Sacred Groves and Secret Parks: Orisha Landscapes in Brazil and West Africa


Thursday, October 3, 2019 (All day) to Friday, October 4, 2019 (All day)


Graduate School of Design - Gund Hall, 48 Quincy Street Room 112, Stubbins

Sacred Groves Banner Image

The Sacred Groves and Secret Parks colloquium and exhibition will bring together insights on the materiality and spatiality of Afro-religious diasporic practices, decentering Western canons of knowledge, and leading to new design possibilities for Brazilian and West African cities.

Landscapes of orisha devotion are often manifested as sacred groves, where devotees cultivate orishas—deities, or energies of nature, in Yoruba tradition that enable all forms of life—using combinations of botanical manipulation, animal sacrifice, music, and dance. In the process, Afro-diasporic memories, knowledge, and environmental understandings are made manifest and empowered.

A crucial feature of such spaces is that they often occupy a luscious green expanse, adjacent to urban settings and in some cases occupy areas larger than football fields. Once associated with every town in Yorubaland, the groves of West Africa are largely depleted. In contrast, orisha groves in Brazilian cities are plentiful but are often protected by the necessity for secrecy that stems from practicing African traditions within a wider national racist context. As significant urban green spaces, these landscapes inevitably have an impact on urban ecologies and create important social, cultural, environmental, and political relationships with their surrounding communities.

A colloquium and exhibition hosted by the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design in collaboration with the:

  • Afro-Latin American Research Institute
  • Center for African Studies
  • Center for the Study of World Religions
  • David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies
  • Provost’s Fund for Interfaculty Collaboration
  • Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

ORGANIZER: Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design