Thursday, March 10, 2011


Eu Vi Mamãe Oxum Na Cachoeira

Long ago as a young child I was required to take a nap each afternoon. But I never could fall asleep in daylight. So I entertained myself by starring at the cracked plaster in the ceiling of our old apartment in Chicago and imaging all kinds of pictures and possibilities. Later, I did the same thing with the clouds in the sky and the gnarled bark on trees.

The hunt for the treasure of images has remained with me to this day. Playing with images is one of the main ways that I stay connected to that little guy who didn't like to take a nap. The options back then were simple: scream or make art. Nowadays, when I confront the future of the Amazon forest and rivers, the options often seem the same. Perhaps, that's why I mix a lot of art with the serious stuff in this blog.

In the image (above) I imagine a golden waterfall pouring from a woman's face next to a crescent moon. The generative power of her tears feeds the lilies and new life. Her name is Mamãe Oxum...

In Brazil, Oshun is an Orisha adopted and worshiped in all Afro-Brazilian religions. She is the Orisha of fresh water from rivers and waterfalls , the wealth of love , of prosperity and beauty. In nature, the rite of Oshun is usually performed in the rivers and the waterfalls. Oshun is the symbol of sensitivity and she often sheds tears. (more info at Wikipedia)

One of the most popular of the songs dedicated to her is Eu Vi Mamãe Oxum Na Cachoeira (I saw Mommy Oshun in the Waterfall) which tells of her sitting by the river gathering lilies to decorate her shrine. Here is one of the most popular versions sung by Zeca Baleiro...

Her tears offer love, prosperity and new life -- exactly what the forest and rivers of Brazil need in this difficult period when development and deforestation are looming as the Federal Congress is revising the protections of the national forest code. The issue is complex and the pressures on the forest are immense -- here's some background. Many good friends are working hard to find a balance between the needs of nature and people. May the tears of Mamãe Oxum bring to them the love, resources and sensitivity that are needed.

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