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Paying Homage to Yoruba “Orishas” | See Atlanta Photographer James C. Lewis’ Exhibition

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James C Lewis Orisha Exhibition - BellaNaija - January2014005

If you’ve ever wondered what Yoruba gods like Sango or Obatala looked like, here’s your chance to find out.

Depicting the beauty and essence of the ‘Orishas’ i.e divinities of the Yoruba culture, in Western Nigeria, Atlanta-based Photographer James C. Lewis created the ‘Orisha’ art exhibition to portray the Yoruba gods through art and illustration. The Yoruba culture, which is one of the largest tribes in Nigeria, has at least 1,700 gods of which 20 are recognized or most famous. Some of these gods are worshiped in their own rights while others are paid tribute through holidays and festivals.

Lewis was intrigued by the culture and the stories behind them and sought to portray their royalty and character using models and creative digital photography. In the images are gods – Ogun, Esu, Oya, Yemoja, Olokun, Orunmila, Osun, Sango, Aganju, Osanyin, Obatala, Babaluaye, Oba, Erinle, Oko, Osunmare, Ori, Olorun, Ibeji and Osoosi.

Check it out.

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We love the illustrations. What do you think of the art?

Jennifer is the Beauty Editor & Style Representative of BellaNaija.com. Get in touch - Send an email to: beauty(at)bellanaija.com or style(at)bellanaija.com | Follow us on Instagram: @bellanaijabeauty OR @bellanaijastyle | Follow us on Twitter: @bellanaijastyle

61 Comments

  1. ebrufles

    January 23, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    it interesting to know at we are not told about these orishas unless your last name is link to it.

    • CarliforniaBawlar

      January 23, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      My dear wetin come dey your secondary school Yoruba curriculum? Both secondary schools I attended went all in on the Yoruba deities…We even learnt oriki eshu (amongst others) at some point.
      Funny thing is I was just educating my Rwandan friend about African deities….
      By the way, sango is waaaayyyy more bad-ass than whatever they put in those pics. As in, so bad Thor aint gat nothing on him. But I did learn something from this post o (it it’s true), so sango also represents sexual prowess?? No wonder why he’s my ‘favorite” …. 😉
      Nice concept still…I’ll show my friend this post to help her kinda visualize ‘cos the girl been dey ask me if these gods/deities were around when the white man came to African…I’m like….errrr….I wish!! Na which kain oyinbo wan “use light to check the face of sango olukoso??” (ta lo fe gbe ina wo oju sango) hehehehe
      And for those crying foul/idolatory..abeggi shift….later you’ll go and use your money to pay for Hercules at the theaters…

    • ebrufles

      January 23, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      LOL I’m not in secondary school but university. (not
      educated in Nigeria) Its funny cause my last name is sangolana and
      was only told he was the god of fire/ lighting. I totally agree
      with you on sango being waaaayyyy more bad-ass 🙂 dis

    • maria

      January 25, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      true talk any one who attended secondary school in nija
      will and should know all this deity especially is the yoruba side i
      could recant oriki esu like i was a follower and also people who
      scream idolatry are just hypocrites for sure

    • emi naa ni

      February 13, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      ahhh, we weren’t told we had over a thousand sha!! my jaw dropped. I probably know like five…or less than ten.

      [email protected] X_X

    • Yummy

      January 23, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      I love this but growing up in the states has a lot of draw
      backs, i never knew we had Gods in yoruba culture…never learned
      about our history.

  2. Temi

    January 23, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    This has been out since September, when i saw the photos i thought they were wack. Seeing it again i think it got worse, is that even possible. That “OLORUN”… no words. But since its art i guess its acceptable.

  3. tobi amokeodo

    January 23, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Oh, I saw these some times back. Really cool stuff.

    • Hian!

      January 23, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Cool gini ? Abeg o
      It’s cool they got recognized but they’re not all accurae.
      And biko I you’ve heard all the folklores about sango you’ll NEVER put that kini on his head or make him look that sleek. Sango is rugged, all man, muscle and pure powere, also very volatile, has a crazy temper and where is his Thorishhammer oooooo

  4. Rubybabe

    January 23, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Wow! Beautiful, enchanting… So creative

  5. Troll

    January 23, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    AMAZING!!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE EET!!! This is what we should be doing, beautifying our own culture. This is just lovely. Stealing some pics ASAP.
    P.S: I didn’t know Yorubas had so much gods, I guess Igbos do too maybe I just don’t know them

  6. Ldosh JKD

    January 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    This is incredible, this is genius………. the photographer has an eye for difference.

