|La Virgen de Regla, by Marissa Arterberry, 2014 mixed media on wood, 12" x 24"|
I ran to the church next door. In front of this church, I found a small pond with light shining from the bottom of it. The pond was surrounded by palm leaves and watermelons that were cut in half so that they resembled drums. It was then I knew that this church was devoted to La Virgen de Regla, the Catholic saint syncretized with Yemaya in Santeria. The water calmed me, and for a brief moment I felt safe. Then, I was filled with terror as I realized this church was next to be destroyed. I ran from the church, and just before I woke up from my dream, the image that I painted-- La Virgen surrounded by leaves of palm and watermelon-- flashed briefly before my eyes.
At first I was surprised by the nature of this dream. La Virgen de Regla coming to me in a dream? I have always had a deep-in-my-bones discomfort with Catholic symbols. I never really knew why, but as I thought about the dream, it began to make sense. Within that dream, I experienced the terror my ancestors experienced, and what they had to overcome in order to preserve their African spiritual traditions after they were brought to the Americas and enslaved. The persecution of practitioners of Santeria, Candomble, Vodoun, etc. has been well documented. It is why our ancestors hid their devotion to African deities behind Catholic saints in the first place. It was an act of resistance, an act of preservation.
"There is an amusing story about a priest in Cuba whose Church enjoyed sudden popularity when a statue of La Regla was installed. It is said that the priest initially attributed the sudden influx of practitioners to his preaching. Imagine his shock when he discovered that Yoruba religious practitioners had placed Afrikan textiles associated with Yemaya under the the Madonna's Catholic robes. The congregation had come to venerate Yemaya!" -Baba Raul Canizares, from Yemaya: Santeria and the Queen of the Seven Seas
The morning after having this dream, I was ready to paint La Virgen. I began researching images of Her on the internet, and was happy to discover She had visited Mexican artist Jorge Elias surrounded by watermelons as well!
|Virgen de Regla by Jorge Elias|
|Closeup view of a statue of La Virgen de Regla|