1. A form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc.
2. An inanimate object worshipped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.
early 17th century (originally denoting an object used by the peoples of West Africa as an amulet or charm): from French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço ‘charm, sorcery’ (originally an adjective meaning ‘made by art’).
the Oxford English Dictionary.
With this series of images, I wanted to return to the roots of the word, whilst combining it with its current more common usage.
In the western world, the word instantly suggests S&M, leather, rubber, bondage etc, but people can fetishise anything - trainers, masks, uniforms, tattoos, skin colour, stocking seams, armpits, the list is literally endless. JG Ballard wrote about the erotic fetishism of car-crashes (vividly and disturbingly brought to life by David Cronenburg). People can develop fetishes for virtually anything; the thing that unites them is sex.
African fetishes on the other hand are spiritual - fertility dolls, ritual masks, twin figures, animal spirits and the representatives of the ancestors, ever present in tribal society. They form a link to the ‘other’ world of ancient gods and spirits of hunting and virility, earth mother goddesses and tricksters, sun gods and the gods of war.
One meaning is very specific to our individual identities on a base, fundamental level. The other, original, meaning is specific to the tribe. Fetishes helped the community try to understand how it fitted into a universe it barely understood; but both are inherent in the understanding of who we are.
These images were first published in Mascular Magazine 8.