Contemporary Vodun Arts of Ouidah, BeninAuthor(s): Dana RushSource: African Arts, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Winter, 2001), pp. 32-47...
Vodun ArtsContemporaryof                 Benin             Ouidah,DANA RUSH     T   h  ehecontemporary    Vodunarts     pl...
Vodun, the festival was conceived as acommercial rather than a religious enter-prise. Intended to promote tourism, itwas a...
is of a mask, based on a Yoruba Gelede        turning to those sites, I wish to intro-      Jesus. At age fourteen, Tokoud...
Oppositepage, leftto right:                       The DakpoganForge:                          The Dakpoganforge is a land ...
ed in the Sacred Forest and the BrazilHouse, and is discussed below.Dominique KouasAlthough Dominique Kouas is knownlocall...
problems, they could come to the forest                                                                                   ...
nal conditionin which his desire is never   the Dakpogan brothers from scrap metal         explaining this piece, the Sacr...
Counterclockwise from top:                               entire bodies were being pierced by shards                       ...
,,,            rI.famous Afro-Brazilian de Souza family.15For Ouidah 92 it was transformed intothe Ouidah Museum of Contem...
Counterclockwisefrom top left.                       The second floor is dedicated to Vodou     ultimately, in his free ad...
Dakpogan brothers. Among them is a            critical points by single sculptural works   the religion and arts of Vodun ...
Tree of Forgetting. The place where           Kouass piece, composed of different          Only one of the human figures w...
Africans broken free of chains who wave        rounding National Vodun Day, suggested       be so. According to the Suprem...
Opposite page:Left:24. The VodunspiritAvlekete,                                paintedbyHaitian-born           Edouard    ...
strategicallyabove or on top of shrines,   mark, the double-bladed ax of the           again, these international reverber...
:-V4Vworld, where nations are reinventing           arts and associated ideologies have       tion at deep cultural and sp...
layers of the paintings. Her research intoMarshalls iconography and materials and her                                     ...
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  1. 1. Contemporary Vodun Arts of Ouidah, BeninAuthor(s): Dana RushSource: African Arts, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Winter, 2001), pp. 32-47+94-96Published by: UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies CenterStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3337805Accessed: 08/12/2009 10:14Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=jscasc.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to African Arts.http://www.jstor.org
  2. 2. Vodun ArtsContemporaryof Benin Ouidah,DANA RUSH T h ehecontemporary Vodunarts ple murals,large-scalecement and metal the premise of a reunion of Africa and of the city of Ouidah in the sculptures, and commemorativemonu- the African Diaspora through the com- Republicof Beninarea testa- ments. Paintings, appliques, collages, monalities of Vodun and Vodun-derived ment to the strength and masks, and examples of other art forms religious systems, this internationalcol- flexibilityof a belief system punctuate the cityscape and are dis- laborationwas successful not merely in thatis perpetuallyinventing, played in local museums. authenticating Benins new political andreinventing,and modifying itself. Their religiousfreedombut in demonstrating itembodying aesthetic reflects remarkable Ouidah 92: at a globallevel.adherence to traditional themes and The artsand practicesof Vodunhad instructures that concurrently celebrate The First International Festival of Vodun Arts and Cultures theorybeen forbiddenunder the preced-conspicuoussigns of change.In the con- ing Marxist-Leninist regime.The supportstantnegotiationbetween ideologies that Much of this art was commissioned in of Ouidah 92 by the new government,are old and new, local and distant, the 1992as a collaborative effortof UNESCO then headed by President Nicephoreartificialboundariesbetween "tradition- and the newly democraticBeninesegov- Dieudonne Soglo,3markedthe first timeal" and "contemporary" Vodun arts are ernment in preparationfor Ouidah 92: in postcolonial history that the statedissolved, merged,and transcended. is It The FirstInternational Festivalof Vodun played the important role of patron ofprecisely the ever-changing,all-encom- Arts and Cultures,held February8-18, the arts. Its sponsorship was instrumen-passing natureof Vodunthat allows this 1993.2For that event, intended to recog- tal in encouraging the revival of Voduntranscendence.l nize and celebrate transatlanticVodun, arts in particular.4 Ouidahnarratesthe rich and complex Vodun priests and priestesses, religious Painters and sculptors from Benin,historyof Beninfor local and internation- practitioners, governmentofficials,artists, Haiti, Brazil, and Cuba were commis-al audiences through contemporaryarts tourists,scholars,and many others trav- sioned to create works dealing withthat representgods and kings and that eled to the city fromHaiti,Cuba,Trinidad Vodun and its various manifestationsindepict the atrocitiesof enslavement.The and Tobago, Brazil, the United States, Africa and the AfricanDiaspora, as wellworks on permanentdisplay throughout and various Europeancountries.Special as to representaspects of Beninesehisto-the city-envisioned as a kind of an guests such as Mama Lola and Pierre ry.Although some of the artiststo be dis-open-air museum-include Vodun tem- FatumbiVergerwere honored.Based on cussed here are practicing adepts of32 alricanarts ? winter2001
  3. 3. Vodun, the festival was conceived as acommercial rather than a religious enter-prise. Intended to promote tourism, itwas aimed at an international audience,an international press, and the interna-tional art market. Nevertheless, the impetus itself forOuidah 92 was Vodun, and the spirits(vodun) played a part in the project at avariety of levels. At the beginning of thefestival, Vodun spirits were propitiated toensure its success, as they are for almostevery endeavor in Ouidah. When contem-porary arts are produced for an intera-tional market, they can still be efficacious. Even the symbol for Ouidah 92 addsa religious facet to the event. The imageOpposite page:1. Detail of a cloth commemorating Ouidah 92:The FirstInternational Festival of VodunArts andCultures. For this celebration of west AfricanVodun and Vodun-derived religions across theAtlantic, Beninese government commissioned theartworksto be permanently installed at severalsites in Ouidah. The image of the YorubaGeledemask as a Roman Catholic Sarafina angel hasbecome a symbol of the event. Ouidah, Republicof Benin. May 1993. Photo: Dana Rush.Thispage:Left: 2. Shrine to the spirit of Kpasse in theSacred Forest of Kpassezoume. The shrine, stillactive, sits at the base of the irokotree in whichthe spiritresides. Sacred Forest of Ouidah, June1993. Photo: Dana Rush.Right: Cement sculptureof Legba, the guardian 3.of the Sacred Forest, by Abomey artist CyprienTokoudagba. Sacred Forest of Ouidah, Decem-ber 1994. Photo:Dana Rush.winter2001 ?africanarts
