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Noises in the Blood is inspired by contemporary Jamaican dancehall ritual. Made in collaboration with a group of British Jamaican women in Birmingham, Ribeira recreated scenes from dancehall culture at the participants’ homes. By embracing the impossibility of fully understanding this cultural expression so very different from her own, Ribeira playfully dissects the ideas of femininity and sexuality within the performances.
“In the dancehall celebrations, a spectacular representation of Jamaican identity takes place, where performance, ritual and self-expression reach high levels of sophistication. I do not intend the images to comment on the Dancehall, but to become the ritual itself. The power of the transformations of the women and the innovation and provocation that they engage, often clash with Western ideas of femininity. Mythological powers, the concept of female divinity and sacredness in Afro-Caribbean culture, were very present in my visual search. Fed by their folklore and my imagination, universal subjects such as birth, love, death and sex are central to the encounters.” – Lúa Riberia
Due to the central role of the woman in Jamaican culture, and by extension in the dancehall ritual, exploring female identity within this was of most interest to Ribeira. The participants undergo a transformation for each celebration, clothing is creatively, customised and would never be worn twice. In direct contrast to the adornment of her subjects, most of Ribeira’s photographs are purposefully shot against domestic plain and neutral backgrounds of the subjects’ homes in the West Midlands. Although, on the surface, a strange context to portray the Caribbean culture, with traces of Britishness in each space, this serves to emphasise the individual expression of the subjects. The lack of typological norms in the series aim to unsettle the viewer with a chaos of unexpected imagery.
The book’s title is borrowed from author Dr Carolyn Cooper’s book Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and the “Vulgar” Body of Jamaican Popular Culture and “Noises in the Blood” was originally used by writer Vic Read. Through Noises in the Blood Ribeira did not attempt to produce a series that reinforced the mass media’s view of dancehall and the female body as a denigration of women. Simultaneously, she didn’t wish to ignore the display of the participants’ bodies nor their perception of femininity to create hip, urban, westernised versions of the dancehall ritual. Both strategies, she felt, would ultimately fail to acknowledge the complexity of cultural expression.