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Orisa in the Ghetto: The Black Divine | Short Doc

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Ending, The Light Series, and beginning the new year with a creative spark, the first installment of docu-series by Kaia Shivers titled, “Pulling Heaven From the Sky,” is a short visual exploring Blackness and divinity.

When I traveled to Nigeria in 2001 and participated in the Akara Festival in Ile Ife and other community rituals, a thought came to me when we were dancing in the streets. Their spiritual system is for the people. It is raw, gritty, accessible and we’re an extension of carrying it out. So I wrote a poem about it called, “Orisa in the Ghetto.”

After performing the poetry, I wanted to turn it into a video. For years, I asked people for help and they never came through. So at 41, I picked up a camera and started to film.

My digital project, first named, Orisa in the Ghetto, but now renamed, Pulling Heaven from the Sky, explores the Black experience in the Americas, and mostly the US. It is a series of shorts that are both aesthetic and engaging.

The actors in this first short are mostly family and a several of my dearest friends. Most didn’t even know about Orisa well, but they worked the hell out of their roles. When we filmed, people stopped and recorded us too, and gave so many compliments. It was an empowering experience because the community, wherever we went, responded with so much love and in turn, were empowered too.

For the first installment, I ask, “What does God look like to Black people?” “What is the Black divine?” And “What do Orisa look like in the hood?

I did this two years ago and have been filming since, but this is a project where I had to give myself lots of patience and allow for a huge learning curve. It is a guerrilla-style project that is a fusion of Black American indie films and Nollywood.

Kaia Niambi Shivers covers news, diaspora and oversees the Ark Weekender.

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