’Ubungcwele be hule’ translates as ‘the sacredness of the whore’.
Black women’s bodies have been sites for the world’s battles for so long that we have forgotten how to imagine them as sites of pleasure; a space where we can own it rather than give it away. For too long the black female body has been a point of political battle, social and cultural struggle, as well as a space where our own personal demons roam.
There is a need to expand our experience of our desires, both in our minds and in our bodies, by engaging with our sexual energy, discovering our spirituality and, ultimately, ourselves.
This photo essay explores sexual energy as the source of our connection to the life force. The muse in the piece invokes the myths of Yemaja, Mami Wata, Hathor, Bastet, Nanaya, Ishtar, Osun and many other goddesses of sexuality, love, lust, fertility, voluptuousness and sensuality, using the body to archive the stories of these women. These goddesses, and the images they invoke, are vital in our journey to reimagining positive, female-centred sexualities and sensualities.
They remind us of a time when sexually independent women were respected as the sacred vessels of goddesses.
I chose the muse that I did for this photo shoot to challenge what we imagine when we think of an erotic body. Most importantly, I chose her because she is a black, bigger woman who celebrates her body and sexuality defiantly, something that is often not open to those who fall outside the narrow realms that demarcate the standards of desirability. This subversion goes further, given that she is presented nude as a celebration of the sensual elements of the naked black female body, a body that has been hyper sexualised and, in many cases, brutalised. These goddesses were often depicted nude and were empowered in their nudity. It is important for me to counter the continued association of black women’s naked bodies with only shame or violation.
The images are a narrative of sexuality becoming an experience of our divinity once the goddess in us is honoured.
The article is part of a series of articles under the collection titled, Flame, Fever and Fantasy – A collection of African desire and pleasure.