- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2001

The first thing Brazilian artist Eneida Sanches did on her arrival in Washington last week was to go to a hardware store downtown to pick up a sack of several hundred recycled keys that the store had ready to throw away.

Two days later, Miss Sanches used the same keys for a contemporary sculpture at the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History, where she appeared last week as an artist-in-residence.

The work accompanied the exhibit "Manifestations of the Spirit: Photographs of Afro-Brazilian Religion by Phyllis Galembo," the newest exhibition at the museums "African Voices," its largest cultural hall, and part of its observance of Black History Month.

The show explores the traditions of Candomble, the African-based religion created by African slaves in Brazil.

Participants in Candomble worship a supreme god as well as orixas, the spirits of nature. In Candomble rituals, worshippers dress as the spirits and invite them to inhabit their bodies.

Over three days last week, the Salvador de Bahia artist demonstrated the art inspired by the Candomble religion by transforming simple household keys into an unconventional sculpture a pair of pants to honor Ogum, the restless spirit of iron and war.

As she began the sculpture last Thursday, Miss Sanches was using twisted wires to link the keys that by Saturday would resemble Ogums pants an article of dress the artist chose by whim. The finished pants form part of the exhibit and are still on view.

Miss Sanches, 39, acknowledges that most of her metal works are a complete surprise to the general public, who dont understand the meanings behind them. In this case, she decided to create pants for no particular reason.

"We artists are here to produce a breakage in the normal thinking. The way most people normally see things is so settled that they are diminishing their range of perceiving, of expressing their natures as a whole," says Miss Sanches, who hopes that the people would nevertheless enjoy her art.

"Take these pants, for instance. It doesnt matter if you dont know much about Candomble. You can touch them, enjoy the sound of the metal," Miss Sanches says.

While at the museum, the sculptor has also been working in gold and gold-colored brass for a Candomble crown for Oxum, the animated spirit of love and flowing water.

"The spirit of war has to be represented with metal. Similarly, Oxum is represented with gold, because shes related to vanity and joy," Miss Sanches says.

In Brazil, Oxum ensures womens fertility and wields a warriors sword.

Michael Atwood Mason, African Voices co-curator, says Miss Sanches is a perfect choice for this kind of demonstration. "Miss Sanches not only is a well respected artist in Brazil," he says, "she also knows how to interact and connect with people."

This connection is an important part of her role as a Candomble artist. Miss Sanches says that her aim, above all, is to be accessible, to establish an open dialogue with the people.

This is not the first time Miss Sanches has exhibited her work in the United States. She participated in the New Yorks Faiths of the God exhibition, back in 1994. She has also showed her sculptures in Indianapolis, Ind.; in Princeton, N.J., and in Madison, Wis. In November, she was chosen as one of 15 artists of the Americas to represent one Orixa (spirits of nature), in a London exhibition. The Orixa assigned to her was Exu, who represents intersections the connections between the visible and the invisible world.

Miss Sanches worked as an architect in Brazil until 10 years ago, when she met a prominent Candomble teacher named Gilmar Ureji, and decided to follow the artwork infused with the spirit of Candomble. She values spirituality, and finds her way to transcendence through her art.

"You can relate to sacredness from a point of view that has nothing to do with institutions," Miss Sanches says.

"For instance, finding these keys and deciding to use them is in itself a way of connecting with this energy. Thats the spirit of this generation of artists. We want to speak from a conceptual rather than representative point of view."

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