Co-presented with Light Industry
Voices of the Gods, Al Santana, 1985, 16mm, 60 mins
“A thought-provoking and potentially controversial exploration of the role African religion has come to play in the quest for self-knowledge and liberation.” - Greg Tate
A classic of black independent cinema and a nuanced analysis of modern spirituality, Al Santana’s “Voices of the Gods” profiles contemporary American followers of the Akan and Yoruba religions, two West African traditions that have long been practiced in the United States, in part as a means to reconnect with ancient histories. Santana interviews priests and other members of the two faiths, allowing them to explain in detail the theological and cosmological underpinnings of their beliefs and speak to the significance and utility of traditional music, dance, and medicine, as well as describe their own personal pathways into practices that are often misunderstood by popular culture. The film takes viewers from Akan rituals performed among the brownstones of Brooklyn to scenes of daily life in the Yoruba village of Oyotunji in South Carolina, including an Egungun ancestral communion ceremony; sequences from Christian churches meanwhile illuminate the legacy of African devotional vocabularies. Shot during the Reagan 80s, Voices of the Gods at times gives the sense of a political movement that has come to look inward, to enter into, as Amiri Baraka wrote, in a poem that would serve as the film’s preamble, “the ancient image, into a new correspondence with ourselves and our black family.”
Photographer Marilyn Nance worked as a producer on “Voices of the Gods,” and the photos she took during its production—remarkable in both their precise formal achievement and piercing humanist eye—became part of a larger body of work on African American religious experience, which she would later draw together for an exhibition at the Studio Museum in 1994.
Light Industry will present a screening of Santana’s film along with a slide presentation by Nance about her project, providing a revealing dual perspective on a common subject.
Followed by a conversation with Nance, Santana, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden.
Tickets - $8, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7:30pm.
Image ©️ Marilyn Nance