  4. 4. is of a mask, based on a Yoruba Gelede turning to those sites, I wish to intro- Jesus. At age fourteen, Tokoudagba wasmask representing a Roman Catholic duce several of the Beninese contempo- initiated into Tohosu, the vodun of royal-Sarafina angel, in the collection of the rary artists whose work is installed ty, human anomalies, and lakes andAlexandre Senou Adande Porto-Novo there: Cyprien Tokoudagba, Calixte and streams. Through the initiation processEthnographic Museum.5 The image was Theodore Dakpogan, Simonet Biokou, he gained much greater insight into thereproduced on T-shirts, book covers, Dominique Kouas, and Yves Apollinaire intricacies of Vodun, which has helpedposters, and cloth for local people and Pede. The contributions of African Dias- him represent aspects of the religionforeign visitors alike (Fig. 1), and was pora artists Edouard Duval-Carrie, Jose in his art.painted on the white bases of all of the Claudio, and Manuel Mendive will also While serving a short stint in thenewly commissioned large-scale sculp- be discussed in relation to Daagbo Hou- Beninese army, Tokoudagba was put intures throughout Ouidah. Since then, it nons house.7 charge of the weapons store. There hehas taken on other spiritual manifesta- filled up sketchpads with drawings oftions: many people interpret it not as a weapons and military scenes. When theGelede mask but, among other things, as The Beninese Artists young man returned to Abomey, hea symbol of aze (roughly, "witchcraft," wanted to show his friends and familyas demonstrated by a person turning into Cyprien Tokoudagba what things were like in the camp, but hea bird)6 or a representation of Shango, Cyprien Tokoudagbas earliest child- felt limited with only his drawings. Atthe Yoruba orisha of thunder and light- hood memories in Abomey are of his that point, Tokoudagba decided to buyning whose main symbol is a double- insatiable desire to create things with his paint. Using a chewing stick called alo asbladed ax, perceived in the wings of the hands. When he began school, at age a brush, he made his first painting, of aSarafina angel. seven, he would doodle instead of pay- soldier in uniform. Ouidah 92 was more than a celebra- ing attention in class. To encourage his Among the people who came to seetion of democracy, religious freedom, participation, the teacher would ask him Tokoudagbas work was an importantand cultural pride; more than a means of to draw the subjects under discussion for Tohosu Vodun priest in Abomey, whopromoting local artists; and more than a the benefit of the other students. The boy invited him to paint his temple. It wasconsciously organized attempt to bring then began to sketch everything around through this commission that Tokou-tourism to Benin. It was a reinvention him: chickens, goats, trees, houses, mar- dagba became a recognized artist inand self-creation of aspects of Beninese ket stands, people. Abomey. Requests followed for bas-history meant to appeal on an emotional Tokoudagba was soon making sculp- reliefs, sculptures, and wall paintings forlevel to foreign audiences, especially tures based on his drawings, using clay other Vodun temples in the city and, asthose of African descent. he had dug from the ground in his his reputation grew, for temples not only Four main sites in the city display art fathers compound, and these were in Benin, but also in Ghana, Togo, andcommissioned for the festival: the Sacred placed around the familys home. Visitors Nigeria. Although most of his work con-Forest, the Brazil House, the Slave Route, started commissioning the precocious tinues to be concentrated in Abomey andand the house of the Supreme Chief of boy to sculpt specific subjects ranging surrounding areas, Tokoudagba nowVodun in Benin, Daagbo Hounon. Before from chameleons (for the spirit Lisa) to receives international commissions.34 atricanarts * winter2001
  5. 5. Oppositepage, leftto right: The DakpoganForge: The Dakpoganforge is a land where raf-4. Xeviosso,the Vodunspiritof thunderand Theodoreand Calixte Dakpogan fia fibers become bicycle chains andlightning, the brothers by Theodore and Calixte and Simonet Biokou cowry shellsbecomesparkplugs-seman-Dakpoganof Porto-Novo. seen in all their As tic equivalencieswith a cuttingedge.sculpturesshown in this article,the artistsfre- The Dakpogan family continues the Thebrotherscousin, SimonetBiokou,quentlywork recycledscrap metaland auto withand motorcycle parts.SacredForestof Ouidah, legacy of its ancestors,who as the royal is commonly grouped with them. Ac-December1994. Photo: DanaRush. blacksmiths of Porto-Novo maintained cording to Biokou, it was he who made not only the royal forge but also the the first large recycled-metalsculpture,5. Figure a priest,by Simonet of Biokou Porto- of vodunGu, god of iron,warfare,and tech- which depicted a soldier.9He says theNovo.Thiswork,also of recycled metal,com-binesimagery from Catholicism censer held (the nology. The family compound remains brothersfelt that it was not serious workby the priest) and Vodun (the reference to in the Gukome quarter (the quarter of and that no one would want to buy it. AXeviossoat the end of the chain).SacredForest Gu) of Porto-Novo,where the Dakpogan few days later a man from the Frenchof Ouidah,December1994. Photo: DanaRush. brothers continue to work the forge in Embassy happened to see the statue,6. Personification the Vodun force called of making religious items for Gu as well as loved it, and purchasedit. At that point,cakatu,portrayed the Dakpoganbrothers. by everyday household objects. Theodore and Calixte Dakpogan tookCakatu used to kill enemy.SacredForest is an of They have, however, added "art"to the profession of artiste-feraille seriouslyOuidah,December1994.Photo: DanaRush. their creative repertoire.Since 1989 the and started to make more sculptures Dakpogan forge has become recognized with their cousin. Although Biokou wasThispage: in the international market,and these art first to make large recycled sculptures,Left: The spiritMami 7. Wata,by the Dakpogan blacksmithshave acquired a new title: the Dakpogan brothers were the onesbrothers. Brazil December1994. House,Ouidah, artists."8 artistes-ferailles-"scrap-iron Inge- who received the commission from thePhoto:DanaRush. niously combiningscrap metal and recy- Beninese government to make one hun- cled car, motorcycle,and bicycle parts, dred such statues for Ouidah 92. BiokouRight: Carved painted 8. and version theGelede ofmaskthathas becomethe symbolof Ouidah92. they create larger-than-life figures of is representedby one piece. The Dakpo-Brazil House,December 1994.Photo:DanaRush. Vodun gods and scenes of Benineselife. gans contributionto Ouidah 92 is locat-winter2001 ? atrlcanarts 35
  6. 6. ed in the Sacred Forest and the BrazilHouse, and is discussed below.Dominique KouasAlthough Dominique Kouas is knownlocally for his large metal sculptures ondisplay throughout Ouidah, one visit tohis house-studio in Porto-Novo demon-strates his stylistic range and his versatil-ity with various media. All of Kouasspieces nevertheless maintain a recogniz-able signature: they are big, bold, andgeometric, playing with positive andnegative space. The artist has developeda new technique which he calls "pein-tik," a combination of sculpture, paint-ing, and batik. He often incorporatesfound objects, Vodun paraphernalia, raf-fia, cotton, and cowry shells into his"peintik" assemblages.Yves Apollinaire PdeThe applique work, large cement sculp-tures, and cement bas-reliefs of YvesApollinaire Pede harken back to the oldbas-reliefs in the Palace Museum ofAbomey. The artist has a special interestin Kulito (the Fon word for YorubaEgungun, translated as "the ones fromthe path of death," or ancestors), whichhe finds to be colorful, exciting, and pow-erful. His bas-reliefs are found through- Tokoudagba, Theodore and Calixte Dak- Thispage:out Benin, in restaurants, and hotels, pogan, and Simonet Biokou. Left: Painting an unidentified 9. by Haitianartist,representing diverse subjects ranging Kpassezoume, or the Sacred Forest of commissioned Ouidah Itportrays for 92. Haitianfrom royal motifs to Vodun symbols. King Kpasse, is where all Vodun powers hero ToussaintLOuverture,whose grandfather was a Dahomean king.BrazilHouse,December reside-good and bad, ancient and con- 1994. Photo:DanaRush. temporary, distant and local. AlmostThe Festival Sites destroyed under the old Marxist-Lenin- Right: Kulito 10. (Egungun)masqueradeby the ist government, this secluded area is Dakpogan brothers. Brazil 1996. House,February The SacredForestKpassezoume: Photo: DanaRush. now celebrated with government-spon-Contemporary Vodun arts commissioned sored contemporary sculptures of Vodunfor Ouidah 92 are installed in four main gods and associated powers. Oppositepage:sites in the city. One of them is the Sacred Sometime between 1530 and 1580, 11. Daagbo Hounon,BeninsSupremeChiefofForest, the most hallowed place in Ouidah, Kpasse became the second king of Savi Vodun,on National VodunDay.Ouidahbeach,where one finds the works of Cyprien (located nine kilometers north of Ouidah) January 1999. Photo: 10, DanaRush.36 african arts - winter 2001
