Haitian Hero Toussaint Louverteur
This afternoon, I once again took a walk on the UCLA campus and visited the Fowler Museum. There were two new exhibits that fascinated me, particularly the work of Myrlande Constant of Haiti. It was a strangely satisfying mix of Hieronymus Bosch and Haitian vodou (aka voodoo). On her website, the artist talks about the influence of vodou flags on her work:
Within the vodou community the flag is a sacred ritual object that identifies the hounfour and honors the spirits with whom it is associated. The sparkle of the sequin or mirror used to capture the attention of the iwa started in the temples. Drapo voudou (sequined sacred flags) are unfurled at the beginning of a ceremony. They are power points that are used for both identification and transformation. When the flag is unfurled it signals the congregants to come to order -the sacred is about to come home to roost. The spirits will soon walk next to (or in) the market woman.
As I looked around the exhibit, I found myself drawn to details rather than to the overall design, which in any case I could ill understand as I am not a practitioner of vodou. Here are a couple of examples:
Like all the works on display, the art was covered with sequins, beads, and other shiny objects. The result was that I found myself immersed in detail. Is that Baron Samedi or Papa Legba on horseback? I don’t know, now why that woman at the lower left is exposing her buttocks.
Making frequent appearances were Catholic saints and angels, though in the world of vodou, everything has a different meaning.
Sometimes, it is useful to immerse oneself in a culture one doesn’t understand. The mysteries have a role to play in our lives—a role which, I believe, is ultimately benign.