We are Suelen Calonga and Kamai Freire, a duo of artistic-research dedicated to expanding the potentialities of our spiritual practice, perceiving our existence, our political stand, and our very creative process as means to fulfill our ancestral mission. We name our work in tribute to Obará, an African ancestor from immemorial times, who teaches us about humility, faith, transformation, and prosperity. Our practice dwells on the crossroads between transmedia-multidisciplinary art, academic production, and spirituality linked to the ancestral knowledge systems passed on to us by our elders in Candomblé (Brazil) and Ìṣẹ̀ṣe Làgbà (Yorubaland). Our work approach removes both artistic and scientific practices from the realm of the “explicable”, pushing them into the realm of the sensible and blurring the boundaries between aesthetic, political, academic, and spiritual. Sound and ritual are always present in what we do.
We have been based in Berlin since 2020, but we met in Weimar back in 2018, in an encounter with strong spiritual implications, when we started to gradually unite the parts of our interests that are naturally convergent. Suelen (born in 1984, Contagem, Brazil, carrying the legacies of intellectual and political production of Black men, from her paternal side, and the holistic wisdom of indigenous women practices, from her maternal side) is performing and visual artist with interests revolving around cultural heritage, discourse, narrative and power, the relationship between archive-knowledge-memory, and the concept of counter-ethnography - a term she coined to deepen the discussion about the political role of museums and national archives. Kamai (born in 1992, Brasília, Brazil, Omo Òrìṣà and Alàgbé Ọbalúayé, a musician-priest in the diasporic Òrìṣà cult, Candomblé) is a musician and musicologist focused on the political role of music and spirituality in the unfinished African Revolution, with a life-long experience in different musical traditions as saxophonist, guitarist, percussionist, and singer, as well as composer, arranger, conductor, music director, and field-researcher on soundscapes and cultural heritage.
Suelen Calonga (1984) was born in Contagem, Brazil, carrying the legacies of intellectual and political production of Black men, from her paternal side, and the holistic wisdom of indigenous women practices, from her maternal side. She is a performing and visual artist, photographer, independent and institutional curator and researcher. Suelen is a master of fine arts from the Bauhaus University - Public Art and New Artistic Strategies (Germany); with a degree in Social Communication at PUC Minas, and a specialization in Images and Media Cultures at UFMG (Brazil). She took part in many residencies and had works exhibited in Brazil, Germany, Portugal and the United States. www.suelencalonga.com
Kamai Freire (1992) was born in Brasília, Brazil, is Omo Orisa and Alàgbé of Omolu (Candomblé’s musician-priest). He is a musicologist currently doing his doctoral research at the UNESCO Chair in Weimar. Experienced in different musical traditions as a saxophonist, guitarist, percussionist, and singer, as well as composer, arranger, conductor, and music director, both in musical performance and in theater, Kamai has great experience as field-researcher on soundscapes and cultural traditions, as well as an international and prolific academic work with various publications and lectures. www.kamaifreire.com