Aurora Incorporates Cobra Coral:
an Afro-religious perspective
Cabelo brings to a manor house in Morumbi the experience of a sensitive person inspired by the mediumistic manifestation of Afro-Brazilian religiosity. This statement touches only the thinnest surface of what the exhibition in question is capable of bringing about. As an Afro-religious priest and art lover, I was able to see some layers – or rather, some fragments that relate to my own religious experience, which made me feel, in the opening afternoon, as if I wasn’t at an ordinary opening, but participating in a ritual celebration. The possible incongruity of this feeling concerns the contrast between the universe of art, with its very specific rules and protocols, and the opening of the house within which other openings signaled by Exu manifested themselves.
There, the deity Exu dominates, sovereign, fundamental in the Afro-religious pantheon, being mainly the one who provides the openings, not infrequently being the opening himself. Opening of entry and exit, in which he occupies the threshold, the limes, the limit, the non-place, where everything can be and occur, beyond good and evil. This position places him in a zone of uncertainty, which unites and separates, which is strictly neither inside nor outside and which, for this very reason, points to a danger inherent in a state of expectation of losing one status in order to obtain another. It is not fortuitous, therefore, that the exhibition is marked by a “signaling”, by sets of ideograms shown in its engravings, recalling the “space markings” of graffiti and urban graffiti. These signs of rebellion and “dirt”, moving limits, border markers that paradoxically do not demarcate, but invade institutionalized territories. Instruments of deterritorialization.
The sign of incorporation, in the title of the exhibition, reminds us that the body (like the house to which it is synonymized in Lygia Clark’s quote that serves as one of the themes of the exhibition) is a territory. In the rites of incorporation by deities and entities of Afro-Brazilian religiosity, this body is deterritorialized. It starts to belong to another, lending it solidity, gesture, voice, look. Cobra Coral is the name of an Afro-indigenous entity worshiped in Umbanda, which bears in its name the power of the homonymous snake of the genus Calliophis, small, fragile in appearance, but fearsome. A sign of danger that associates it with the collection of signs that embody the exhibition and, by extension, Exu.
These signs designed by Cabelo are irreducible to communicative interaction (although Exu is, among other things, the deity of communication). They show, warn, attract and repel danger as a focus of avoidance or seduction. They fascinate like the mythical gaze of the snake, in its cacographs (as I decided to call it). However, like the serpent that symbolizes, the exhibition has its segmented structure, the opening duly manifested in the signs representing Exu, such as the crossroads and the phalluses that accompany us all the time – a caduceus of the Hermes-conductor-of-souls. Baton of the master of ceremonies.
This opening, however, seems to abandon its liminal uncertainty in the face of the sign expressed in the Iron Mirror, in which the spectator sees icons of sensitive functions: vision, hearing, touch, taste, vocalization and sexualization. However, a mystery is established: is it a mirror in which we see our primal functions, or a board from which we borrow those functions that our daily lives have weakened in us, or serves as a depository for those functions that this very day-to-day “addicted” so that we can drop our “skin” like snakes and expose ourselves, stripped of our “civilized” cloaks, like curious and fearless little children, to the surprises of new senses? “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate…”
At the other extreme (which is simultaneously the center) the fireplace, the assembly of spirits and the sacred ancestral mask, the Molochian face/fauce and terrible that the house fireplace, original and etymologically dwelling of homes, domestic spirits of the Greco-Roman house, now occupied by undomeable powers, with Eshu himself at its heart. The opening of the fireplace becomes Exu Enubarijó, the wide-open and gluttonous Collective Mouth, with smoldering eyes and nostrils, showing these indomitable spirits inside, without explaining whether it is swallowing or regurgitating them, or simply showing them as a grimacing and insolent child. This symbolic/iconic core of the house seems to express the very mechanism in incorporation. Exu is the displaced artifact that the house ingests to surrender as a body – sinuous, phallic, dancing and transmuting of Cobra Coral.
Babalorixá and Anthropologist, 2021.