If He Changed My Name, 2016 - present.

If He Changed My Name is a photo-poetic book project assembling intimate black and white analog photographs of Rio De Janeiro's 16th-century churches, colorful staged multicultural altars, poetic lines, loose translation, and catholic handouts to articulate a clash between times, places, and spiritualities.

 

I go back to Rio de Janeiro Downtown every now and then. I was born there, in Rio. Over time I am drawn to the atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro’s downtown churches built in the 18th c. 

 

Historic narratives and manuscripts, as well as academic ​studies, point to the Catholic Church's ownership of enslaved people. Not only ownership of their bodies, but of their spirituality as well. 

 

There is a North American gospel song entitled I Told Jesus It Would Be All Right If He changed My Name. The lyrics refer both to the ritual of rebirth through baptism and to the oppressive strategy of robbing someone of their birth name as a form of identity erasure. This work's title is a direct reference to that song, and more importantly to the colonial dichotomy that mixed spiritual salvation and identity erasure imposed by Catholic and Protestant Churches on enslaved people.

 

In this work, I use traditional photography documentary aesthetic - 35mm, black and white, grainy (Ilford 400 film), high contrast - in addition to creative writing and letterpress to articulate visual questions about geographic spaces and spaces of memory, history, of spirituality, of light and darkness, of colonial oppression and decolonial liberation.

 

Then, in colorful staged altars, multiple objects from multiple places in Brazil, Latin America, and the U.S. are assembled in a liberating response and transcendence of colonial spiritual violence.

 

The text is written in English, then loosely translated to Yoruba, one of the many languages of African enslaved people brought to the Americas that suffered a direct attempt of erasure - as changing names - to reinforce colonial oppression but that nevertheless still beams within the Transamerican African Diaspora.