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Ayi lo da

2006
Mixed media on Canvas
36" x 24"

Ayi lo da or “the one who turns things and changes them” is a tribute to warrior women of all walks of life. Inspired by the Yoruba goddess Oya Yansa (Queen of the Nine), I thought it was time to paint a goddess that represented not just the loving, nurturing side of women but the warrior aspect as well.
Oya in the Yoruba tradition is a warrior. Her name is inspired by the nine tributaries of the Niger River in West Africa. Somehow after painting this work I discovered that the featured lightning has nine main branches and greatly resembles an aerial view of a river. That was not intended, it was only meant to be the lightning that represents her and that had belonged to Shango (the fire deity was once her husband) but now belongs to her as well. Oya’s ache manifests within the natural force of the wind. This is why she is associated with the whipping winds of a tornado. Oya is known in her warrior spirit to be so extremely nurturing and protective that she will selectively destroy the things in our path that can cause us harm, if we don’t figure out how to avoid them or get rid of them on our own. Her ability to destroy and to do so selectively and strategically has been compared to the destructive force of a tornado that can flatten one home while leaving the rest in tact. To represent her warrior spirit and her command of the wind, a machete (which cuts through the air and represents that element) is placed in her hand.
Featured in the collage behind Oya are a variety of warrior women from throughout the world. The painting was inspired by the idea of blackness as not just a race but as a mindset and political state of resistance. Although the women in the collage may not all be considered “black”, as women of color from either Asia, India, the United States, Puerto Rico and Latin America their status as revolutionaries places them within this frame of black politics, the foundation for liberation struggles and human rights.
Some of the women included in the collage are: Assata Shakur, Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Phoolan Devi, Lolita Lebron, Sylvia Rivera, Lucy Parson, Luisa Capetillo, Blanca Canales, Dylcia Pagan, Carmen Valentin, Ida Luz Rodriguez, Alicia Rodriguez, Haydee Torres, Laura Meneses de Albizu Campos and Mabel Williams.

The image of "Ayi lo da" now appears on the cover of the book Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora by Marta Moreno Vega, Marinieves Alba and Yvette Modestin.


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