Portraits from the series Caste, 2011. Holly Bynoe explains,

Leah Gordon’s new photographs investigate the practice of the grading from [B]lack to white of skin colour, referred to as Caste, which revealed the extent of racial mixing in 18th century colonial Haiti…

A measuring system which moves through black to white in nine degrees, it was developed by a French colonialist living in Haiti during the slave plantation period…There are nine degrees of shading in all, from pure [B]lack to 1/8 white, and 7/8 black and so on through ‘Sacatra’, ‘Griffe’, ‘Marabou’, ‘Mulâtre’, ‘Mamelouque’, ‘Quarteronné’ and ‘Sang-Mêlé’ to ‘White’.

The images reference celebrated Renaissance portraits, styled so that they closely resemble, but don’t completely mimic, works such as Bellini’s Doge Loredan (Noir)The Betrothal of the Arnolfini by Jan Van Eyck and Holbein’s Lady with a Squirrel (Blanche). Gordon found her models in the Grand Rue area of Port-au-Prince, home to the artists’ collective Atis Rezistans. She worked with local craftsmen to make the costumes for the sitters and wooden plaques behind which the models stand, bearing the identifying names of the caste colours. There is a double impact here, both in the unexpectedness of seeing a [B]lack face in these familiar portraits and in seeing the dignity with which the sitters bear their signifying labels.

"Tante," a mambo or elder in the Vodou tradition, in the Batey [sugar cane workers’ community] Isabela by Tino Soriano, 2001

In the Dominican Republic, lured by false promises of employment, Haitians end up working in the sugar cane harvest, also called “la zafra,” between December and June. They do it under working conditions that violate all international laws…

"Tante," a mambo or elder in the Vodou tradition, in the Batey [sugar cane workers’ community] Isabela by Tino Soriano, 2001

In the Dominican Republic, lured by false promises of employment, Haitians end up working in the sugar cane harvest, also called “la zafra,” between December and June. They do it under working conditions that violate all international laws…

talesofthestarshipregeneration

Ok. What is a list of books about Voodoo, Vodun, fiction and nonfiction written by black people?

talesofthestarshipregeneration:

waterfrommymind:

talesofthestarshipregeneration:

heartlandfemme:

talesofthestarshipregeneration:

Zora Neale Hurston wrote Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica Jewell Parker Rhodes wrote Voodoo Dreams a novel of Marie Laveau. Who else?

My love, My Love by Rosa Guy, Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson, Yvonne Chireau’s Black Magic, Katrina Hazzard-Donald’s “Mojo Workin” are some really good ones.

Thank you! 

The Faces of the Gods by Leslie G. Desmangles, a book recommended to me by a Vodou priestess

Thnak you!

Broadly interpreting, to bring in other Afro-Diasporic religions:

Patrick Bellegarde-Smith and Claudine Michel, _Haitian Vodou: Spirit, Myth, and Reality_

Kamari Maxine Clarke, _Mapping Yorùbá Networks: Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities_

Yvonne Daniel, _Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomblé_

Dianne M. Stewart [Diakité], _Three Eyes for the Journey: African Dimensions of the Jamaican Religious Experience_

Katherine Dunham, _Island Possessed_ 

Rachel E Harding, _A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness_

Tracey E. Hucks, _Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism_

J. Lorand Matory, _Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé_

Lorna McDaniel, _The Big Drum Ritual of Carriacou: Praisesongs for Rememory of Flight_

Luisah Teish, _Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals_

Mikelle Smith Omari-Tunkara, _Manipulating the Sacred: Yorùbá Art, Ritual, and Resistance in Brazilian Candomblé_

Marta Moreno Vega, _The Altar of My Soul: The Living Traditions of Santeria_

Jason R. Young, _Rituals of Resistance: African Atlantic Religion in Kongo and the Lowcountry South in the Era of Slavery_

strugglingtobeheard

David Hume claimed that to be black was to be “like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.” And Immanuel Kant maintained that to be “black from head to foot” was “clear proof” that what any black person says is stupid. In his “Notes on Virginia,” Thomas Jefferson wrote: “In imagination they [Negroes] are dull, tasteless and anomalous,” and inferior. In the first American Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1798), the term “Negro” was defined as someone who is cruel, impudent, revengeful, treacherous, nasty, idle, dishonest, a liar and given to stealing.

