Shock Of The Blade

Oil on canvas.

100cm x 50cm.

Original for sale at £1,650.

Prints available in a range of sizes and art stocks from £40.

Under the blindfold, only sounds can feed the imagination as to what will happen next. The sharpening of the blade, the attendee’s singing rising in unison, the sudden whoosh of air as the macheté whirls around my body. As the last swirl of the blade heads for the centre of my chest, it stops an inch away, and with the lightest of taps, the energetic shock is delivered.

A self-portrait depicting one stage of a fifteen-hour initiatory ceremony, performed by Adumangana, a Nima (shaman) of the tradition of Bwiti, and leader of a group of Babongo Pygmy healers.

The ceremony took place in the jungles of Gabon, Central Africa, at a Bwiti healing centre called Mboka a Nzambé (Village of God). The ceremony itself is the culmination of ten days of preparation and is conducted in a beautiful clearing in the forest, known as The Sanctuary.

Previous initiates of the ceremony wear white and are covered in white kaolin (clay). All present at the ceremony are required to eat small amounts of the highly psychoactive plant Iboga, which will give the energy needed to accomplish such a long ceremony.

The initiate of the rite will consume more Iboga than the others, and must stay upright and alert throughout the night’s ceremony and into the next afternoon.

A still frame from the footage of the ceremony, taken by Duncan Bridgeman and Boris Austin.

The painting, and its sister painting, “Dancing the Bwiti”, shown at the stage of underpainting, and first washes of colour using acrylics, which will then be worked over with oil paints at later stages.