  7. 7. problems, they could come to the forest and pray to a specific iroko tree that houses his spirit. The tree was then just a little sprout next to a sacred clay pot. Today, behind the ruins of the old French administrative house in the Sacred Forest, abandoned because the spirits were "too strong" for the French, one finds active shrines, including a clay pot (Fig. 2), next to the tree in which Kpasses spirit resides (interview with the current King Kpasse, July 19, 1995). Although the Sacred Forest has be- come a tourist site, it remains a serious place for Vodun worship and ceremonies. During the night and at high noon, all Vodun forces congregate there, often in the form of animals. Cyprien Tokoudag- ba affirms that the Sacred Forest is the Supreme Court of Vodun. If, he says, you have misbehaved and the Vodun spirits are talking about you, "you are finished" (interview, May 3,1994). Although Tokou- dagba is from Abomey, his statement is confirmed by Daagbo Hounon, Supreme Chief of Vodun in Benin, who lives in Ouidah. Daagbo Hounon holds his most serious dispute negotiations in the Sa- cred Forest. "In Kpassezoume," he says, "everyone [spirits, ancestors, humans, and animals] pays attention" (interview, December 12, 1994). What the art "means" in the Sacred Forest is highly contingent upon who tells you, what you know already, what they think you know, and what they want you to know. For example, guides at the site are primarily there to receive tourists, and they have a standard tour geared toward that audience. I asked many people how to interpret the sculptures, and as anticipat- ed, I received a variety of answers. Most often it was only the specifics of the Vodun spirits represented that were different, but in other cases meanings diverged radically. In talking to the artists about their work, I found that the interpretation of a piece could change depending on the artists mood or a recent dream, or the artist might see in it something that departed from his initial conception. In reference to a Janus-faced human sculpture in the Sacred Forest, Cyprien Tokoudagba once told me-in genuine perplexity-"I dont remember what that is supposed to repre- sent" (interview, May 3, 1994). At the entrance to this Ouidah 92 site,and founder of Ouidah (Agbo 1959:13; these events did come to pass. Today the Legba, the homed and phallic guardianCarevin 1962:73; Assogba 1990:15). sign is still a secret associated with the and gatekeeper of the forest, greets theWhen he learned that two jealous ene- Kpasse vodun, known only to the direct visitor as he keeps track of all of the com-mies were plotting his demise, he alerted descendants of the king. ings and goings in and out of this sacredhis two sons, telling them that although Soon after King Kpasse disappeared, place. Tokoudagbas larger-than-life an-he would never die, he would disappear his family living in Savi saw a bird they thropomorphized cement statue trulyone day. If it should happen that he did had never seen before. It led them to the communicates this deitys contrary per-not come out of his room before sunset, Sacred Forest in Ouidah. Upon entering sonality and inherently wayward char-his sons were not to open the door but the sacred grounds of the forest, the bird acter (Fig. 3).10 His most distinguishingunderstand that he was already gone. turned into two growling panthers (male characteristic is his erection. AccordingAfter nine days they would see a specific and female). The family was frightened to one tale, Legba was having an affairsign from their father which, once under- until they heard the soothing voice of the with both his sister and his sistersstood, would protect them and their fam- king. He gave them an important mes- daughter. Caught by the supreme god,ilies for generations to come. One day sage: if at any time they were having Mawu, he was punished with this eter-winter 2001 ? atrlcan arts 37
  8. 8. nal conditionin which his desire is never the Dakpogan brothers from scrap metal explaining this piece, the Sacred Forestappeased(Herskovits1938,vol. 2:203-6). and recycled car and motorcycle parts guides say, "Voilale syncretisme... "13Stories abound about Legbas mischie- (Fig. 4). Xeviosso spits out fire (light- There is one sculpture, made by thevous nature, usually relating to his pri- ning), rendered in metal pipes. This Dakpogan brothers, which is related not toapism. Sixteen cowry shells on Legbas identifying symbol projects from his a Vodun spirit per se but to a type of powerchest illustrate two du signs of the Fa mouth and terminates in the two staffs or force called cakatuf, which can be sent todivinationsystem.11 he carries. The image of Xeviosso is harm an enemy (Fig. 6). This sculpture Opposite Legba in the Sacred Forest echoed across the forest in a sculpture depicts the infliction of cakatu,which canis a figure of a Fa diviner, also by by Simonet Biokou (Fig. 5). This piece, be transmitted in a variety of ways, result-Tokoudagba.In an account of the rela- also composed of scrap metal and recy- ing in debilitating pain inside and outsidetionshipbetween Legbaand Fa, reported cled car and motorcycle parts, depicts a the body, meant to be followed by death.by Herskovits,the sixteen cowry shells priest holding what appears to be a Victims are said to feel as though theirplacedon Legbaschest represent six- the censer, commonly used in Catholic Mass.teen eyes of Fa.12 lattergod could not The Upon closer inspection, one sees that theopen them in the morningwithout assis- chain to which the censer is attached ter- 12. Left: Monument metalMami with Watasculp-tance.Using palm kernels,Fawould com- minates in the symbol of Xeviosso: the ture,by Porto-Novo artist Dominique Kouas.Thismunicateto Legba which of the sixteen same fire he spits from his mouth in memorial marks site of the Treeof Forgetting the on the pathtakenby enslavedAfricans fromtheeyes shouldbe opened and in what order. Figure 4. auction block to the ships that were to carryAccordingto the story,this processdevel- Easy for tourists to miss, this seeming- them to the New World. Slave Route,Ouidah,oped into the complex system of Fa div- ly anomalous detail is neither inconspicu- January 1995. Photo:DanaRush.ination,which uses sixteen palm kernels ous nor unusual to Beninese visitors.(Herskovits 1938,vol. 2:203). Biokous sculpture conflates two religious Right: Metalsculpture Dominique 13. by Kouas, Behind Legba is Xeviosso, the spirit marking site of the ZomaiEnclosure, the where systems, an idea the artist came up with Africanssold intoslaverywerettemporarily held.of thunderand lightning, constructedby while attending a Vodun ceremony. In SlaveRoute, December1995.Photo: DanaRush.38 africanarts ? winter2001
  9. 9. Counterclockwise from top: entire bodies were being pierced by shards adept of Sakpata, the spirit of the earth14. ZoungbodjiMemorial. The central monument, of glass, nails, and metal fragments.14 and disease. The display includes afaced withmosaic tile, is by CotonouartistFortuna Additional Vodun spirits represented variety of other supernatural charactersBandeira; cement sculptures by Cyprien Tokou- by contemporary sculpture in the Sacred representing specific powers, such asdagba flank the entrance. The memorial is saidto be built over the common grave of those Forest are Dan, the rainbow serpent; Gu, Tokoudagbas cement sculptures of awho died in the Zomal Enclosure. Slave Route, the god of iron, war, and technology; Janus-faced man and a one-footed man,December 1995. Photo: Dana Rush. Loko, the god of the iroko tree inhabited both covered with packets of power also by King Kpasse; Zangbeto, the guardian rendered in cement.15. Metal sculpture by the Dakpogan brothers, December 1995. of the night; and others including thepartof the ZoungbodjiMemorial.Photo: Dana Rush. three-headed Indian god, Densu, known The Brazil House here to be the husband of Mami Wata16. Figure of a man breaking free of chains, by The Brazil House, built in the typicallyCyprienTokoudagba. It is part of the Zoungbodji (Drewal 1988; Rush 1999). There are alsoMemorial.December 1995. Photo: Dana Rush. sculptures of Vodun adepts, among them Afro-Brazilian architectural style, was a male and a female Sakpatasi, "wife" or once an administrative building for the 4ARTl)JI * I now -~I ,-l - r? 1 t : nv .; -LC%i ---i t .9 i-i yc"r--- --.??--rr-.UF.OC2? ei - ;C)-- "C1----?;--?l rr "e IJ?ar??r o?: rb] A?PC"OCQJlsDEED9i_k;y `.9=?i__,?ijODI$II m t- -- -rA-*- I "iP. Sr ;`r,.= ??:L;ly?i:*;;WrPt? *t ipir . rr c -)PLaPr: ?-?;- ?.?T_ -(11443- -... -- - -T-
