Meridith Kohut August 6, 2010Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Venezuela.
A follower of Maria Lionza enters a trance. Venezuela 2009
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Meridith Kohut (b.1983, USA) is a freelance photographer based in Caracas, Venezuela, where she works covering Latin America for editorial and corporate clients. She is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Journalism and former first assistant to Eli Reed of Magnum Photos. Her images have been published by The New York Times, The United Nations, TIME magazine, Newsweek International, The Washington Post Magazine and have been exhibited in galleries throughout Latin America, Europe and The United States. In between assignments and travels, Kohut may be found roaming the streets with her Leica, up to her elbows in fixer in the darkroom or working with NGO’s to teach photography to disadvantaged youths in the slums Caracas.
About the Photograph:
“This photo was taken as part of a reportage for The New York Times covering the annual María Lionza pilgrimage to Sorte Mountain in Yaracuy, Venezuela. Each October, beginning on Venezuela’s Day of Indigenous Resistance, thousands of Marialionceros flock to the remote mountain to perform rituals and pay respect to María Lionza and a pantheon of diverse saints and spirits. Devotees chant to drumbeats, smoke tobacco, and construct shrines of figurines, fruit and multi-colored candles. They draw elaborate chalk designs on the ground, and lie within them in effort to receive cleansing and channel the souls of the saints. Once possessed, followers talk in tongues and their bodies shake and writhe, which they say leads to the healing or wisdom that they seek. Some devotees cut their faces with razor blades while others walk barefoot on burning coals to show their devotion.