Photo Feature by Elio Delgado
HAVANA TIMES, May 30 — The Fourth Colloquy on African-American Religion was held in Havana last week, this year dedicated to the Afro-Cuban Abacua fraternal society in Cuba.
On this occasion, and for the first time, a procession was carried out by members of the society, who marched from the site of the colloquy at the Cuban Institute of Anthropology and proceeded down several blocks through Old Havana until they arrived at the House of Africa Museum.
The opening words of the colloquy were delivered by Dr. Jesus Guanche, an anthropologist with the Fernando Ortiz Foundation (an institution dedicated to anthropological research).
The Abakua society was created in Cuba as a secretive mutual aid fraternity. When it began, the majority of its members were black dock workers, mainly negros de nación (African-born slaves brought from Africa). This tradition was subsequently passed down to their descendants, Creole blacks, though by the 20th century white men were also allowed to join the fraternal order (one characteristic of the Abacua societies was that women are not admitted.)
In the rites of the Abakua societies, the “ireme” (or devils) intervene with the mythological function of testifying as to whether all of the rites are carried out correctly. To guide them, the Ireme needs a person called a “Morua,” who sings to them in the Nigerian Efik language.
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