at the Crossroads

Bruno Norais y Cristina de Middel, Brazil, Benin, Spain, Cuba, Haiti
About the project
Eshu killed a bird today with a stone he threw yesterday.

Eshu decided to break up a lifelong friendship between Moon and Sun, separating them forever and opposing day to night.

He sought to accomplish this feat by walking down the road that separated the Sun´s farm from the Moon´s farm. Eshu wore a hat that was black on the left and red on the right.

He smoked his pipe on the back of the neck and hung his walking cane from his shoulder behind his back.

After he had passed, the Sun and the Moon quarreled over the colour of Eshu´s hat and over which way he was walking.

When the supreme god heard of the dispute, he summoned the Sun and the Moon as they were calling each other liars. Suddenly Eshu appeared and said neither of them was a liar, but both of them were fools.

Orunmila, the god of divination, decided to travel to the village of Ouô. He asked his Opelé Ifa (oracular tool) and the journey was announced as uncertain. Still, Orunmila left, as it was a long and tiring road.

On the third day of his journey, Orunmila, tired and hungry, rested under a tree, where he found a few kola nuts that he ate without second thought. Eshu had placed the seeds along his way to propitiate the confusion that was to follow.

The owner of the tree and the seeds quickly came to the tree, accusing Orunmila of stealing his kola nuts and they both engaged in a violent fight. During the fight Orunmila was hurt and was wounded on his hand. The owner of the seeds threatened to go to Ouô and tell everyone that a thief was on his way and that they could all recognize him from a scar on his hand.

Orunmila was desperate and angry because his apologies had gone by unheeded, but then came Eshu, promising to find a solution to the problem he himself had created.

Eshu went that very night to Ouô and made cuts on the hands of all the sleeping people in the village, so that nobody could recognize Orunmila and accuse him of anything.

Everybody now has wounds on their hands.

Eshu can appear in Brazil as a female wandering the streets at night and seducing everyone.

She embodies physical desire, as well as the uprising against patriarchal norms and behaviour.

I dreamed f this woman the day we met.

Eshu receives offerings known as Padè.

They include toasted flour, dendè oil, water, a cigar, a box of matches and hard liquor.

This is what he has to eat and drink.

No sacrifice, no bounty.

As is often the case, the rituals and traditions of non-Christian religions get a negative treatment when they are up against the ascendant power of Christendom.

So, Papa Legba and his connection with the crossroads, becomes the devil.

Some say that you must talk to Baron Samedi or Cimetière holding a cow foot.

That is necessary because you must place your hand in his while you make your request of him.

When he leaves, he will take away with him whatever he is holding.

Papa Legba ouvirier Barriere puor moi

Agoe Papa Legba

Ouvirier barriere pour moi

Attibon Legba

Ouvirier barriere pour moi passer

Vrai, loa moi passer m'a remerci loa moin

I dream of walking with a woman I had never mer before. She was pointing at a sinuous path along a cliff that would take me to a medieval fortress. She said I should go to that distant town named Orange.

I woke up like almost every morning in Haiti. With the feeling of not knowing what is real and what is not.

That day we were driving to Saul d'Eau, a sacred waterfall near port au Prince. The road was bad and the car was slow. The last of our many stops was in a small village with a church that worshippers of Legba had to honour first.

I did not find anything interesting inside, but on my way out I met a woman who was carrying a turkey to the market. I asked her to pose for me using the bird's wings as a sort of fan. We drove her and two more friends up the hill to the market and then asked her qhat the name of the village was. She said the village was named Orange

A few days later, our guide in Cap Haitien showed us the video of a recent ceremony to Legba he had recorded. There was a woman, sat on the floor right by the gate of the fence. She was possessed by the spirit of Legba and she was using the wings of a black rooster as a fan hiding her face and smiling in trance.

Bruno Morais (Brazil) & Cristina De Middel (Spain / Brazil)

A project commissioned by Africamericanos

Eshu is one of the most mysterious entities in West African creation myths. He crossed the ocean with the enslaved Africans to disembark in the inaptly name “New World,” where, owing to the zeal of missionaries and the fact that people had been uprooted, he became an archetype for the demonization of African religions ―one that has endured to this day.

Midnight at the Crossroads documents Eshu’s adaptations and alterations, from his origins in Benin, to developments in Cuba, Brazil, and Haiti. Eshu began as a totem in Benin, became a child in Cuba, then was transformed into a seductive youth in Brazil, and ended up being an old man in Haiti. But he always remained a confusing spirit that questions our assumptions and calls things into doubt.

Eshu is the energy of change and mutation. He is the messenger and also the lord of the crossroads, given his dual symbolism. He places obstacles in our way in order to question our actions and decisions.

To cast some light onto the sinister narrative prevailing in popular culture, which directly ties African religions (Umbanda, Santería, or Vodou) to diabolical entities, this project combines a documentary approach to rituals and ceremonies with visions of myths and legends that are illustrated in order to provide a broader, non-linear understanding of the African presence and heritage.

Bruno Morais & Cristina de Middel

(b. 1975) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Bruno Morais became involved with photography through visual anthropology and the study of traditional groups in Brazil. His interest in the narrative possibilities of the medium led him to explore the use of images as a tool of social criticism. In 2015 he was selected to participate in the Paraty em Foco and San José Foto festivals. A year later he participated in the Encontros da Imagem and the LagosPhoto festival. As a member of Observatório de Favelas, he has undertaken photographic projects aimed at the integration of marginalized communities in Brazil. He is a cofounder of the collective Pandilla, created in 2009. In collaboration with Cristina de Middel he has produced Excessocenus, which received the Greenpeace Photo Award in 2016, and Midnight at the Crossroads, a project exhibited at the Rencontres d’Arles in 2018 and published by This Book Is True.

(b. 1975) Alicante, Spain / Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Through her noteworthy contributions to the phenomenon of the photobook, Cristina de Middel has explored in her work the frontiers between reality and fiction. For ten years she worked as a photojournalist and war correspondent. In 2012 she privately published Los afronautas, a book that garnered several awards on its appearance. The book was the first of many volumes that have earned De Middel numerous distinctions: the Premio PhotoEspaña for the best photobook of 2014, the First PhotoBook Prize of the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards in 2012, the award of the Photo Folio Review at the Rencontres d’Arles in 2012, and a nomination for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize in 2013. In collaboration with Bruno Morais, she has undertaken the projects Excessocenus and Midnight at the Crossroads. In 2017 she received the Premio Nacional de Fotografía in Spain and became a member of Magnum Photos.