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Orisha Oya Dance From Cuba

Yusimi Moya

Yusimi Moya

Published on 2017 December 04

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This video shows a folkloric dance performance of the female Orisha Oya, a Yorùbá deity, as danced today in Cuba to the rhythms of the Lukumí batá drums and singing.

The Yorùbá name “Ọya Ìyánsán” means literally “Oya mother of nine (children)”. Oya is the goddess in charge of wind, tornado, torrential rain and hurricans and beloved wife of Orisha Shango, who is often only called by his name Yor. “ọkọ Ọya”, husband of Oya. Like wind and thunderstorm they cannot be separated one from another. Oya was Ogun’s wife, but left him for Shango. She is also hot-tempered and energetic. In Yorùbáland Oya is the Orisha of the river Niger. In Cuba she resides at the entrance to the cemetery, where she leads the dead ones and hands them over to the female Orisha Oba and Yewa, who live inside these walls. Walking on the boundary between life and death Oya is closely related to the Yor. “Eégún”, the dead ancestors. She herself had nine stillborn children she is still protecting. With strong winds she can blow away obstacles and bring new things into the life. Oya stands for the female strength in times of struggle, respected for her strong will and fearless through her connection with the world of the deads. Oya is the female warrior goddess and also known for her strong medicines.

Oya’s color is mostly burgundy or wine-red. Around her waist she wears a belt with nine different colored pieces of clothes attached, symbols for being the mother of nine dead children. Oya can wear all colors, except black. Sometimes palm fibers from the “palma real”, Shango’s tree, are added. She carries an “ìrùkẹ̀” made of a black horsetail. She can hold a “machete” or a “vaina”, a huge painted seed from the flamboyant tree, in her hands. It has the form and almost the size of a “machete” and is used like a rattle to call her. In her dance Oya moves around like a whirlwind or tornado, spins around her axis to the left. She swings her whisk above her head, brings wind and dynamic change, clears and purifies the air. She brings both arms high in the air above her head in mirrored positions and in a sudden powerful movement stretches them downwards to her hips, followed by a wave, a spinal ripple, moving through her body, going from her pelvis up where it twists the head. She is crying out loudly while dancing, looks fierce and strong, aggressive and violent, her movements are impulsive, energetic and characterized by abrupt stops. Some people say one dance of her in the rhythm “shashalokafun” is related to the buffalo, her sacred animal and the steps mimic the gallop of this massive animal.

Yusimi Moya Rodriguez studied dance at the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, Cuba. She worked as a dancer at the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba for five years and is known as an expert for Afro-Cuban dance traditions. For more information see her website http://www.cubancontemporary.com

The music - Cuban batá drumming and Lukumí singing for Orisha Oshun - was recorded especially for this choreography by percussionist Christian Martinek. He is a composer and musician of Venezuelan descent and studied Piano on the University of Music in Vienna, Austria. He has profound knowledge of ritual music from West Africa and its Caribbean and South American Diaspora.

The video was produced by http://www.santeria.at - see the website for information in German language on the "Regla de Ocha", the Yorùbá traditions from Cuba.

This document is a piece of art, that shows the beauty of Trans-Atlantic Yorùbá traditions and is intended to inspire dancers and Olorisha around the globe. Thank you to all the people involved in making this recording possible.

Heépàà heéyìì Ọya Ìyánsán!!

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