My point here is to say that the white gaze is global and historically mobile. And its origins, while from Europe, are deeply seated in the making of America.

Black bodies in America continue to be reduced to their surfaces and to stereotypes that are constricting and false, that often force those black bodies to move through social spaces in ways that put white people at ease. We fear that our black bodies incite an accusation. We move in ways that help us to survive the procrustean gazes of white people. We dread that those who see us might feel the irrational fear to stand their ground rather than “finding common ground,” a reference that was made by Bernice King as she spoke about the legacy of her father at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The white gaze is also hegemonic, historically grounded in material relations of white power: it was deemed disrespectful for a black person to violate the white gaze by looking directly into the eyes of someone white. The white gaze is also ethically solipsistic: within it only whites have the capacity of making valid moral judgments.

Walking While Black in the ‘White Gaze’

By GEORGE YANCY

(via howtobeterrell)

"Lifecasting the Blues," an ongoing series by artist Sharon McConnell-Dickerson, featuring (in order) cast sculptures of Paul Wine Jones, Dorothy Moore, Bud Spires, and R.L. Burnside.

Sharon McConnell became an aficionado of blues a few years ago and began a project with historic implications that has taken her to the heartland of the blues. McConnell was 27 when she was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that has left her blind. The disability has not stopped her from continuing her career in sculpture.

McConnell’s blues project is to make as many face casts of blues greats as possible while they are still alive. She began in 2002 with John Hammond Jr….

In January 2003, she visited Othar Turner and preserved his face just five weeks before he died. His cast was made into a bronze, which she presented to his family at the Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival. Back home in Santa Fe, she made casts of Odetta and Alvin Youngblood Hart in her kitchen. While in Chicago for the blues festival, she created more casts of Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley and Eddie Clearwater.

In 2004, she continued her quest to immortalize the living blues greats, with casts of Robert Lockwood Jr., Pinetop Perkins and Honeyboy Edwards…Although you might think it would be uncomfortable to have your face completely covered with plaster except for your nostrils, McConnell says the experience is quite calming. More than one subject has fallen asleep during the procedure.

Images of the Yorùbá deity Elegguá, as envisioned by Afro-Cuban Lucumí initiates, by Josefa Tarafa, for Lydia Cabrera’s El monte. Igbo-finda, ewe orisha, vititi nfinda (notas sobre las religiones, la magia, las supersticiones y el folklore de los negros criollos y del pueblo de Cuba), 1954

Images of the Yorùbá deity Elegguá, as envisioned by Afro-Cuban Lucumí initiates, by Josefa Tarafa, for Lydia Cabrera’s El monte. Igbo-finda, ewe orisha, vititi nfinda (notas sobre las religiones, la magia, las supersticiones y el folklore de los negros criollos y del pueblo de Cuba), 1954

Photographs from Trinidadian artist Marlon Griffith’s Powder Box Series, 2009

In his ongoing Powder Box School Girl series, Marlon Griffith applies ephemeral patterns to the neck and chest of his model. Through careful application of handcrafted stencils, he marks the model’s water-dampened skin with white cosmetic powder – a trick women in the Caribbean use to stay cool and dry in the high heat of the region…Griffith explains that in his native Trinidad the only people who continue this powdering tradition are those from the poorer or working classes – a callback to their long colonial history which only spurs contempt from the wealthier factions…

Why do people paint their neck with powder, and what is the origin of that ritual, are questions that provoked the curiosity of artist Marlon Griffith for many years. His curiosity was deepened by derogatory comments like, ‘Yuh look like fish about to fry,’ that are commonly slung at people sporting a powdered neck. “How does this simple thing get people riled up?” wonders Griffith. “When I asked people why do they wear powder, most say they grew up doing it to keep cool. And how do they feel when people make comments, a lot don’t care, some feel really hurt”…

In the travel narrative The Middle Passage by V.S. Naipaul, the author is on board the Spanish immigrant ship Francisco Bobadilla bound for Trinidad. Griffith returns to Belmont to expand his Powder Series with the installation project The Ballad of Francisco Bobadilla, which references Naipaul’s narrative on relationships in uncomfortable space. 