  10. 10. ,,, rI.famous Afro-Brazilian de Souza family.15For Ouidah 92 it was transformed intothe Ouidah Museum of ContemporaryVodun Art. Visitors to the museum enterthe courtyard and ascend the stairs to thefront porch, where they are greeted bythe Dakpogan brothers rendering ofMami Wata, made of scrap metal and carparts. It includes the ever-present encir-cling snake, derived from a ribbed andtwisted exhaust pipe (Fig. 7). Many othersculptures share the front porch, amongthem a four-foot-tall sculpture of theGelede mask that has become the symbolof the 1992 festival (Fig. 8). Pots of the pungent herb vervaine, itslittle purple flowers always in bloom, sitamong the sculptures. Vervaine protectsa house or an establishment from badspirits. Its placement at the entrance tothis Vodun-filled museum is a testamentto contemporary Vodun art-even when -~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~that art was produced to attract foreignattention-as valid and efficacious re-ceptacles for the spirits. This important as Calixte and Theodore Dakpogan, Top: 17. Crowds at the monument commemorat-convergence of the commercial and the Dominique Kouas, Romuald Hazoume, ing the Door of No Return,the end of the Slave Route, on National Vodun Day. Ouidah beach,spiritual undermines notions of contem- Yves Apollinaire Pede, and Oke-Ola January 10, 1996. Photo: Dana Rush.porary art made for the tourist market as Fabel. The artworks represent differentinauthentic, fake, or degraded. aspects of Vodun culture and daily life in Bottom:18. Monumentcommemoratingthe Door Inside the entrance is a large Dak- Benin. The contemporary arts are com- of No Return.The arch was designed and deco- rated by Fortuna Bandeira. December 1995.pogan rendering of the famous Gu plemented by a dozen brightly painted Photo:Dana Rush.sword from Abomey (Verger 1957:163, Gelede masks surmounted by carvedfig. 91). The first floor displays more chameleons, turtles, lions, roosters, andthan one hundred sculptures, paintings, combinations of animals representingappliques, and masks by such artists Yoruba and Fon proverbs.40 africanarts * winter2001
  11. 11. Counterclockwisefrom top left. The second floor is dedicated to Vodou ultimately, in his free adult life, recognized19. Metal sculpture by Dominique Kouas adja- arts from Haiti. The top of the stairs fea- as a military and administrative geniuscent to the Door of No Return monument. June tures a variety of sequined flags, some in the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804.1996. Photo: Sarah Netburn. representing the Iwa (spirits). An entire Now he is honored through portraiture20. Paintedcement bas-reliefof a Kulito room contains paintings depicting the life in the land of his ancestors-Benin (Fig. (Egungun)masquerade, by Abomey artist Yves Apollinaire of Toussaint LOuverture, the grandson of 9). Black-and-white photographs of VodunPede, on the Door of No Return monument. a Dahomean king from Allada. His father objects and ceremonies taken in BeninJanuary1996. Photo:Dana Rush. was sold at the slave market in Ouidah, and Nigeria by Pierre Verger and A.21. Painted cement statue of a Kulito,by Yves and LOuverture, born in Santa Domingo Cocheteux cover the hallway walls. Pede, at the Door of No Returnmonu-Apollinaire around 1743, lived as a slave for forty The garden behind the museum dis-ment.January1996. Photo:Dana Rush. years. He taught himself to read, and was plays numerous sculptures by thewinter2001 ? africanarts 41
  12. 12. Dakpogan brothers. Among them is a critical points by single sculptural works the religion and arts of Vodun that flour-larger-than-life rendering of a Kulito or by multiple-work monuments depict- ish today throughout the African Dias-(Egungun) masquerade, characteristical- ing the atrocities of the slave trade, the pora. Thus, the art and monuments arely made of scrap metal and recycled car route narrates the history of Benin for both historical markers and active ances-and motorcycle parts (Fig. 10).16This par- international and local audiences. tral shrines.ticular Kulito is known to be combative, This narrative is both simplified and Each National Vodun Day to date hashigh spirited, and dangerous, spinning embellished. The monuments or single been celebrated not only by Beninese butviolently and chasing anyone in its path. sculptures located at the critical sites by Haitians, Brazilians, Cubans, Ameri-The brothers have effectively communi- between the purported location of the cans, and others who have returned tocated its especially aggressive nature; auction block and the beach are en- pay their respects in the land of theirthe twisting stance captures anticipated graved with a panel of didactic material. ancestors, turning Ouidah into a pil-action, as if the spirit were ready to take Often the histories given and the loca- grimage site for people of Africanoff, or as if it were caught, as in a snap- tions of the sites are not corroborated by descent, much in the manner of the slaveshot, eternally in motion. Kulito of this or even mentioned in the literature on factories of Goree Island and Capetype often stop in a crowd and remain the subject (Curtin 1969; Manning 1982, Coast. International recognition of theperfectly still until the onlookers least 1991; Law 1991). Some generalizations citys function in this regard reflectssuspect it to tear into motion. Instead of are understandable, for much is truly broader changes in Africa. One mightthe usual facepiece made of mesh and unknown about the circumstances of the especially see this particular case ofcovered with cowry shells, this one is slave trade from the Ouidah port. In Vodun as the local manifestation of amade from a radiator grid and covered other cases, the histories seem highly more global phenomenon of postcolonialwith sparkplugs. Curved metal pipes rep- unlikely. The "unknown" of the slave nations seeking ways to represent-fromresent large animal horns, and bicycle trade, however, is of little importance their own perspectives-their historieschains replace hanging strips of layered compared to its "living history"-that is, to an international audience. The follow-cloth. Kulito representations are also what the markers say today, as improba- ing are the commemorative sites on thefound at the end of the third main ble as some of it may seem. Slave Route.Ouidah 92 site: the Slave Route. The Slave Route of Ouidah reflects Auction Block. The Slave Route offi- centuries of transatlantic interactions cially begins under a large tree, where the that have ultimately affected, trans- public auctions are said to have beenThe Slave Route of Ouidah formed, and reinvented not only the his- held. The tree is located just behind theAs a reinvention of various aspects of the tory of Benin but also its subsequent art compound of Don Francisco de Souza,slave trade from the Ouidah port, the forms. The Supreme Chief of Vodun in who was born in Brazil in 1754 andSlave Route appeals on an emotional Benin, Daagbo Hounon, plays an active died in Ouidah in 1849. De Souza, oflevel to tourists, especially those of role in this reinvention of history. Since Portuguese and Amerindian parentage,African descent. Beginning just outside 1993, January 10 has been celebrated as arrived in Ouidah in 1788 and becamethe de Souza family compound, where National Vodun Day (Fig. 11). The festi- intimately involved in the transatlanticthe auction block is said to have been vals main activity is the reenactment of slave trade. He was named Viceroy oflocated, it follows the footsteps of the the slave march to the beach. It is led by Ouidah by his friend and business part-hundreds of thousands of African cap- Daagbo Hounon, who, with his follow- ner, King Gezo of Abomey. De Souzastives who walked the three miles to the ers, stops, prays, and makes offerings at influence in the trade spread east tobeach and then onto ships destined for each site along the route. The procession Badagry (Nigeria) and west to Anechothe Americas. Lined with contemporary honors the memory of those ancestors (Togo). At the height of his involvementsculptures representing Vodun spirits lost in the slave trade and celebrates he is said to have supplied more than oneand Dahomean kings, and marked at those who survived and passed down hundred slave ships traveling between the west coast of Africa and the Americas (Verger 1968 in Sinou 1995:114). It seems likely that the auctions held during de Souzas tenure as Viceroy took place close to the family compound. (It must be remembered, however, that de Souzas activity covers only about sixty years of Ouidahs centuries of participa- tion in the slave trade.) This plot of land, known as Dantissa, is currently the site of festivals for the vodun Dan, the rain- bow serpent. It lies between the de Souza compound and de Souzas Vodun tem- ple to Dan, whom he renamed Dagoun.17 Thispage: 22. Wallmuralrepresenting dynastyof Su- the premeChiefsof Vodunin Ouidahfrom1452 to thepresent. DaagboHounons Ouidah, compound, December1995. Photo:DanaRush. Opposite page: 23. Mural Daagbo Hounons on house, which some considerto be the beginningof the Slave Route.BenineseVodun symbolsappearagainst a blue background, theirAfrican and diaspora counterparts against pink. Ouidah,December 1995. Photo:DanaRush.42 atricanarts ? winter2001
