ebbó.” Credit score: Yelaine Rodriguez

Her undertaking “Oshun Orisha of Fertility: Assist Us Delivery Generations of Revolutionary Womxn” — at present a part of the “Estamos Bien: La Trienal 20/21” exhibit at El Museo del Barrio in New York Metropolis — will get at this hyperlink by drawing a metaphorical line between Oshun, the fertility goddess of the Yoruba individuals, and American Black girls who fought for girls’s proper to vote within the twentieth century.

The work options Rodriguez’s shut buddy and fellow Afro Dominican artist Patricia Encarnacion sporting a gold headpiece that serves as each a crown and partial masks; a vibrant, yellow costume; and wealthy brown cape dripping with blue threads. In line with Rodriguez, the cape is consultant of the African slaves dropped at the Americas — blue for the waters they traveled throughout, brown for his or her scars.

Rodriguez's "Oshun Orisha of Fertility: Help Us Birth Generations of Revolutionary Womxn" was modeled by her friend and fellow artist Patricia Encarnacion.

Rodriguez’s “Oshun Orisha of Fertility: Assist Us Delivery Generations of Revolutionary Womxn” was modeled by her buddy and fellow artist Patricia Encarnacion. Credit score: Yelaine Rodriguez

Her use of the fertility goddess alludes to birthing revolutionary girls, like those that fought for the passage of the nineteenth modification.

In an artist assertion revealed on her web site and on Vogue.com she wrote, “We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors that paved the way in which and go the baton ahead. In order that we might proceed to hold the message onward, due to this fact it might by no means be misplaced.”

Along with honoring her ancestors, Rodriguez loves that syncretism is a convention that unites Black individuals of various nationalities.

“Wherever Black persons are, that apply a type of Afro syncretic faith, they’re all similar to one another though they could have their variations,” she stated. She pointed to Santeria’s existence in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic and in contrast it to the Candomblé faith in Brazil and Winti in Suriname.

“It is a actually stunning approach of connecting with individuals internationally and to not assume that we’re that separate from one another.”

“Estamos Bien: La Trienal 20/21” is at El Museo del Barrio in New York Metropolis till September 26.

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