Diary

Two Worlds

13 October 2006 | Diary

To Saint Mungo’s Museum to witness Les Stone‘s new exhibition of photojournalism.

The subject: Vodou!*

*I’m assured by my expert flatmate that ‘Vodou’ (as opposed to ‘voodoo’) is the correct spelling.

Presented are photographs of Mambos, Houngans and other practitioners of Vodou engaged in their ecstatic practices and rituals. I think my favourite one was a picture of a guy apparently experiencing the spirits by immersing himself in mud with only his face and a cigarette above the surface. It reminded me of Glastonbury.

More than anything though, Stone’s exhibition functions as a thematic and contrasting sequel to James Edward Bates’ Ku Klux Klan exhibition which showed here last season and which I wrote a little bit about here.

A little word association for each exhibit:

KKK Voodoo
White
Exclusive
Repressive
Domestic
Reactionary
Fearful
Selfish
Veiled with Christianity
Anti-Intellectual
Black
Inclusive
Expressive
Universal
Creative
Ecstatic
Embracing
Selfless
Veiled with Christianity
Anti-Intellectual

So many differences yet a few similarities. I’ve declared that both each of these subcultures involve an anti-intellectual element yet both do so in a dramatically different fashion. The guys in the Klan are idiots: their actions are the result of a congealing and senseless ideology passed down through the ages, from illiterate generation to illiterate generation. The Vudou guys, on the other hand, give up their intellectual selves deliberately in order to find release from it. They become ecstatic and allow themselves to become possessed by the rhythm of drums, the ecstasy of dance and, most importantly, the essence of the loas (ancestral spirits).

The beliefs of both groups have become intertwined with Christianity: the Klan’s as a way of justifying their beliefs (“God tells us to be this way; God tells us we’re righteous”); the Vodou practitioners’ as a way of allowing for its survival. According to Wikipedia: “A common saying is that Haiti is 80% Roman Catholic, 20% Protestant, and 100% Vodou”. Many of the Vodou Loas have Catholic counterparts. I’m told that my favourite loa, the cigar-smoking Papa Legba, is a Haitian counterpart of Saint Peter.

Go and take a look, Glasgow. On the other hand, check out a selection of the photographs here.



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