Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti

In Vodou, life is a continuous existence.  There is no before and after of birth or death.  We simply pass from one life state to another.  If you cannot see or feel beyond the realms of the here and now it means you have not freed your imagination, your soul. The rituals of Vodou help you towards this freedom but ultimately the spirits are there within you and if you open your mind they will seek you out because we only exist through the existence of each other.

This urn, adorned with human skulls and other elements, possesses the spirit of an ancestor of the Ibo ethnicity. The Ibo people, originally from what is now Nigeria, were particularly fierce in their fight against slavery in Haiti. © Canadian Museum of History, Frank Wimart.  Via Huffington Post

This urn, adorned with human skulls and other elements, possesses the spirit of an ancestor of the Ibo ethnicity. The Ibo people, originally from what is now Nigeria, were particularly fierce in their fight against slavery in Haiti. © Canadian Museum of History, Frank Wimart.

In my  own photographic and narrative work on Haitian Vodou, I set out to  shift the gaze from representations that depict Vodou as  animal sacrifice, spells, zombies and devil worship  and present a truthful  narrative.  One that engages  through an inclusive consciouseness and spirituality which forms the living history of Haiti and by extension, always the crossings, the waters that form the many bridges  of time, place and people:  the Taino, Igbo, Yoruba, Fon, Kongo, Dahomey.

Living through Vodou is and has always been, an act of resistance and decolonization and Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti is an important contribution to understanding Vodou which, in the words of the curator Alaka Wali

“…….. demonstrates the power of human creativity. It goes beyond the usual stereotypes to bring us into a wonderful and deep world of spiritual beliefs and ritual practices created and maintained by the Haitians during times of hardship and suffering brought on by enslavement and its consequences. We hear directly about what Vodou means from the practitioners, in their own voice.”

Huffington Post – A List of Vodou myths 

Sequin-covered bottles are some of the most common objects used in Vodou rituals. Each bottle has the colors associated with the spirit (lwa) receiving the drink offering. Each lwa has his or her own preferences such as wine, champagne, specific types of rum, or soda. © Canadian Museum of History, Marie-Louise Deruaz.  Via Huffington Post

Sequin-covered bottles are some of the most common objects used in Vodou rituals. Each bottle has the colors associated with the spirit (lwa) receiving the drink offering. Each lwa has his or her own preferences such as wine, champagne, specific types of rum, or soda. © Canadian Museum of History, Marie-Louise Deruaz.

From the exhibition website you can download education resources on the history and philosophy of Vodou and an extended photo gallery of ritual and religious rites.   See  here for a reading list

A highlight of the exhibition Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti are dozens of human-sized figures portraying lwa (Vodou spirits), all of which are displayed in the open air.  Particularly formidable and beautiful are portrayals of “fighting lwa”, who embody the triumph over slavery and oppression in Haiti. © Canadian Museum of History, Frank Wimart

A highlight of the exhibition Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti are dozens of human-sized figures portraying lwa (Vodou spirits), all of which are displayed in the open air. Particularly formidable and beautiful are portrayals of “fighting lwa”, who embody the triumph over slavery and oppression in Haiti.
© Canadian Museum of History, Frank Wimart