Pilgrimage to Lourdes, voodoo rites in Port-au-Prince, Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka… Us and costumes across the globe

By Guillaume Delacroix

Posted today at 6:00 p.m.

Lourdes, in 2017.

Religion like a fashion show. The soul which, by adorning itself with a garment, is transformed, at this precise moment when believers, men and women, then form cohesion in processions and processions. More familiar with documentary photography and social themes, but also familiar with models and catwalks, Mathieu Richer Mamousse has chosen to take an aesthetic look at manifestations of faith in the world, through ten major celebrations. From Lourdes (France) to Port-au-Prince (Haiti), via Pernik (Bulgaria), Tana Toraja (Indonesia), Stonehenge (United Kingdom), Kandy (Sri Lanka), Ukhimath and the great Benares (India) .

He was originally struck by the devotion shown by hooded Spanish pilgrims during Holy Week in Seville. And by the fervent splendor of the Pentecostal processions on horseback, in El Rocío, another Andalusian city where hundreds of thousands of devotees converge each year to honor Our Lady of El Rocío, nicknamed “Blanca paloma”, the white dove.

For three years, from 2017 to 2019, the French photographer went in search of “Vital breath” which pushes the faithful of all faiths to take off their everyday skins and put on their finest facings, often passed down from generation to generation. Attires that they have carefully prepared, sometimes for months or even years.

Babel’s Garb

The pageantry, he says, gives an idea of “Universality” religious fact by the flagrant similarities between fabrics, braid, masks, jewelry and shoes used as well in Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism as in voodoo rites and animist ceremonies. Everywhere, the result is joyful patchworks of vivid, dazzling colors, and materials, furs and frills, feathers and flowers, fruit of overflowing imaginations. Always, appearances lead “To a collective communion”, observes the photographer.

We can guess in his images that pilgrims from all continents, without confessional distinction, are animated by the same pious breath that goes beyond them. A breath that gives rise to grandiose parades suitable for creating “A heavenly atmosphere”. Through the garment, it is the divinities who are, explicitly or implicitly, invoked. We understand that every detail counts. The transvestite believers, wherever they are, then abandon their humanity behind them, to gain access to “Supreme spheres”.

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Solar and poetic, bordering on overexposure, Mathieu Richer Mamousse’s images are a reminiscence of his childhood spent in the Avignon region. “The south of France, where I grew up, gave me a taste for light and warmth”, explains the photographer, who works with film, a medium that is particularly suited to the subject. “There is an element of the unknown and the magic in the lab print, an element of patience and reflection, too. “

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Pilgrimage to Lourdes, voodoo rites in Port-au-Prince, Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka… Us and costumes across the globe