Vèvès & Loas by Raymond Salvatore Harmon
A reconstructed version of Maya Deren’s Divine Horsemen. Using secondary refilming, compositing, and frame manipulation Veves & Loas takes its source imagery from Maya Deren’s footage of Vodoun practices filmed in Haiti.
Divine Horsemen by Maya Deren
“Whether drawn in flour on flat ground or traced in the air, the sign of the cross roads is always the juncture where communication between worlds is being practiced”
A syncretetic and changing system of beliefs and rituals produced out of the experience of the sugar plantation system in the New World, Vodou, or “the serving of the Gods,” though bricolaged in the forced contact of African vodun and Catholicism, may be understood as a historical response to the very experience of the ritual brutality of slavery. the serving of the Gods, or lwas, worked to transform torture, terror, and servitude itself. In her recent reconsideration of Haitian history, Haiti, History, and the Gods, Joan Dayan recounts her lesson from the Manbo Priestess La Merci Benjamin about what it means to submit to being ridden by the spirits. Benjamin explains that through the intense thought work of incarnating one of the Vodou deities, “instead of being turned into a thing, you become a god.” And, thus, Dayan theorizes, “to Be ridden by the mèt tèt, to be seized by the god, is thus to destroy the cunning imperial dichotomy of master and slave, or colonizer and colonized.” In eighteenth-century Saint-Domingue nighttime assemblies for the collective practice of Vodou ritual and dancing were more than just transgressions of colonial legal authority. Possession by the gods also conjured a spirit-infused landscape of sacred trees and herbal offerings that menaced colonial authority through a reversal of colonial authority’s basis in its materially staked claims to possession, the notion of “property rights,” of self-possession and control of land.
Sowing Empire- Landscape and Colonization | Jil Casid
Inspiration to design dance spaces in the gardens of Le Manoir Alexandra
It is a common belief (and often times true occurence) in Haiti for families that practice Vaudou and deem themselves Christian, to hide their rituals in a room reserved for services to their governing Loas. When I visited the Manoir Alexandra in November, the Géran or gardener led me and my cousin to a dark lower room where he believed (with no hesitation) that the past owners of the house used to practice Vaudou. Sa se kote yo fè zafè yo “that is where they did their things” he said as he pointed towards stairs leading to the dark room. An old bell placed on a rocking chair, and racks of empty wine bottle were the indications that the owners practiced Vaudou.
The Manoir Alexandra was a hotel and all the wine bottles where neatly locked away in cages. The room was a wine depot, however, the Géran was sure the owners also practiced Vaudou there. Whether it was true or not, one cannot dismiss that in Haiti, the belief system is such that Vaudou is always on people’s minds, especially when things are difficult to explain… and this at both ends of the spectrum.
Photography: Catherine Buteau, during our trip to Jacmel in November 2011