  7. Hurperyearmie

    January 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    wow!!!!!!!!! it is well

  8. choco

    January 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Very informative

  9. Product of public Education

    January 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Speak for yourself unless Yoruba language was not taught in your school. Butter tinz lol no cursing o! Make Ogun no comot visit o! Lol

  10. LamLam

    January 23, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    wooooow! Oba is so pretty, nice work man

  11. supremacydone

    January 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    THis is idolatry supremacydone.blogspot.com

    • AA

      January 23, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Oh shut up

  12. Temi

    January 23, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    The beautification of idols… Art? Culture? ‘End times’ more like

    • nik

      January 23, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      temi…. hope work i treating you well.
      miss your blog o.
      u don forget us?

    • Confuzzled

      January 24, 2014 at 4:25 am

      I bet you have no ‘end time’ comments when its time to watch Clash of the Titans or Thor or read Odysseus, as if those stories don’t refer to gods of other lands. Yet a simple picture representing Yoruba deity has you screaming about end times. Appreciate your culture, it’s as good as any other. Free your mind my dear.

    • temitayo

      January 24, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Namesake, you sound silly and narrow minded… I’m a born again Christian and I see nothing wrong in recognising our history and showing an understanding towards the beliefs of our forefathers. This doesn’t equate to worshipping

  13. randommer

    January 23, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    lol wack
    but inspired me to go and learn more about these gods.
    all these people crying idolatry and what not – Hercules and co nko??

  14. idoublecrossmyheart

    January 23, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    This shows that our gods are similar to Christianity where you have olorun as God and the others as saints or disciples who help. This is also similar to the gREEK gODS…zeus, etc

  15. D'Mamma

    January 23, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I wouldn’t have imagined Sango with a baby face.
    Nice concept tho

  16. Thatgidigirl

    January 23, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Osumare, Lord of elongated things…….mmmm(get your mind out of the gutters young lady!). Some guys need to offer sacrifices to that god and receive his blessings.

  17. Hian!

    January 23, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    I don’t like this shoot joor. Nice concept sha, but accuracy has k-leg.
    That Olorun no reach abeg. He is the God of them all, he’s not a deity. So he’s supposed to look a thousand times more powerful than the others.
    Obaluaye =Sonponaas far as I know ad there are quite a number of names here that I’ve never heard before.
    Oya is Sango’s extremely jealous wife, you didn’t mention that.
    And there’s no way you can mention Yemoja without mentioning the sea , I think she’s Olokun’s wife, can’t remember clearly. Osun is also of the water but the diff I think is Osun is limited to a part of the water, Yemoja is queen of the very depths of the oceans and seas.

  18. Hian!

    January 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    And this photo is such an insult to Sango. As in Sango o?? The Sango = Amadioha = Thor.
    Like I hate that photo ehhhn, do you know how powerful that particular deity is supposed to be??? After Ogun the god of war he is next on the carnage list o. Dude flipping breathes fire mehn, and calls thunder and lightning from his fingertips, they now went and put a turban on his head, a fracking turban, I’m in tears, and insult upon injury, model is a fine boy. Ha , o pari!
    Yes I’m taking it P o, this is how we loose the fabric and essence of some of these stories, some modern children doing research on sango now will see this picture and portray him as Mr Fine Boy”god of male sexuality” ko, ingredients and nonsense. I am pained sha

    • CarliforniaBawlar

      January 23, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      I’m with you on this vexation oo!! All this man had to do
      was google Sango to see the face of that dude that acted the most
      recent adaptation. That guy face strong!! I’m sure sango sef dey
      give am thumbs up wherever he’s @ (shebi na ground he enter??) lol.
      We have to start a petition insisting he changes that picture!!!
      hehehehe… pele dear!

    • Hian!