  13. 13. Tree of Forgetting. The place where Kouass piece, composed of different Only one of the human figures withinthe Tree of Forgetting is believed to have faces bearing different scarification mark- this monument transcends these emo-stood is marked with a sculpture by ings, represents the many enslaved tions: Tokoudagbassculpture of a manDominique Kouas of a three-headed, Africans from a variety of ethnic back- with upraisedarmsbrokenfree of chainsthree-footed, three-armed Mami Wata grounds who converged in this dark (Fig. 16). According to the artist, theand a small symbolic tree (Fig. 12). The place before they were sent across the image represents "death" and, in turn,base of the statue is engraved with the ocean (Fig. 13). The six Yoruba markings "freedom"from enslavement (interview,legend of the "Tree,"endorsed by former (three on each cheek), and the ten Fon May 3, 1994).President Soglo. Although it seems logis- markings (two on each cheek, temples, Tree of Return.Beforearrivingat thetically impossible, this legend purports and forehead) are readily discernible. Ouidah beach where they would bethat all of the enslaved women marched The artist also included a scale to repre- loadedonto shipsbound fortheAmericas,around this tree seven times, and all of sent the ideal of equality among peoples the captivesaresaid to have made one lastthe enslaved men, nine times.18 The in- throughout the world. stop along the Slave Route,at the Treeoftent was to make them forget their ori- Zoungbodji Memorial. In the Zoung- Return.This point on the route is repre-gins and cultural identities. The failure bodji quarter, the customs post controlled sented by an actualtree reportedlyplant-of this idea was evident in the Ouidah 92 and recorded the movement of enslaved ed in Ouidah during the reign of Kingfestival itself, which made it abundantly Africans from the Abomey kingdom to Agajaof Abomey(1708-1732). is marked Itclear that such identities thrived and the coast (Soglo 1994:69). The monument by CyprienTokoudagbascement sculp-continue to thrive in African diasporas (Fig. 14) is constructed upon what is tureof the forestvodunAziza. Althoughitthroughout the Americas. believed to be the ancient common grave seems logistically unlikely, the enslaved Clement Lokossou compares the forced for slaves who died in the Zomai Africansare said to have walked aroundcircuits around the Tree of Forgetting as a Enclosure. There have been no archaeo- the tree three times to ensure that theirtype of "zombification." In that process, logical excavations to prove or disprove spirits, if not their bodies, would returnrumored to exist in Haiti, the work of a this theory. to theirnative land.sorcerer causes one to lose ones identity The entrance is flanked by cement Door of No Return.Withthe Atlanticand become one of the "living dead" male and female figures made by Ocean as an ominous backdrop,the final(1994:128)."Zombification" has never has Cyprien Tokoudagba; they are kneeling, monument of the Slave Route of Ouidahbeen a named concept or process associat- and again their hands are tied and their is the Door of No Return(Figs. 17, 18).Ined with Vodun in Benin, and has only mouths gagged. To the rear is a large the center is a massive arch, designedbeen introduced there through knowledge abstract mosaic mural by Cotonou artist and decorated by Fortuna Bandeira,of Haitian Vodou. Fortuna Bandeira, who used black to built atop a large circularplatform.The Zomai Enclosure. After encircling the represent Africans chained together, cement entablaturecomprises four bas-Tree of Forgetting, the captives are said with blood in red, against a white back- relief friezes of two rows of Africans,to have been led to the Zomai Enclosure. ground. On either side are two works chained together, converging upon theThe name, translated as "a place where by the Dakpogan brothers: on the right, beach, the Atlantic in front of them. Dif-fire can never go," refers to the darkness two chained African figures followed by ferent perspectives of this same sceneof the place. The building itself is no a pith-helmeted European with a whip ornamentthe front, back, and two sideslonger extant, but the spot is now com- (not visible in Fig. 14)-all constructed of the entablature. The columns support-memorated with three contemporary of recycled metal; and to the left, a ing the arch consist of pairs of kneelingworks: a central sculpture made by sculpture in which two large abstract male and female figures repeated fromDominique Kouas, flanked by two faces are meant to convey fear, horror, the bottom to the top. One either side,bound and gagged figures made by sadness, and despair as reactions to Dominique Kouass four abstractmetalCyprien Tokoudagba. enslavement (Fig. 15). sculptures depict families (Fig. 19), andwinter 2001 ? african arts 43
  14. 14. Africans broken free of chains who wave rounding National Vodun Day, suggested be so. According to the Supreme Chief,good-bye. that the Door of No Return be renamed all Vodun manifestations can be found in The cement bas-reliefs built onto the the "Door of Return." his house because, he claims, before thesides of the circular platform are the work Encompassing centuries of transat- enslaved were put up for sale in theof Yves Apollinaire Pede. The imagery lantic slaving history from the Ouidah Ouidah auctions, they were allowed toranges from the Gelede mask that now port, the Slave Route is based on cumu- stop there for one last opportunity tosymbolizes Ouidah 92 to various spirits lative histories, yet in the way these are pray to their Vodun spirits on Africansuch as Dan-Aida Wedo, Mami Wata, and communicated through art, historical soil (interview, March 18,1995).Gu. There are also two bas-reliefs of accuracy is less important than compre- If the Abomey kings did grant thisKulito (Fig. 20), and mounted on the plat- hensive African and African Diaspora "privilege," their motives were by noform are two larger-than-life cement consciousnesses. Does it really matter means altruistic. What they most soughtstatues of Kulito (Fig. 21). The images rep- whether the slave auctions took place was foreign spiritual power (Blier 1995),resent the spirits of people of African outside de Souzas compound? Does it such as might be held by enslaved ritualdescent who died in the Middle Passage make a difference if enslaved Africans specialists. Daagbo Hounon asserts thator later in the Americas. These spirits were forced to walk around a tree either those exhibiting the traits of extraordi-have returned to the land of their ances- to make them forget their cultural iden- nary ritual specialists during their sup-tors as Kulito. tities or to give them strength for a posed last prayer were not sold at the Following the idea of "return," on transatlantic journey? The Slave Route auction block but were sent back to serveNational Vodun Day 1999, Hounongon of Ouidah, as a reinvention and a self- the kings.19Joseph Guendehou of Cotonou held a spe- creation, recognizes and mourns the Whether this story makes sense is con-cial Vodun ceremony at his house, invit- history of the slave trade, yet celebrates testable. However, considering what weing a delegation of visitors from Haiti, and praises the strength of Vodun know about the great pains the AbomeyGuadeloupe, and Martinique. During a which survives on both sides of the rulers took to make certain that no onecelebratory dancing and drumming ses- Atlantic Ocean. powerful left their domain, this schemesion, members from Haiti began to shout does not seem unlikely (Blier 1995). The"Ayibobo!" This Haitian Vodou praise fact that King Gezo worked closely withexclamation was immediately picked up Daagbo Hounons House de Souza, his Viceroy of Ouidah, addsand repeated by all of the Beninese partic- Although Daagbo Hounons house is not credibility to such a proposition. In anyipants as if it had already become part of recognized by the government as the case, it is abundantly clear that importantBenins Vodun liturgy. The head of the actual beginning of the Slave Route, nor ritual specialists did make it from theHaitian group, Dr. Henri Frank, in an ap- is it so credited by Lokossou (1994), Ouidah port to the Americas, where theypreciative response to the activities sur- some people nevertheless consider it to continue their activities.44 africanarts ? winter2001
