In the religion known as Regla Lucumí or Ocha (also called Santería), the word ile, or house, means not only a home but also a community of believers. These photographs were taken in Havana, Cuba, where I traveled with writer Kristin Naca, for her initiation into the religion. My photographs document the houses and communities of those who practice Ocha, which originated in West Africa and traveled with the Atlantic slave trade to the island, where it has flourished. In unassuming homes all over Cuba (and beyond, in other parts of the Caribbean, as well as in the United States and Brazil), practitioners prepare offerings and elaborate ceremonies for the orishas, the deities of the religion. Many distinctive elements of this religious tradition have migrated into mainstream Cuban dance and music. Yet the most important rituals are intimate affairs, taking place behind closed doors within private homes. Photography of such rituals is generally forbidden, even for practitioners. These photographs focus on the interiors of such homes, lingering just beyond the room where rituals take place, the boundary that separates the outside world from igbodu, or sacred space.  An account of our travel appears in the journal Art Papers.

Using Format