Arts·Opening Up

After many sleepless nights, conceptual artist Erika DeFreitas may have found peace in her latest project

DeFreitas turned the Hail Mary prayer into a practice of meditation using an old typewriter.

DeFreitas turned the Hail Mary prayer into a practice of meditation using an old typewriter

After many sleepless nights, conceptual artist Erika DeFreitas may have found peace in her latest project

3 years ago
Duration 4:00
Erika DeFreitas turned the Hail Mary prayer into an practice of typing meditation.

In Opening Up, the sequel to our self-shot video series COVID Residencies, we're asking artists how the upheavals and uprisings of 2020 are affecting their process and work.

2020 has already been a particularly heavy year, and we're only halfway through. The pandemic brought with it more than just illness and isolation — it's shone a light on the many social inequities faced by society's most vulnerable populations. This, coupled with the continued cycle of deaths of Black and racialized bodies at the hands of white police officers, has brought us to a tipping point for those communities.

As we begin to shift out of this stage of lockdown, it is difficult to fathom how we begin to heal collectively when personally so many still just feel broken. Multidisciplinary artist Erika DeFreitas has a history of dealing with concepts of loss and mourning in her work, but on a personal level, the crushing wave of this moment has left her with many sleepless nights — which led her to a place unfamiliar to her to help ease her mind.

(Erika DeFreitas)

"I started to recite the Hail Mary prayer over and over and over again until I fell asleep," she confesses. For millions of people around the world, prayer is a source of solace in daily rituals and difficult times, but as a non-religious person, why she chose the Virgin Mary is a difficult question for Erika to answer. However, the answer may be less about the motive and more about the meditation.

As you'll see in this video, the act of repetition — repeating the same words over and over as a meditation — was one she found deeply comforting. So she brought it into visual form, typing out the words of the prayer on an old typewriter each night onto regal blue sheets of paper until she fell asleep. Each meditation is unique, each page holding its own pattern and rhythm.

(Erika DeFreitas)

Among the many collected objects around her home studio, there's a collection of small Virgin Mary statuettes she has procured over the past few years. She has likely stared at them hundreds of times from her bed, but in this moment, they have taken on new meaning for her.

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During this period of immense loss, it is not surprising to find ourselves holding on to objects and seeing the spaces around us with greater reverence as we think about the new rituals we have all created to help us endure.

CBC Arts understands that this is an incredibly difficult time for artists and arts organizations across this country. We will do our best to provide valuable information, share inspiring stories of communities rising up and make us all feel as (virtually) connected as possible as we get through this together. If there's something you think we should be talking about, let us know by emailing us at See more of our COVID-related coverage here.


Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.

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