  15. 15. Opposite page:Left:24. The VodunspiritAvlekete, paintedbyHaitian-born Edouard on Duval-Carriethewallout-side DaagboHounons house. December1995.Photo:DanaRush.Right: Viewthrough entranceto Daagbo 25. theHounons house, showinga painting Daagbo ofHounonand his late wife, by EdouardDuval-Carrie. December1995. Photo: DanaRush.This page:26. Mural Edouard by in Duval-Carrie the main ofcourtyard DaagboHounons compound. Withthe helpof his sacred turtle, DaagboHounon isable to walkon water.December1995. Photo:DanaRush. Daagbo Hounons compound is amicrocosm of Vodun art from Benin,Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil, painted byartists from those very countries whoparticipated in Ouidah 92. The SupremeChief boasts that he represents all Vodunspirits who exist and thrive on both sidesof the Atlantic. The Hounon dynasty(hou=sea, non=owner of, the one with)has been the ruling family of the vodun ofthe sea, Avlekete, since their arrival inOuidah in the mid-fifteenth century. Thisfact is recorded in the meeting room inthe inner sanctuary of Daagbo Hounonscompound, where portraits of formerSupreme Chiefs are painted on the wall(Fig. 22). Daagbo Hounon takes greatpride in the fact that Avlekete is knownas Aizan Velekete in Haiti. On the compound walls that face thestreet, paintings of Fon Vodun symbolswith blue backgrounds adjoin theirAfrican Diaspora counterparts with pinkbackgrounds (Fig. 23). For example, dif-ferent depictions of the same rainbowserpent are seen: the Haitian IwaDamballa Aida Wedo derived from theFon vodun Aida Wedo, and the Brazilian "the ultimate Vodou temple somewhere and technology, located in the middle oforixa Oxumare derived from the Yoruba in Haiti" (Duval-Carrie in Brown 1995:75). the main courtyard, is another of theorisha Oshumare. Other juxtapositions When he started painting, Duval- artists paintings, this one representingincude the Fon Gu and Haitian Ogou, Carrie knew very little about Haitian the Supreme Chief in his ancestral, vodunthe Fon Avlekete and the Haitian Aizan vodou except that the adepts serve their setting, the sea (hou). Avlekete is DaagboVelekete, and the Fon Xeviosso and the spirits by making veve, abstract drawings Hounons most prominent avatar of theCuban Chango. Vodun temple paintings in cornmeal. Wanting to render these Hou vodun (Fig. 26). In this wall painting,by Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carrie, ephemeral drawings in permanent, rec- Daagbo Hounon displays his power toBrazilian artist Jose Claudio, and Cuban ognizably anthropomorphic forms, he visit his ancestors in the sea and to walkartist Manuel Mendive adorn the inside has painted a variety of Haitian Vodou on the water in the company of his hun-and outside Daagbo Hounons house. spirits as well as African Vodun spirits. dred-year-old sacred turtle.20 The artist was commissioned to com- pose three Vodun temple murals in Brazil: Jose ClaudioThe African Diaspora Artists Daagbo Hounons compound for OuidahHaiti: Edouard Duval-Carrie 92. He painted Avlekete, the Fon spirit of The large wall outside the inner sanctu- the sea, outside, next to the wall of jux- ary, where Daagbo Hounon holds impor-Edouard Duval-Carrie is himself an inter- taposed African and African Diaspora tant Vodun meetings, is adorned withnational assemblage. Born in Haiti, he Vodun symbols (Fig. 24). Upon entering Jose Claudios mural of the religiousconsiders himself truly Haitian, though he the compound, after passing (and ac- leader on the beach in Bahia, Brazil (Fig.grew up in Puerto Rico, went to high knowledging) a Legba shrine off to the 27). On the far right, a group of musiciansschool in New York and college in right and a Xeviosso (Chango) temple to play their instruments, and on the left,Montreal, lived in Paris, and currently the left, one meets, head-on, Duval- ritual palm fronds called azan form anresides in Miami. His family has since Carries larger-than-life-size portrait of arch over the threshold which leads intoreturned to Haiti. The artist has never lost Daagbo Hounon and his late wife (Fig. Daagbo Hounons inner sanctum. Azancontact with the country of his birth. He 25). Around the corer and past a shrine are always used to mark sacred spaces:plans to move back, and wants to build to Gu, the Vodun spirit of iron, warfare, they are hung over doorways, placedwinter2001 ? africanarts 45
  16. 16. strategicallyabove or on top of shrines, mark, the double-bladed ax of the again, these international reverbera-tied to or hung between sacred trees.21 Yoruba orisha Shango, a symbol that was tions are by no means unidirectional orTheirplacementin the painting is delib- carried over to Cuba to incarnate the even multidirectional, but revolving.erate and purposeful, a contemporary oricha Chango. The predominance of red Touristsof many nationalities, especial-Brazilian artists reinterpretationof an and white, especially at the base, also ly those of African descent, are travel-ancienttransatlantic sacredmarker. indicates that the temple is a realm of ing to Benin, where they are exposed to this spirit. its contemporary arts and culture. AtCuba:Manuel Mendive In terms of religious continuity and the same time, many Beninese artists, reunion, it is noteworthy that Mendive, a now internationally recognized, areThe Xeviosso (Hebiosso)/Chango tem- Cuban santero and palero, was invited to being invited to exhibit their work allple in the compound was painted by the paint a Vodun temple in an area of Africa over the world.Cuban artist Manuel Mendive (Fig. 28). that is the source of major components of The ongoing convergence in OuidahMendivesinitiationinto the Afro-Cuban his Cuban religions. In a formal artistic of tourism, national identities, religiousreligionsof Santeriaand Palo Monte has sense, it is also interesting that among ideologies,and contemporary artisticpro-influencedmuch of his work. Mendive is other African influences in Mendives ductions is emblematic of what is hap-also a graduate of the Academia de art, colorful Beninese appliques and bas- pening elsewhere in the postcolonialBellasArtes, where he studied studio art reliefs have always been a factor. In hisand art history (Mosquera1996:237-43). more recent (post-1986) "interdiscipli- Mendives artisticstyle evolved after nary projects," the artist painted thehe traveled to Africa in 1982 and 1983. bodies of dancers and animals for per- Thispage:Instead of painting historicaland politi- formances described by Gerardo Mos- 27. Painting Brazilian by artistJose Claudiooncal allegories or anthropomorphized the walloutsideDaagboHounons innersanctu- quera as "a painting of movement and ary.The SupremeLeaderof Beninis shownondepictions of Yorubaorisharemanifested sound, a mix of painting, sculpture, the beach in Brazil.December 1995. Photo:as Afro-Cubanoricha,he began to em- dance, music, pantomime, body art, DanaRush.ploy a style in which everythingwas ani- song, ritual, spectacle, performance,mated, so that "animals,forces, plants, carnival, and procession" (1996:243). Opposite page:humans, and mountains commingle[d], Mosquera might almost be talking aboutlos[t] theirtaxonomy,mix[ed] in a sort of a Vodun ceremony. Top:28. Cuban artist, ManuelMendiveswall muralpaintedon Daagbo Hounons temple tovital continuum" (Mosquera 1995:242-44). Xeviosso(Hebiosso),called Changein the spiritThis description seems an accurate Daagbo Hounons house is an example Cuba.December1995. DanaRush.characterization his work in Daagbo of par excellence of the centuries-strongHounons compound. resonance between African and Afri- Bottom: Ouidah posterina collageof con- 29. 92 cert posters in the home of the Haitianband Mendives abstract Xeviosso temple can-diasporic religious consciousness- Boukman Eksperyans. Port-au-Prince, July Haiti,painting includes, as its identifying es. As we have seen time and time 1997.Photo:DanaRush.46 afrlcanarts . winter2001
