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Cristiana Prado, January 2022

I’m originally from Brazil and have lived in the United States for 20 years. I come from the city of Salvador, which is full of spirituality and interrelations among cultures such as European, Indigenous, and African. During the period of African slavery, millions of African people, including the Yoruba, were forcibly brought to the Americas. The Yoruba and other Africans worked as slaves or underwent forced labor on the plantations of Brazil. My time spent in these two disparate cultures has led me to constantly create art as a union of language between me and my native culture. I have been inspired by my deep connection with nature, mostly throughout my memories of spending long summers at the beach and my fascination for the African art and religion that has shaped my home city. As a kid, I witnessed one of the Yoruba African rituals that really impressed me. Since then my admiration for the rituals’ colors, costumes, magic, mystery, sounds, and objects have become a strong reference used in my art. I’m fascinated by the relationships between human beings and powerful, yet mortal spirits of the Orishas. The Orishas are spirits that will give human beings help in life to enable them to achieve the destiny that God planned for them before they were born. They existed and are still represented in rituals to offer help and to guard people by solely protecting them spiritually from bad spirits, influences, and energy. To honor these entities, I have created a series of them in glazed and stained clay. They are spirits that positively offer and guard us. They are not the literal representation seen in rituals or in published work, but they are my interpretation of these incredible and powerful figures. They are my guardians. In creating them, I accentuate the gestures of offering with their stretching hands, and I add decorative elements to characterize what they are guarding. They can guard flowers, leaves, metals, seeds, or natural elements. By protecting the cosmic forces of nature, they protect us as well. My guardians are not individuals. Rather, I have manifested them as spirits. Therefore, their faces are covered and their bodies are not defined. To be cohesive with my style of creation, I fuse my inspirations in these small figures by adding texture, blended colors, swirled lines, and intrinsic shapes from the ocean, other natural elements, and African symbolism.

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