Thursday, May 30, 2019

Haitian Art

It was a three day weekend which meant it was time to see how I did on a road trip, my first since leaving the hospital. Not medically related my wife noted happily. Rusty was indifferent to all that but he was happy to be included. He is the easiest dog to take on the road as he lays on his blanket on the back seat and doesn't say a word.
Potoprens means Port Au Prince in Creole, which is the capital city of Haiti and my wife had discovered an exhibit in the city of North Miami worth visiting. Rusty stayed with a dog sitter which is a moment that always reminds me of being dripped off as a child at boarding school and I hate saying goodbye to him, but he did fine and we got to spend time with the Art. 
The one thing about this show was that I had no culturally appropriate background to understand what was going on so I was equal parts mystified and fascinated by the vibrant and quite bizarre stuff on display. If you are hoping I will unravel the mysteries of voodoo and explain the symbolism I only wish I could. Here goes:
 First we got a recreation of  barbershop, which included the only actual painting in the show.
As you can see the biographies are quite comprehensive but of information as to what you are seeing, not so much.

One thing I did get was the abundance of art from found objects and a diorama of the destruction of Port Au Prince by the earthquake of 2010 gave an idea where so much stuff might have come from. 
It seemed as though the sculptures created from found objects might have come from these very streets:

I was immediately drawn to the stone heads which to me at least were a reminder that Haiti was as the exhibition pointed out the only state to be created from a slave uprising.
It was striking to me to see African visages reproduced in stone as heroic figures. That doesn't often happen in the art I've seen over the years. These are not the faces of slaves or servants.
 These were not the bust of Julius Caesar or Augustus but they might as well have been.

 Beautifully carved from solid rock:
And on into the rest of the exhibit:

 This one below reminded me of Key Largo's own sculptor Stanley Papio's art:

 Apparently banner making using beads and embroidery is a big thing in Haiti according to an article in Huffington Post.
The resulting belief system is a vibrant and multifarious medley, aptly translated onto the flattened wonderlands of the flags they incorporate. A traditional Vodou altar revolves around a depiction of a Christian saint, circled with hodgepodge elements including “Buddhas, Roman Catholic holy cards, playing cards, political portraits, satin-swathed bottles, perfume atomizers, rosaries, carved phalluses, Masonic diagrams, candles, kerchiefs, money, mirrors, fruit, rum, flowers and human and animal skulls.” 

 There was also a display of snakes which it turns out is a big part of voodoo according to an article of Listverse:
 The images of you commonly see of voodoo practitioners dancing with snakes aren’t done for the shock value. The snake is hugely important in the mythos of voodoo. Damballa, or Danballa, is the serpent god and the oldest of the voodoo pantheon. He is said to have been the one to create the world. Damballa created the water from his shed skin and the stars in the sky from his coils. He is married to Ayida Wedo, the rainbow, in an eternal love that represents the balance between the male and the female.
He represents wisdom and the mind, and is associated with symbols like the color white, eggs, bones, and ivory. The protector of the helpless and young children as well as the handicapped and the deformed, he is said to transport the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Priests and priestesses can be possessed by the spirit of Damballa, but they do not speak; instead, they hiss.
 Snakes made from found objects:

 This statue was labeled as Baron Samedi, though what little I know he was depicted with a top hat. This fearsome character has a crown made ingeniously from a cut out of a car tire:
From Wikipedia:  
Baron Samedi is usually depicted with a top hat, black tail coat, dark glasses, and cotton plugs in the nostrils, as if to resemble a corpse dressed and prepared for burial in the Haitian style. He is frequently depicted as a skeleton (but sometimes as a black man that merely has his face painted as a skull), and speaks in a nasal voice. The former President-for-Life of Haiti, Fran├žois Duvalier, modelled his cult of personality on Baron Samedi; he was often seen speaking in a deep nasal tone and wearing dark glasses.
He is noted for disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and having a particular fondness for tobacco and rum. Additionally, he is the loa of resurrection, and in the latter capacity he is often called upon for healing by those near or approaching death, as it is only the Baron that can accept an individual into the realm of the dead.
Baron Samedi spends most of his time in the invisible realm of vodou spirits. He is notorious for his outrageous behavior, swearing continuously and making filthy jokes to the other spirits. He is married to another powerful spirit known as Maman Brigitte, but often chases after mortal women. He loves smoking and drinking and is rarely seen without a cigar in his mouth or a glass of rum in his bony fingers. Baron Samedi can usually be found at the crossroads between the worlds of the living and the dead. When someone dies, he digs their grave and greets their soul after they have been buried, leading them to the underworld.

By late afternoon we were reunited at Denise's beach house with Rusty in the shade on the grass just as he likes it, seen through the inevitable mosquito netting:
A dog is an excellent antidote to all weirdness seen elsewhere.