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Eastern's Arroyo Publishes Book on Yoruba Pantheon

Written by Dwight Bachman

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Willimantic, Conn: -- Imna Arroyo, professor of art at Eastern Connecticut State University, has published the book, "La Sagrada Familia" (The Sacred Family). The book was introduced at the Museo Casa Africa in Havana, Cuba, in July. Arroyo is an artist whose work incorporate mixed media and installation art to explore her Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions.

"The Sacred Family" is a limited edition that features 32 hand-crafted linoleum prints by Arroyo, dedicated to the Orishas and Deities of the Yoruba Pantheon. The print edition was printed by Ramon Vargas Artiz at the El Templo Studio in Santiago de la Vegas, Cuba, and by Arroyo at her studio in Willimantic. The images are accompanied by descriptions and praises written by Isis Mattei, Arroyo's daughter. James Nicholas Winner-Arroyo, the artist's son, designed the book. Arroyo's son and daughter are both Eastern alumni.

"Orisha are divinities who embody aspects of the Supreme Being, Olodumare," writes Mattei. "Acting as agents of the Deity, Orisha carry out specific functions in the creation and maintenance of the natural world. They personify elemental energies, natural phenomena and transcendental metaphysical principles. Orisha are also understood as universal symbols or signifying archetypes of collective ancestral consciousness."

Arroyo, a Black Puerto Rican and the descendant of enslaved indigenous and African peoples, said the seeds for "La Sagrada Familia" were sown in 1997, when she traveled to Ghana, West Africa and stepped into the dungeons of the Elmina Castle, a primary port in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  "I was standing at the "door of no return," the last portal through which enslaved Africans passed before their shipment to the Americas," she said.

"A shiver ran through my core. I realized that my spirit had returned to the scene of untold atrocities and I felt, without a doubt, a spiritual connection to my ancestors. It is my intent to create art that is a kind of medicine used to heal the deep-seated collective wounds of history, and to celebrate the vibrancy and relevance of the legacy of those who came before me."

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Arroyo has devoted her artistic development to exploring the connections between the African continent and the Diaspora, traveling throughout the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa. "La Sagrada Familia" draws upon the symbolism and language of the Yoruba people whose oral and aesthetic traditions use poetry, proverbs, legends, myths and imagery to express a majestic, complex and sophisticated worldview.

The book, translated into Spanish by art critic Yuneikys Villalonga, is in the permanent collection of the Museum Casa Africa of the Office of the Historian of Habana, Cuba. Arroyo will present the Sacred Family at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana, Cuba, in April 2014 during Antonio Martorell's retrospective exhibition, where she will also be presenting a children's book and printmaking workshop. In addition, Arroyo will present the book at Casa de las Americas, which has the most important collection of Caribbean art in Latin America. 

In November, 2013, Arroyo will travel to Cartagenas and Barranquillas, Colombia, to make a presentation at the III Congresso Iberroamericano y V Nacional por una Educacion de Calidad y IV Encuentro de Docentes conference. Jaime G√≥mez, interim dean of Eastern's School of Education and Professional Studies, will moderate a panel titled, "Comprehensive Education, Art and Cultural Perspectives: A Transdisciplinary Path for Quality Education." Eastern alumna Migdalia Salas will also participate in the panel discussion.

In December, Arroyo will travel to Brazil to conduct research on the Yoruba legacy of Bahia with Brazilian filmmaker, sculptor and printmaker Chiro Fonceca, whose work also focuses on the African Diaspora experience.


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