Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

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J. Lorand Matory is the Lawrence Richardson Distinguished Professor of Cultural Anthropology and the Director of the Sacred Arts of the Black Atlantic Project at Duke University.

The author of four books and more than 50 articles and reviews, he is also the executive producer and screenwriter of five documentary films. Choice magazine named his Sex and the Empire That Is No More: Gender and the Politics of Metaphor in Ọyọ Yoruba Religion an outstanding book of the year in 1994, and his Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé won the Herskovits Prize from the African Studies Association for the best book of 2005.  In 2003, the President of the United States appointed Professor Matory to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Cultural Property at the US Department of State, where he served until 2011. In 2010, he received the Distinguished Africanist Award from the American Anthropological Association, and, in 2013, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany awarded him the Alexander von Humboldt Prize, a lifetime achievement award and year-long residential fellowship that is one of Europe’s highest academic distinctions.  Professor Matory was also selected to deliver anthropology’s most prestigious annual address, the Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture, which resulted in the book Stigma and Culture: Last-Place Anxiety in Black America (2015), concerning the competitive and hierarchical nature of ethnic identity-formation.  His latest book, The Fetish Revisited: Marx, Freud, and the Gods Black People Make (2018), won the American Academy of Religion’s 2019 Prize for Excellence in the Study of Religion for the Analytical-Descriptive Studies and, in 2020, the Senior Book Prize, which is awarded biennially by the American Ethnological Society (2020).

Professor Matory is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Chicago, and was a tenured full professor at Harvard University until moving to Duke University in 2009. He has conducted four decades of intensive research on the great religions of the Black Atlantic—West African Yoruba religion, West-Central African Kongo religion, Brazilian Candomblé, Cuban Santería/Ocha, and Haitian Vodou.  In recognition of his outstanding scholarship, he also served, from 2009 to 2013, as the James P. Marsh Professor at Large at the University of Vermont, one of that University’s highest honors. In conjunction with the University’s Fleming Museum of Art, he curated, in fall 2017, a major museum exhibition on the topic of his latest book. Titled “Spirited Things: Sacred Arts of the Black Atlantic,” it is currently available to museums nationwide. In coordination with the Minneapolis Institute of Art, he is currently in the planning stages of an exhibition contemplating the current movement for social and environmental justice from the perspective of the Afro-Atlantic religions. It is provisionally titled “Transported: Tumult and Transformation in the Arts of the Black Atlantic.”

Dr. Matory’s CV

Brian Smithson

Brian C. Smithson is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. His research focuses on the efforts of Bénin’s Yorùbá-speaking media creators to build up a local film industry by drawing upon various financial, historical, and symbolic resources. He is particularly interested in the ways these Yorùbá producers harness local religious histories, symbols, and practices to establish the look and feel of their films as being both distinctively Yorùbá and distinctively Beninese, a positioning that allows them to seek financial and material support from both the government of Bénin and the more robust “Nollywood” film industry of neighboring Nigeria.

Brian earned his master’s degree in African Studies from UCLA in 2011, where he focused on the religious and political visual cultures of Cameroon. While at UCLA, he served as a museum educator at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles. He has also worked as a graphic designer and studio artist in his home state of Louisiana.

Christina Lan

Christina Lan is a senior at Duke University studying Economics and Markets and Management. She’s passionate about the arts, entrepreneurship, and social justice and aims to create a lifelong profession that encompasses all three. Especially for the arts, she’s an avid supporter of using the arts as an educational medium and activist platform. During her time at Duke, she has been involved with Small Town Records, WHO Speaks, Bass Connections, and the Chronicle. She will be graduating in May and is excited for the roller coaster that comes post-graduation.

Jerry Blow

Jerry Blow, AIAP, is an Architectural Photographer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. His education has included a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia, a degree in photography from the Smithsonian Institution, and studies in architectural photography at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. His photographs have helped his design and construction clients win numerous awards. For over a decade, he worked as the photographer for the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he photographed many sculptural pieces from around the world. Jerry is married with two sons.

Bryce Lankard

Bryce Lankard is a native of North Carolina, and a UNC-Chapel HiIl alumnus. He has been immersed in photography his entire adult life. In addition to being an editorial and fine art photographer he has also served in the roles of Art Director, Photo Editor, Educator, Curator and Principal Photographer, from New Orleans to New York City. In 1995 he was a co-founder of Tribe Magazine in New Orleans and served as Creative Director for the celebrated publication. He went on to work for 9 years in New York City, but in late 2006, following Hurricane Katrina, he returned to New Orleans and co-founded the non-profit New Orleans Photo Alliance. He forged the NOPA mission to create opportunities for the vibrant but neglected photography community in the Gulf South and to provide education and exposure to both the public and practitioners of the medium. Returning to North Carolina in early 2009 he has continued to share his knowledge by teaching and lecturing at venues such as UNC, the Gregg Museum, the Art Institute, the Light Factory, the ArtsCenter and Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies.

Throughout all this he has continued to challenge himself creatively with new work, exploring the language of photography and has exhibited the results internationally to critical acclaim. His latest was a collaboration with the 5 photographer “Posse” at the SlowExposures festival that has chose southern literary icon, Flannery O’Connor and her themes, as a guiding light.. He is honored to have had his work appear alongside legends such as Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Cindy Sherman, Bruce Davidson, and Andres Serrano in galleries and publications in Spain, Germany, France and throughout America. HIs work was featured in the the Light Factory’s “Romance of the Road” exhibition. Various projects have been highlighted in magazines such as Fraction, Square and Fine Art Photo and he has made three appearances in SXSE magazine.