  17. 17. :-V4Vworld, where nations are reinventing arts and associated ideologies have tion at deep cultural and spiritual levels.themselves through the rewriting of emphasized that although the particular James Clifford writes that "museums andtheir own historical narratives. The city audiences and goals of postcolonial other sites of cultural performance appearrewrites its history in the form of an open- African art may have changed, its con- not as centers or destinations but rather asair museum. Since Ouidah 92, its public temporary Vodun arts continue to func- contact zones traversed by people and things" (Clifford 1997:8). Such is the place called Ouidah. e? IPrr r 1W - Vodun has spanned vast expanses of time and space-ever changing, ever ,#A changeable, yet informed by the resilience i6~~,t7~ae~r ~~~i;L~~C~~3r~~. k :r and stability of a strong faith. The art- works commissioned for the Ouidah fes- tival have transcended that occasion to become a testament to the transformative effects of centuries of transatlantic inter- actions. Contemporary Vodun art is more than a simple echoing of changing histor- ical, political, and religious climates; it is a consciousness which mediates and articu- lates experiences of the past, and which anticipates a future. I was reminded of the ongoing in- ternational impact of Ouidah 92 while visiting the house of the Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in July 1997. In a hallway, I noticed a wall collage of some of the bands posters for their international concerts. One from Ouidah 92 jumped out at me (Fig. 29). On the poster, the now famous Gelede mask is superimposed upon a world globe, its wings stretching across west Africa into the Atlantic Ocean. C Notes, page 94winter2001 - africanarts 47
  18. 18. layers of the paintings. Her research intoMarshalls iconography and materials and her notes McNaughton, Patrick R. 1979a. SecretSculpturesof Komo: and Powerin Bamana(Bambara) InitiationAssociations. Art Philadelphia:analysis of his political and social engagement COLLEYN & FARRELL:Notes, from page 31 Institute for the Study of Human Issues.are carefully balanced with references to his McNaughton, Patrick R. 1979b. "Bamana Blacksmiths," African Arts 12, 2:65-71, 92.sophisticated formal language. The traditional 1. The term "Bambara"is also the French name for a local dialect McNaughton, Patrick R. 1988. TheMandeBlacksmiths: Knowledge, of Mandinka, the language of the people from "Mande," which Powerand Art in WestAfrica.Bloomington: Indiana Universitychronological presentation is well justified by was widespread in the Empire of Mali between the thirteenth Press.the historical content of the narratives and the and sixteenth centuries. Since Malis independence, Bamana 2 Raffenel,Anne, 1856.Nouveauvoyageaupaysdesnegres, vols. Paris.sense of stylistic progression. (bdmana kdn)has become the nations vernacular language. Tauxier,Louis. 1927.Lareligionbambara. Paris:LibrairieOrientaliste. 2. McNaughton (1979a) and Bazin (1985) use this expression to Tauxier,Louis. 1942.Histoire Bambara. des Paris:LibrairieOrientaliste. Fragments of the conversation between designate these objects which embody the powers of deities. Trimingham, J.S. 1962. History of Islam in West Africa. LondonJaffa and Marshall are interspersed throughout 3. The Minianka, too, had their name imposed by the French and New York: Oxford University Press.the color plates and presented in thematic administration, but they call themselves Bamana. In Mali, Zahan, Dominique. 1960. Societesinitiationde Bambara, Ntomo, le Senufo who are not Muslim and are affiliated with the jow rather le Komo.The Hague: Mouton.sequences. Their candid exchange about impor- than the Pororeligious complex consider themselves Bamana. Zahan, Dominique. 1974. The Bambara.Leiden: E. J. Brill.tant themes in Marshalls work-the legacy of 4. Because of their capacty to give birth, women are suspected of having secret knowledge, and thus are feared. According tothe Civil Rights movements, social and racial Bamana legends and myth, women originally owned all boliw, but RUSH: Notes, from page 47violence, the use of metaphors and allegories in they were unable to maintain and control them. A principal func- This article was acceptedforpublication in March 2001. tion of male initiation societies is to protect members againstthe paintings-is an interesting counterpart to witchcraft, an area where women are thought to excel. When one The data presented here is based on predissertation researchTerrie Sultans essay. It clarifies Marshalls phi- speaks of an individual who has betrayed the secrecy of the cult, conducted in Benin in 1993, supported by the Social Science one says that "he has given himself (as prey) to the women." Research Council; and on dissertation research conducted inlosophy about art as product, process, and phi- Allusions are made to female initiation societies, the most famous Benin from 1994-1996, supported by Fulbright IIE and variouslosophy and further explores the references to being the Gwanor Nyagwan (hot eye) that existed within the Jo. University of Iowa fellowships, with special support fromAmerican history. Past events are never evoked 5. In some parts of the Bamana area, the Ntomo and the Kore PASALA (Project for the Advanced Study of Art and Life in do not exist. They have been replaced by the Jo society, a glob- Africa). Some follow-up work was carried out from Decemberwith nostalgia, but reveal the tension with the al structure that incorporates other jow such as Ci-wara and 1998 to March 1999, supported by a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoralpresent, a dynamic integral to the paintings. Namakorobut excludes the Komo.Between 1950 and 1970, the Fellowship. Thanks to Prita Meier, Allen F. Roberts, Mary Jo society was located in a large area bounded on the east by Nooter Roberts, and the AfricanArts reviewers for thoughtfulHistory is posited as a shifting paradigm, a per- the Bagoe River, on the south by the city of Odienne in Ivory comments. Special thanks to Eileen Moyer, Alissa Rossman, andspective that allows the artist to constantly Coast, on the north by the town of Dioila, and on the west by Jay Sosa for ongoing support and encouragement. the Baould River. Today a strong concentration of villages still 1. This idea of an ever-changing aesthetic system was pursuedrevise his own approach to art making. The his- practices Jo initiation in the Baninko region south of Dioila. in an ACASA-sponsored panel I chaired for the 89th Annualtory of art, for example, is seen as a collection of 6. Identifying the institutions that compose the jow is not a College Art Association: "The Unfinished Aesthetic in Africanideas and concepts from which one is free to straightforward process. Much of the literature excludes and African Diaspora Arts," held in Chicago, March 2, 2001. Ntomo and Kore,apparently because they do not sacrifice to a 2. The festival was supposed to have been held at the end of 1992borrow and which can be transformed. boliw (Arnoldi 1995:192; McNaughton 1979a:5). but was postponed. Because all of the publicity and other mate- Marshalls "Notes on Career and Work" 7. The koredugaw form a special class by themselves. They rials had already been printed with "Ouidah 92," the name stuck. often belong to groups distinct from the Kore. These ritual 3. In 1991 Soglo became president of the first freely elected demo-mixes biographical information with analytical buffoons participate in public events and imitate hunters and cratic government in more than twenty years. He succeededstatements, and reviews some of his most warriors with pretend guns and wooden horses. As powerful Mathieu Kerekou, who, during his presidency (1974-1991) of people, the latter are expected to tolerate the mockery. what was then called the Peoples Republic of Benin, had unsuc-important series of works: The GardenProject, 8. Boliw, with their strange forms, attracted the attention of cessfully attempted to restructurethe government, economy, andMementos, The Lost Boys. Recollections of the Western modem artists in the 1930s; a photo of a boli was society along Marxist-Leninistlines. Kerekou defeated Soglo inartists early childhood highlight his extraordi- included in the important avant-garde journal Minotaure.The the 1996 election. aesthetic value of these objects, currently so fascinating to 4. See Herskovits (1938) for the important role of the Abomeynary focus and dedication during his formative artists, psychologists and anthropologists, has long been kings in precolonial artistic patronage. denied. Boliw have rarely been exhibited, as their ritual power 5. 