      January 24, 2014 at 4:44 am

      [email protected] guy that acted Sango… I tire for him jare, and
      this guy don blow upon this thing like this o

    • zsa zsa

      January 23, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Hahaha!!! I love your comment as i learn t a few things
      about sang/Thor :). I have to say i just LOVE this shoot, i
      understand the models may not be a true representation of the
      deities but i just love the concept and i learnt a lot. I attended
      secondary school in Lagos and took yoruba classes but honestly i
      slept through them all :(. They were boring and the teachers were
      not interested in carrying other non yoruba speaking students
      along. Oya! Nollywood should start writing scripts for a super hero
      movie, like hollywood’s Avengers or X-men. Then make a bunch of
      sequels starring one of the deities, sort of like Spiderman,
      Batman, Superman 🙂

    • emi naa ni

      February 13, 2016 at 4:17 pm

      hahahahahahahahahahaha you’re so pained. you killed me at “fine boi..o pari” lmao

  19. me

    January 23, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    It is so refreshing to have this in 2014, but so sad it has been forgotten in nigeria….

  20. lami

    January 23, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Really nice work by the Photographer. Pls all these pple saying idolatory should go and sit down jare. Aren’t Greek Gods idols too? And they aren’t condemned this much. Pls stop taking everything hook, line and sinker. Why don’t you seek knowledge rather than condemning

  21. sl

    January 23, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    nice picture but some of the names are off with the large population of Nigerians in ATL he should have consulted to make it more accurate. but really nice portray

  22. Ready

    January 23, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I like it! Accuracy or nah, I like that someone did
    it.

  23. NaijaPikin

    January 23, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    This is always what happens. When we Nigerians learn to
    document our history. Why must a foreigner tell our own story. See
    the resuly now, our yoruba folks on here are already lamenting how
    inaccurate some of these pictures are. Sigh!

  24. deb

    January 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    This yemoja is classy and Oya is hot. Osun is
    tempting.

  25. Sunshine

    January 23, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    I LOVE, LOVE LOVE, LOVE, LURVE. This is not idolatry. Nobody is asking nobody to bow down to nobody and worship nobody. This is simply capturing and preserving our heritage, our history and our culture. On a different note, please somebody…….gimme some Olokun…..dat boi hawt!!!!!! and im foine!!!!!!

  26. SOLO ACT

    January 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    all these pics look slightly erotic. anyways yoruba people know and document their own culture. its everywhere from cuba to brazil soo its ok. but the pics look like a bunch of MALE STRIPPERS

  27. Grrrrrrrrrtttttfg

    January 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Cool until they came with Jesus Christ Mcheew.

  28. rubies

    January 23, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    this is really really cool. asin am so impressed with the creativity behind it. the pictures, representations are so wow, while I agree mango would have looked a lil bit badness than this but this guy did a great job. I served in the west and heard and saw images a lot so seeing this in pictures of human is kinda refreshing

  29. @ajiriavae

    January 23, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I love it. People who have lost their heritage don’t.

  30. mama irekanmi

    January 23, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    wow!

  31. atm

    January 24, 2014 at 12:35 am

    olorun looks like eedris abdulkareem

  32. TV Girl

    January 24, 2014 at 1:06 am

    Sango and Thor Same person .. It’s just the Yoruba name for
    Thor..also where the day of the week Thursday was gotten from..
    (Google is our friend).. Thor is also called the Yule god and his
    birthday is on the 25th of december.. Yuletide season… Get it? We
    Christians celebrate thor/sango every year without even knowing
    it.. Knowledge is Power.. And Just because Zeus, Hercules and the
    rest are celebrated doesn’t make it any less idolatory.. It’s good
    to know our roots and culture, but it’s even better to Still see
    Our GOD as the one true GOD!!! Fin!

