[Blackstudies-l] Review of ‘Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti’ (Field Museum, Chicago)

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Apr 7 06:35:32 EDT 2015

   lisaparavisini posted: " A post by Peter Jordens. Philip Potempa reviews
the exhibition Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti which runs until April 26,
2015 at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois. Very few
of the more than 300 authentic Vodou objects from "    Respond to this post
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<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>  Review of ‘Vodou:
Sacred Powers of Haiti’ (Field Museum, Chicago)
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: chi-vodou-sacred-powers-of-haiti-photos-015]

*A post by Peter Jordens.*

*Philip Potempa reviews the exhibition Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti which
runs until April 26, 2015 at the Field Museum of Natural History in
Chicago, Illinois.*

Very few of the more than 300 authentic Vodou objects from Haiti now on
display at the Field Museum are housed behind glass or roped-off from
curious onlookers. “As part of our agreement to bring this remarkable
exhibit to Chicago, we were told this object should not be encased because
of their meaning and symbolism,” said Janet Hong, project manager for the
Vodou exhibit, a display that has been planned for years and now is a
reality. “And as a result, once you walk into the first room, you can
actually smell the history and mysticism associated with these unique

*Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti* looks beyond myths and manufactured
Hollywood images. “You will see no dolls with pins stuck into them,” said
Hong, who has been with the Field Museum for 12 years. “Instead, the
exhibition explores the underground history and true nature of a living
religion, and reveals Vodou as a vital spiritual and social force that
remains an important part of daily life in Haiti.”

She said the exhibition tells the story of Vodou from the viewpoints of
people who practice the religion. Through text and videos, the experts
associated with these beliefs and practices, called ‘Vodouists’ express
their points of view about various aspects of their symbols, rituals and
spiritual beliefs. She said this authenticity is even reflected in the
spelling of Vodou (pronounced vah-DOO) as the term is now used by the
religion’s practitioners, scholars and even the United State Library of
Congress, compared [to] the popular culture term ‘Voodoo.’

“Vodou is both a religion and a profound expression of the Haitian national
experience,” said Hong, emphasizing [that] the rituals of Vodou remember
the country’s triumph over slavery and honor the spirit of resistance that
has sustained Haiti through centuries of hardship. There is also a distinct
connection to Christianity, as evidenced by the Haitian mentions of Saint
Lazarus, “patron saint of the poor,” who was “raised from the dead” by
Jesus in biblical scripture.

“The exhibition demonstrates the power of human creativity,” said Alaka
Wali, Field Museum’s Curator of North American Anthropology and Applied
Cultural Research Director. “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 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.”

This exhibition was co-organized by the Canadian Museum of History and the
Foundation for the Preservation, Enhancement and Production of Haitian
Cultural Works, in partnership with the Ethnography Museum of Geneva
Switzerland and the Tropenmuseum of the Netherlands.

Guests walk freely through room after room of eye-popping creations,
including altars, vivid mixed-media sculptures, drums, sequined-covered
flags and charismatic, large-scale representations of spirits called lwa.
Most objects in *Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti* are from the renowned
Marianne Lehmann Collection based in Pétionville, Haiti.

Hong said “the centrality of spirits” in Vodou practice underscores the
philosophical idea that life is interconnected, with no divisions between
the material and the spiritual, the living and the dead. Invoking spirits
gives Vodouists a practical way to pay tribute to ancestors, and keep
memories of the past alive. “We also give visitors rare chance to peek
inside the workroom of a Bizango, a type of Vodou secret society,” Hong
said. “This is the only instance when items are kept closed off and you
must look through windows because of the power associated with the items.
Visitors can hear Vodou practitioners share experiences and stories. Then,
after experiencing the exhibition, the final moments include a gallery of
large mirrors adorned with icons to allow everyone to reflect on his or her
own viewpoints.”

The original review is at

The exhibition’s webpage is

Here are two reviews by bloggers:

Christina Marie, March 18, 2015, http://www.merelymarie.com/2015/03/vodou

Robert Figueroa, April 5, 2015,
  *lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
April 6, 2015 at 11:13 pm | Tags: Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti
<http://repeatingislands.com/?tag=vodou-sacred-powers-of-haiti> |
Categories: News <http://repeatingislands.com/?cat=103> | URL:

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