1 was denied permission to photograph this mask. The imageyears. Marshall also talks about Charles White is deemed too secret to allow their public display. is known to have been mass-produced on a calendar (ten toand the older artists impact in terms of twenty years ago), but I have not yet located a copy.Marshalls artistic choices, his classical train- Referencescited 6. The cosest English translation of the Fon word aze is "witch- Amoldi, Mary Jo. 2001. "The Sogow: Imagining a Moral Uni- craft."An azeton,"the one with aze,"or a "witch,"is a person whoing, and his emphasis on content-based work. verse Through Sogo bo Masquerades," in Bamana:The Art of can change into a bird (usually an owl) during his or her sleep Particularly interesting is Marshalls ac- Existencein Mali, ed. Jean-Paul Colleyn, pp. 77-93. New York, and cause great harm to others. To say that "someone has a bird"count of how he came to create his archetypal Zurich, and Ghent: Museum for African Art, Museum Riet- is to call that person an azeton. Thus the human figure with berg, and Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon. angels wings on the Gelede mask is regarded as a person in theimage of a black person, a highly stylized Amoldi, Mary Jo. 1995. Playing with Time:Art and Performance in process of transforming from a bird into a human, or vice-versa. CentralMali. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. 7. The Beninese artists discussed in this article have participat-image that recurs in works from different Bazin, Jean. 1985. "A chacun son Bambara," in Au cour lethnie: ed in intemational exhibitions which are highlighted in a vol-periods but appeared first in a 1980 self-por- Ethnies, tribalismeet etat en Afrique,eds. J.-L. Amselle and E. ume of Revue Noire: Contemporary African Art (1995) dedicatedtrait, A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His MBokolo. Paris: Decouverte. solely to Beninese artists. They are also included in the book Bravmann, Rene A. 1983. African Islam. Washington, DC, and Art Contemporary of Africa (Magnin 1996).Former Self. Its sources are Ellisons Invisible London: Smithsonian Institution Press and Ethnographica. 8. Recycling is not a new idea in Africa. See Roberts 1992; CemyMan, vaudevillian black-faced characters, and Bravmann, Rene A. 1995. "Islamic Spirits and African Artistry & Seriff 1996. in Trans-Saharan Perspective," in Islamic Art and Culture in 9. The Dakpogan brothers and Biokou were initially impressed,a 1961 horror film, Mr. Sardonicus,from which Sub-SaharanAfrica, eds. Karin Adahl and Berit Sahlstrom. however, by the recycled artworks of Romuald Hazoume, whothe artist borrowed the large toothy grin. In Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell International. has come to be known in the international market. Hazoume is Bravmann, Rene A. 2001. "Islamic Ritual and Practice in Bamana best known for his masquesbidon,which he makes out of plasticregard to recent polemics about the reclama- Segou-The 19th Century Citadel of Paganism, " in Bamana: jugs and other recycled objects (see Magnin 1996:132-33).tion and use of stereotypical images of African The Art of Existencein Mali, edited by Jean-Paul Colleyn, pp. 10. There are also striking similarities between this renderingAmericans, particularly in the work of the 35-43. New York, Zurich, and Ghent: Museum for African of Legba and an Exu shrine in Salvador, Brazil, illustrated in Art, Museum Rietberg, and Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon. Galembo (1993:134);that Exu image is also homed and phallic.artists Kara Walker and Michael Ray Charles, Brink, James T. 1981. "Antelope Headdress (Chi Wara),"in For 11. "Fa" (from the Yoruba "Ifa")expresses at least two differentMarshall here demonstrates the process of Spirits and Kings: African Artfrom the Paul and Ruth Tishman ideas in Fon. Its literal meaning, "coolness," in turn conveys Collection,ed. Susan Vogel, pp. 24-25. New York:The Metro- ideas of mildness, softness, gentleness, or peacefulness and equi-multiple encoding inherent in identity and politan Museum of Art. librium. Du comes from the Yorubaodu, the innumerable versesthus warns us implicitly against any form of Conrad, David C. 2001. "Pilgrim Fajigi and Basiw from Mecca: associated with the 256 possible combinations resulting fromessentialism. Islam and TraditionalReligion in the FormerFrenchSudan," in throwing 16 cowries or an 8-seeded divination chain. Bamana: Art of Existencein Mali, ed. Jean-PaulColleyn, pp. The 12. It is worth noting that Robert Farris Thompson illustrates a As Kerry James Marshall claims his place 25-33. New York,Zurich, and Ghent: Museum for African Art, cement "EshuBoi"with cowries insertedinto his chest.This figure,in the history of art, he embraces both visual Museum Rietberg,and Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon. in the Museu de Policiain Rio de Janeiro,Brazil,was probablymade Dieterlen, Germaine. 1957. "The Mande Creation Myth," Africa before 1941.Thompson notes that in "DahomeanYorubaland thereand narrative complexity and deft craftsman- 27, 2:124-39. are freestandingimages for Elegba with mystic signs of the divina-ship as keys to uncovering truths about the Ezra, Kate. 1983. "FigureSculpture of the Bamana of Mali." Ph.D. tion deity marked in inserted cowries on the chest of the image,"human experience. The book allows the read- dissertation, Northwestern University. which he compares to the cement Rio Elegba (1983:26, 13).pl. Ezra, Kate. 1986. A Human Idealin AfricanArt: BamanaFigurative 13. "Syncretism"is a term used commonly in Benin. As a prac-er to participate in his search and offers a Sculpture.Washington, DC: National Museum of African Art, tice, it is generally frowned upon and resolutely denied by mostvision of lastingness and perseverance. Besides Smithsonian Institution Press. devout Catholics and Muslims. Vodun practitioners, however, Frank, Barbara E. 1994. "More Than Wives and Mothers: The are very open to syncretism, and daim that Beninese Catholicsbeing attractive to those who share the artists Artistry of Mande Potters," African Arts 27, 4:26-37, 93-94. and Muslims blend their foreign faiths with Vodun. For example,passion for art making and sensual intellectu- Frank, BarbaraE. 2001. "More Than Objects:Bamana Artistry in Catholics claim that the veneration of dead twins (hohovi)is not Iron, Wood, Clay, Leather and Cloth," in Bamana: Art of Ex- The Vodun worship, and they often maintain twin shrines in theiralism, Kerry James Marshall is valuable to istence in Mali, ed. Jean-Paul Colleyn, pp. 45-51. New York, homes. Vodun Priest Joseph Guendehou receives guests from allreaders who are engaged in understanding Zurich, and Ghent: Museum for African Art, Museum Riet- over west Africa and from overseas to attend his "Vodun Mass"historical constructs and who search for a berg, and Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon. every Sunday in Cotonou. Goldwater, Robert J. 1960. BambaraSculpturefrom the Western 14. There are stories of people who had cakati so badly that theysense of proportion-and beauty-in the Sudan. New York:Museum of Primitive Art. could not be cured through traditional methods. In one case inmidst of their chaos. O Imperato, Pascal J. 1977. AfricanFolkMedicinePracticesand Beliefs particular,it is caimed that a man went to a Westernhospital, and of the Bambara OtherPeoples.Baltimore:York Press. and the surgeon found broken glass, razor blades, and nails inside his94 afrlcanarts ? winter2001

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