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Reginald Jackson exhibit at Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists visualizes Yoruba tradition

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Reginald Jackson exhibit at Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists visualizes Yoruba tradition
A photograph from the “Orisha Domains Series” by Reginald Jackson. (Photo: Celina Colby)

Photographer Reginald Jackson has a display of works on paper at the Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists in conjunction with the “Black Gods Live: Work of Stephen Hamilton” exhibit. “Orisha Domains Series” features dreamy, edited landscapes, the sort of natural destinations controlled and inspired by the gods of Hamilton’s exhibit. The series is a result of Jackson’s close study of West African religious practices and how they continue to emerge in and impact the lives of African Americans today.

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A few pieces feature lush, verdant landscapes in greens, yellows and blues. These hues mirror the robes of the gods in the neighboring exhibition. Many of the landscapes are dark and dense. Harsh thickets cover murky waters, the mirrored images merging at the center to bar the viewer from stepping further into the image. The Orisha are associated with different actions, often referred to as “domains.” Jackson offers weather as an example of an Orisha’s domain. The gods also are meant to exemplify different facets of human personality. Perhaps the darker landscapes are reflections of the darker traits.

The contemporary images have the highly-edited quality of a video game alternate reality. Though the domains in the Yoruba cosmology are areas the gods control, Jackson’s images equally look like spaces inhabited by the divine. Each image appeals to a different personality trait, the luminous, the vindictive and the powerful.

Although the images aren’t crafted for a specific god, it’s easy to place one in each space. One dark, rocky sepulcher features jagged edges and violent carvings. This might be the domain of Ògún, who presides over iron, fire, hunting, politics and war. Oya, an Orisha associated with wind, lightning, fertility, fire and magic, at the opposite end of the spectrum, would prefer the sumptuous seaside landscape with rich blue water and green shores. Many of the Orisha are associated with nature and natural phenomena, and Jackson welcomes viewers to see how many gods they can spot in the series.

Jackson currently serves as professor emeritus of communications at Simmons College, and founder and president of Olaleye Communications. He received his M.F.A. and B.F.A. from Yale University. An activist as well as an artist, Jackson is a member of the Boston Pan-African forum and several other organizations to promote civic and social development.

“Orisha Domain Series” will be viewable during the Museum of the NCAAA’s Juneteenth celebration on Monday, June 19.

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