African goddesses: Orisha Alchemy – a project story

African Goddesses Orisha Alchemy Colouring Book Open

African goddesses were an obvious choice of subject for me, given how I love to create African feminist work.

In addition, for a long time, I’ve been interested in religions and belief systems. Years ago, I started a blog dedicated to this exploration which, I used to create some art for.

My recently launched collection, Orisha Alchemy, picks up where that now inactive blog left off. In this post I share my inspiration, my process and the final creations.


African goddesses: orisha

I became fascinated by orisha – the human form of the spirits in Yoruba traditional identity. They are meant to guide us on how to live and succeed on Earth.

The Atlantic slave trade transported these beliefs to the Caribbean and Latin America and so the concept can be found in Santeria, Candomblé and other religions and belief systems.

I wanted to create a collection celebrating some of the female orisha and indulging my love of adornment traditions from across the continent.



Alchemy is another concept that has always interested me and I decided I wanted to I related each of these orisha to one of the four classic elements.

Orisha Alchemy Inspiration

[Image sources here and here]

The process

My colleague, Brenda, did a lot of research for me on African goddesses. In fact, in the beginning, I hadn’t narrowed the scope of this idea to just orisha. She looked at deities in various African cultures. Information about the orisha was perhaps most readily available. I decided to focus on them first and I chose four goddesses to begin with (this number also made sense, given the alchemy component):

  • Ayao – goddess of air
  • Aja – spirit of the forest, animals and goddess of healing
  • Oya – goddess of lightning, storms, death and rebirth
  • Yemoja (her again!) – a water deity, goddess of fertility and women

Often, a collection lives and grows in my head for weeks or even months, before I actually begin to work on it. Sometimes I beat myself up for procrastinating but, sometimes I trust in the timing of the universe :). While thinking about and planning this collection, I remembered one of my favourite art books – Alphonse Mucha: The Spirit of Art Nouveau. I love Mucha’s work and how he frames his female subjects with intricate patterned embellishment. I decided I wanted to similarly frame my goddesses but of course, with an African touch.

First, I drew sketches, having fun with how I would combine different elements to create illustrations of each orisha. I did the same for the backgrounds – the circular spaces that each goddess would be framed by and the wider space upon which all of this would sit on. Once happy with the sketches, I created more controlled drawings for each one, in pencil first, and then went over the lines with a black pen.

Then on to my usual process of scanning, digitising and experimenting with composition, and then colour.

Orisha Alchemy Cards

The finished products

This series of African goddesses is available on a few different products:

I’m looking forward to rolling this collection out on a few more items this year, so stay tuned.

Be the first to hear about all our new products when you join our mailing list. You’ll also get access to a library of tools and treats, including the phone wallpaper I created, inspired by this collection, for each of the alchemic elements.

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