Ponto for Banbha Mooira

May 2, 2013


Here is a video document of the drawing of a ponto riscado for the deity Bahnba Mooira made by Roberto N. Peyre and myself in June 2012. It was inspired by our shared interest in Black Atlantic religions and Northern Soul dance culture, particularly their common metaphysical foundations in the transatlantic slave trade and trafficking, the importance of ritual dance/possession trance in both traditions and processes of subject formation within industrial labour. The work was conceived as a mystic re- or counter-communion with antedeluvian origins and alliances in order to break the chains of assembly lines and loop holes guarded by certain demonic forces.

It was exhibited on the floor of the ASC gallery in London in a show curated by Plastique Fantastique. As you will see, when the drawing is complete we un-draw it by dancing and spinning on it to the sound of Spirit by Third Point, a Northern Soul tune, rarely heard these days, but once a big hit in the Highland Room at Blackpool Mecca, one of the most important Northern Soul venues in the 1970’s. The drawing is finished by 39.15. Then the dancing starts.

The project began with a view to making a vévé – a ritual signature of a Loa (God/Spirit) drawn in powder on the ground during Vodou ceremonies. Roberto suggested we think about what a Northern Soul vévé would be made of. The content of the powders should be in keeping with the work to be done and the spirits to be summoned/placated. The obvious choices were talcum powder, which Northern Soul dancers sprinkle on the floor to make it easier to perform their dance moves, and amphetamine sulphate, the stimulant of choice for the scene.

At the time we were developing this project I was exploring the history and symbolism of the red cross after rumors had begun circulating that the International Red Cross was planning to build a hotel and conference centre in Haiti with money raised from public donations for post-earthquake disaster relief, allegedly with the intention of creating jobs for Haitians. At that time the red cross had become emblematic of the mutual interdependence of military violence and charitable aid that had been cast into stark relief in post-earthquake Haiti. Given that the ASC gallery is located in Southwark, an area with a notorious history of vice, prostitution and the early presence of black Africans in London as a consequence of the transatlantic slave trade, Roberto suggested twinning the area with the other side of the river and its square mile of notorious Templar power and financial necromancy. He also suggested we start to think about spiritual power centres in the vicinity of the gallery where we could perform ritual works. Specifically we should look for a Pomba Gira “hot-spot”. Pomba Gira is a deity within the Umbanda, Quimbanda and Candomble spiritual traditions of Brazil. Her name means “spinning” or “turning dove” in Portuguese. She is a powerful warrior-queen who takes many forms and “paths” through which she commands formidable legions of the dead. She is often associated with “wayward” female behavior like promiscuity, prostitution, hedonism, intoxication and violence and she inhabits liminal spaces like forests, riverbanks, crossroads and graveyards. She is the consort of Exu, spirit of the forest and prime spirit of change, first action, streets, roads, transmissions and crossings and the name given to a phallanx of spirits on the lowest level of the spiritual hierarchy in the Qiumbanda tradition.

As I began to reflect on the nature of the vévé powder and the quest for a Pomba Gira hot-spot in Southwark an image of a skull and cross-bones came to mind, the bones being ground into a white powder in a mortar and pestle. Cross-bones and graveyards. And then I remembered The Cross Bones graveyard, a ceremonial site for the memory of the outcast dead (especially for prostitutes), made popular by the mystic, visionary poet and playwrite John Constable (aka John Crow), whose Southwark Mysteries were channeled to him by the spirit of a dead prostitute called The Goose. And it was on Redcross Way, in the parish of St. Saviour’s, no more than seven streets from the gallery.

Over the next two weeks – during the transit of Venus – we performed a number of rituals in recognition of Pomba Gira dos Sete Cruzeiros de Kalunga (Pomba Gira of the Seven Crosses of Kalunga) at the gates of the Cross Bones burial ground, and to Exu Quebra Galho (Exu of the Broken Twig) at the base of a fig tree in All Hallows Church yard. We then designed a ponto riscado, the ritual signatures of deities and forces within Quimbanda, for a transatlantic Northern Soul deity that Roberto named Banbha Mooira after the legendary warrior queen and giantess founder of Ireland and a fateful, Moorish Moira. The ponto contains a number of elements: the tree of life encircled by a double-headed serpent, the graveyard oceans of Kalunga, the cross of the Knights Templar and the trident of Pomba Gira. The ponto was worshipfully drawn to our new queen on the Diamond Jubilee of another queen, Elizabeth II of Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

In the rendering above the ponto is inverted.

582px-Coat_of_Arms_of_Jamaica.svg

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