Thaís Medina was invited for the third installment of the African Photography Initiatives event after two successful collaborations. The proposition was to investigate similarities between Buea and Burgos based on their photo archives. Following her artistic standards, Medina took it one step further as she merged the cultures of Buea and Burgos with Brazilian syncretism, her main subject. Being raised amongst a crucible of varied cultures and beliefs, this was only natural. For these reasons, the artist looked for a unique symbol to represent all three cultures — the Patuá. This is how PATUÁ DE MIRONGA was born.


The Patuá is a sacred object that symbolizes the magical power of Orixás — African Spiritual Entities — and Catholic Saints or illuminated spirits to its holder. Such extreme magical powers grant the holder their most challenging and secret wishes, which is why they are generally handmade and kept out of sight, in secrecy.


Popular in Brazil, the Patuá was brought over there from Africa with the slave trade. In that time, many other amulets were handmade with fabrics, herbs and other symbolic elements to represent the power and faith in the Orixás. In Europe, amulets were also generally assembled by hand, however their sacred components were usually soil from the Holy Land, shaves of bones and other objects trusted to saints, martyrs, or even Jesus himself. The blend of Europe and Africa originated a new Brazilian identity. Therefore, this religious syncretism influenced a different form of creed illustrated by talismans, amulets and Patuás such as the ones here displayed.


One of the main uses of Patuás is for love purposes. As an intrinsic part of being human, love and superstition are more often embraced by women rather than men, who seem to suppress it. Also motivated by this social behavior, Thaís Medina developed a piece comprised of five Patuás, each representing a ritual of passage in a woman’s life while searching for passionate, enduring and reciprocal devotion. In order (I, II, III, IV & V), they represent the search for true love; the flirtatious wooing; the consolidation of that affection through wedding; the hard work of women in the previous centuries maintaining their marriage; and the sheer beauty of an old couple still believing in love “until death do them apart”.


All in all, the Patuás intertwined spirituality, mysticism, folk faith and doctrines from all three cultures in a single exoteric object. The photos were chosen from a plethora of options, merging one from Buea and one from Burgos. Every single metallic, plastic, wooden, and fabric component was wisely chosen for this work. Each of the five Patuás were carefully made by hand, respecting its traditional techniques of manufacturing.


Thus Thaís Medina merged the project’s theme with her own aesthetic, revealing the Brazilian folk culture within religion and paganism — the base of the artist’s work.

The Project

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The Details