Devils


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Highly secretive and shrouded in mystery, pagan communities continue to exist at the fringes of dominant Christian religious practice in Liberia. British photographer Conor Beary (b. 1989) shows a glimpse of these hidden collectives in his new series Devils. The ‘devils’ in the pictures dance in pagan ceremonies, representing traditional gods and deities of the so-called Juju witchcraft, worshipped by groups of men (Poro) and women (Sande). The introduction of Christianity left previous religious practice demonised. Therefore, in the absence of religious tolerance, to become part of such traditional religious communities, one has to fulfil an initiation rite. The masked dancing devils in Beary’s project should not be interpreted in the same way as Western interpretations of ‘Satan’ or ‘Lucifer’. Rather, these exuberantly dressed creatures can bring about both good and evil, representing movement and change instead of everlasting fire. Beary’s project gives us a unique and colourful peek into the curious existence of a community of which its secrets will only be uncovered once you become an integral part of its religious practice.


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