The title of this piece is an unmistakable harkening to African roots. Shango is a religious practice with origins in Yoruba (Nigerian) belief, deifying a god of thunder by the same name. Shango has been adopted in the Caribbean, most notably in Trinidad and Tobago, a fact that underscores the importance of transnationalism to Samella Lewis’s piece. Her work often grapples with issues of race in the U.S., and The House of Shango is no exception. Through a reliance on the gradual transformation of Shango—one that took place across continents and time—Lewis’s piece forms a powerful link between black Americans and their African and Caribbean counterparts. The figure depicted in the piece appears to emerge, quite literally, from the house of Shango. Given the roots and transformative process of the religion, The House of Shango can draw attention to the historical intersections to which black American culture is indebted.
Laura Woods, SC ’18