A projection of a girl applying powder takes viewers into personal space and provides a link to Griffith’s Powder Box Series. “I see it as a performance,” he adds. “With this [Bobadilla project] I decided to focus on the relationships of people within a particular community … navigating trying to be comfortable in an uncomfortable environment.” 

Nuyorican poet, musician, and playwright Tato Laviera (1951-2013) by Caroline Yi, 2010. Laviera passed away on November 1. From a 2012 interview with Odilia Rivera-Santos:

He writes everyday, but since losing his sight, he has had to think everything out and be prepared to speak it all when a typist comes in…To speak to Tato Laviera is to observe a lifelong performance in which he has attempted to reconcile the two cultures which have most influenced his work — that of Puerto Rico, his country of origin and the Lower East Side, the adopted country…
Laviera moved to Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn [when he was nine years old] and his aunt greeted him with the words:
No te juntes con los negros.
And he didn’t quite understand because he was Black as well. But it was a matter of culture and language, not race…
“Puerto Rico in particular intertwines Caribbean Black Spanish. We dare to claim it. It is a source of pride and we are not linguistically crippled. My claim to fame is I can experiment, and sound intelligent with my linguistic experiments.”
“Art … la brega. It’s never easy. You have to be married to it — sustain its wounds and criticisms. And the people with no vision and technical skills and vice versa. And some who are not satisfied with anything — critics.”
“I am in love with the moment. It is the moment …right now that counts.”

Nuyorican poet, musician, and playwright Tato Laviera (1951-2013) by Caroline Yi, 2010. Laviera passed away on November 1. From a 2012 interview with Odilia Rivera-Santos:

He writes everyday, but since losing his sight, he has had to think everything out and be prepared to speak it all when a typist comes in…To speak to Tato Laviera is to observe a lifelong performance in which he has attempted to reconcile the two cultures which have most influenced his work — that of Puerto Rico, his country of origin and the Lower East Side, the adopted country…

Laviera moved to Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn [when he was nine years old] and his aunt greeted him with the words:

No te juntes con los negros.

And he didn’t quite understand because he was Black as well. But it was a matter of culture and language, not race…

“Puerto Rico in particular intertwines Caribbean Black Spanish. We dare to claim it. It is a source of pride and we are not linguistically crippled. My claim to fame is I can experiment, and sound intelligent with my linguistic experiments.”

“Art … la brega. It’s never easy. You have to be married to it — sustain its wounds and criticisms. And the people with no vision and technical skills and vice versa. And some who are not satisfied with anything — critics.”

“I am in love with the moment. It is the moment …right now that counts.”

zorascreation

In America, though many of the traditional ritual and ceremonial practices of “Voodoo” were lost, most of its healing, divinatory, and spirit manifestational elements , were later forced to merge into the magico-botanical practices of what came to be known derisively as “Hoodoo.”It is vitally important for the African-Diaspora to understand that absence of the public expression of a religion does not negate ones ancestral lineage nor birth-right. The “Voodoo” is still present in the blood of those whose ancestors are born from it. Thousands are still being born today carrying the Spiritual lineages of the ancestors. Many have lost the knowledge of what to look for.

Although derisively mocked as “superstition, witchcraft, and sorcery,” there remains a historical testament to some of the esoteric and magical lore of many African-American priestesses and priests who descend from the various known and obscure African religions that at one time doted the American landscape during their enslavement and post-Reconstruction era. More than five volumes of this powerful oral tradition exemplifies their spiritual mastery and God-given gifts, leaving a powerful legacy to their descendants. A legacy not borne from Haiti, nor any other region, but the United States of America.