shells.jpg - 2800 Bytes Historical Museum of Southern Florida Orisha Beadwork

At the Crossroads
Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami

BEADWORK

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Beads manifest the beauty and magnificence of the orishas. In ancient Yorubaland, beads were considered a status symbol--a marker of power and economic well-being. Today beads continue to be highly valued for their specific relations with individual orishas. For example, ivory and mother-of-pearl beads are status markers for Oduduwá and Obatalá, who are the two most respected orishas in the pantheon because of their proximity to Olodumaré (the Supreme Being). Coral, attributed specifically to Oshún and Yemojá, is considered a symbol of prosperity and is believed to bring good fortune to the wearer. Azabache (jet black) beads are known to guard the wearer from envy and the evil eye. Erinle, considered one of the most refined orishas, wears a necklace of coral, jet, and gold beads. Ibú Ikolé, a groadh (avatar) of Oshún, wears a jet, coral, and amber necklace. Oduduwáfs necklace includes ivory, mother of pearl and coral.

Orisha beadworkers in Miami, such as Carlos Leon, Miguel Sabina, and Ibis Garcia, produce a variety of ceremonial items, including collares de mazo or gmazosh (large necklaces with clusters of beads), elekés (single-string necklaces), idés (bracelets), mayas (decorative bead nets), and artículos forrados (ceremonial items that are covered with beads).

Mazos are one of the most complex types of beadwork. A mazo consists of various strings of beads that are divided into sections called casetas (huts), separated by larger beads called glorias. A number of tassel-like strands called moñas hang from the front and sides of the necklace. The arrangement of beads is determined by the ritual number associated with the orisha for whom the mazo is intended.

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Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami
The Afro-Cuban Orisha Religion | Orisha Worship in Miami
Orisha Artists | Beadwork | Paños | Garments | Thrones
Herramientas | Music | Ifá Paraphernalia
The Orisha Tradition in Popular Arts
Pantheon of Orishas