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A Look Back: Sharing Omolú’s Blessing

Visual art and dramatic performance, especially during moments of crisis, are widely understood to provide paths toward health and well-being. As we collectively – globally – face the COVID-19 pandemic, I am reminded of Brazilian artist Ayrson Heráclito’s September 23, 2017 enactment of Buruburu (“Popcorn”) on the opening night of Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Blending traditional Candomblé sacred ritual with contemporary performance art, Heráclito (b. 1968, Macaúbas, Bahia, Brazil) bathed attendees with popcorn, which symbolized the presence and power of Omolú, an Afro-Brazilian divinity associated with illness, contagion, and cure. As Heráclito intently passed cleansing handfuls of popcorn around the bodies of volunteer participants, sometimes literally showering them with the exploded kernels, he channeled Omolú’s healing energy, which bursts forth when needed. After the last of those seeking Omolú’s blessing had been treated, the exhausted Heráclito nearly collapsed into a chair. But the required work – the necessary art – dedicated to wellness of body and soul had been accomplished.

—Patrick A. Polk, Fowler Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Popular Arts,
and curator of Axé Bahia: The Power of Art in an Afro-Brazilian Metropolis with
Roberto Conduru, Sabrina Gledhill, and Randal Johnson.

Ayrson Heráclito (b. 1968, Macaúbas, Bahia, Brazil); Omolú from the series Bori (Feeding the Head), 2008–2011; Photograph; Courtesy Ayrson Heráclito Artwork © Ayrson Heráclito
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