  33. Yoruba Engineering

    January 24, 2014 at 4:20 am

    These orishas get swag sha…see orunmila and sango with
    six pack….LOL

  34. John

    January 24, 2014 at 6:38 am

    And then someone would come with the signs of end time
    trash talk…

  35. Ola

    January 24, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Yoruba religion is powerful dominant religion in diaspora country like Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, Porto Rico, Venezuela and United State more especially in Miami are very proud of been aborisha. We blame the European cultural imperialism that spread bogus religion that keep our people in blind to see the their own things, we rejected our way of life that predate Islam, Christianity. In diaspora many young generation continue to embrace African religion. The European did not brought teaching of God to our people. Because African are the first people in history of mankind to acknowledge the monotheism worshiping the supreme God long before the European and Arab. The African Understand the Nature because is part of every existence. The British and Arab told African that we are worshiping idol, but the did tell the Japanese, India, Chinese and other Asia countries where Buddhist and Hinduism is flourishing, Japan and China are among the most powerful countries both technologically and Economically. Religion is more then believe, religion is cultural, social and political philosophy that must reflect your own identity. Yoruba have built highly advance religion system for thousand of years. Ifa is recognize by UNESCO as powerful intellectual heritage. And Pope invented Dr Oluwo Wande Abimbola to Rome two years ago for international world religions congress. There is nothing strange in our way of life, but we where manipulate by European, because the known religion is greatest weapons to used to dominate and conquered. That is why you see Arab are spending billions to keep their religion on top, because that is all the have. I have been to many museums Like Africa Museum in Bergedaal in Holland, Volk Museum in Leiden in Holland, Museum of Mankind in London, Louvre Museum in Paris, Museum of History in New York , Central African Museum in Brussels in Belgium and many more to see the great African past. This discovery uplift my pride in anything African. We are the founder of every world and religion civilization. Let take pride in our past, because without past their will never be a future.

    • eve

      February 13, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      God bless you Ola. Europeans tried to wipe out our culture and heritage by wiping out our religion and history. Yet some silly brainwashed Africans still follow blindly and condemn their own history accepting that of the white man as superior.

  36. Wale

    January 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Not sure they should be labeled African, rather they are Yoruba deities.

  37. some hater

    January 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

    wrong custumes, wrong models. what happened to using all dese old school aso oke. I love that someone did it but, it didnt hit the nail on d head.

    • emi naa ni

      February 13, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      how are you sure they wore aso oke?? just because recent (like recent compared to ayedaye that they are meant to have been alive or whatever) Yoruba traditions tell us aso oke is our cultural attire…

  38. oyin

    January 25, 2014 at 2:43 am

    Its a shame Nigerians, Yorubas cant document tbeir own
    history , culture and Arts. I’m not into these traditional gods but
    I have to say thus person did a PHENOMINAL work. And these models
    all look absolutely gorgeous as in, it almost looks like painting.
    I have lot of respect for black Americans who try to connect to
    their culture despite the disconnection. I love this
    artwork.

  39. Stella

    January 26, 2014 at 3:47 am

    *sigh*. Someone said it… they look like male strippers. WTF? And it is a shame that someone from another culture is trying to depict/conceptualize Yoruba gods.

  40. Nifemi

    January 31, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    if I remember…. my teacher didn’t depict sango and orunmila as cute n hot… but all the same I still think it’s nice n I’m proud to be an OSANYIN…

  41. beryl

    July 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Why d. Arrray of nudity..dese dieties were often naked I presume.mitchhhwww..nnice creativity doh…if dey wia clothed,wud v had d same effect

  42. Ayotunde

    January 15, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Nice concepts and creative graphic representation …

  43. kehinde

    August 14, 2015 at 5:56 am

    But that olorun guy no too serious like dat. It doesn’t make me feel the name

  44. omobolanle

    March 11, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Let us appreciate ds person’s effort n stop all dse criticism. if u can do better, showcase ur handiwork n stop d complain. kudos to d brain behind dse graphics

  45. seshem

    May 26, 2016 at 7:07 am

    its a goddamn shame that he had to re image and make very colorful and attractive to the modern audience these new versions of the Orisha where all the males deities look like brazen sodomites !! that is an insult to the original energy they represent and to the original imagery the creators of this religion made of them in the first place!!!! the artist is from atlanta I see or is living there so that explains a lot I guess …arrggghhhh- Folks, imagery is very important to the sub conscious mind. dont absorb these images of the deities. the women look nice but the male deities are subconscious reflections of what a sodomite might like and we need to leave out our america living in white world with white folks homosexual infections/corruptions out of the sanctity of our honored culture of the Yoruba deities. some things need to stay sacred.

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