IYAMI / 2018
ÌYÀMI is a lyrical piece for 8 female dancers, made for the students repertory company of Columbia College Chicago. A new work exploring femininity as a life force connected to the Yoruba cultural fiction of ìyàmi àjẹ́. Furies of vengeance and fairness. The costumes design concepualised by me and designed by Jeff Hancock, follows an original imagination of the feminine pantheon of goddesses and avatars.
ÌYÀMI in Yoruba cosmogony represent the feminine ancestral power and the mystical elements of women in its double aspect: protective and generous, but equally dangerous and destructive. Translated to mean "My Mysterious or Divine Mother." Signifying the biological and spiritual power of the woman that has myriad potential, including, but not limited to, powers of elemental, biological and artistic creation; healing; destruction; spiritual and physical development and fortification.
ÌYÀMI are caretakers of existence and guardians of destiny: therefore, their goodwill, essential to the continuity of life and society, must be cultivated. Ìyàmi are known by many praise names, which include, but are not limited to Eleye (Owners of the Sacred Bird), Iyanla, Elders of the Night, Old and Wise Ones, Ayé (The Earth), and Àjẹ́, as the latter term signifies both the power and the individual wielding it. Because of its scope and power, Àjẹ́ is feared and revered by many. Some individuals have attempted to demonize Àjẹ́ by translating the word as witch, but Àjẹ́ and witch are not culturally, historically, politically, or spiritually synonymous concepts. Using the term "witch" is especially dangerous because in many African communities, the accused can be ostracized or lynched because of false accusations.
ÌYÀMI are assigned the task of guiding Olodumare (the supreme deity) and enforcing fairness, justice and natural laws established on earth. Like mother goddesses in other cultures, they have a triune function as creators, sustainers, and destroyers of life. Historically the role of resurrecting the dead to determine cause of death when it was in question was assigned to them, and a victim seeking justice could call upon the curse of Ìyàmi Àjẹ́ upon the offender. Because of the relationship to Mother Earth, Ìyàmi Àjẹ́ are also known for their secret knowledge and extensive use of natural forces, such as herbs and other animals for healing and empowerment.
All Birds especially owls, vultures, and parrots, particularly, African Grey are associated with Ìyàmi. Water, air, earth and fire are elements through which they may be invoked, given the fact that they belong to nature, particularly to the ground (earth). They represent a collective of beings related to all the fundamental elements for the survival of mankind: therefore betraying them means betraying one's own vital human essence. To invoke the Mothers implies to associate to a collective of energies that live in close relation with Olodumare (the supreme deity) and elements indispensable to the human survival.