Photo series: Afro-Cuban Roots

Danielle Coates



A bit more about the Danielle Coates and their work:


I’m a graphic designer, artist, and recently a zinester. The focus of my personal work explores culture and identity. I deconstruct my experiences and history to understand my racial and cultural identities. I began creating zines back in November and I have made five publications in that time. I’m slowly starting to share my work at book and zines fairs, bookstores, and collaborative publications. Zines for me are a great medium for my work to live and be shared. I’m able to apply my skills as a designer to the format and content of my zines. Zines also give me the freedom to be informal and explore my interests rather than design for a client.

My book Dancing Through the Diaspora is a publication that illustrates the connection between the Yoruba traditions of West Africa and how they have transformed in Cuba. Dancing Through the Diaspora provides historical context for the culture of Cuba, profiles of the orishas, and an interview with a local professional Afro-Cuban dancer.

The photos I selected are from the last chapter of my book, Afro-Cuban Roots. These photos are accompanied by an interview with the instructor of the Afro-Cuban dance class in Spanish and English. I would like to display the photos together with a short statement about the class and movements.

“I was privileged enough to visit the Adinkra Cultural Arts Studio in Mt. Rainer, Maryland to experience orisha dances being taught. The studio is one of the few locations in the Washington D.C. metro area that provides classes, workshops, and events focusing on the African Diaspora arts. Every Wednesday night, Yudisleidy Valdés instructors an Afro-Cuban Roots class, which encompasses music, song, dance of contemporary and traditional Afro-Cuban culture. The evening I joined the class, Yudi and her students where practicing the orisha dance of Yemayá. The class was also accompanied three batá drummers.

The class is practicing the spins of Yemayá by moving across the studio. The movement of the skirts personifies the waves and the power of the ocean. Yemayá is the orisha of maternity, the sea, and of salt water. Yemayá gave birth to all the orishas, the sun and the moon. She represents fertility. In some mythology she is the adopted mother of Changó or Yemayá Olókun who lives in the bottom of the ocean. She protects her children in her skirt, feeds, and raises them. When she takes possession of her children or worshipers she swirls around them like the waves of the sea.”

Follow Danielle on Instgram: @curly_muse