Archive for Haiti

A review of CNN’s “Believer” Vodou episode

Posted in Haiti, Religion, Vodou, Voodoo with tags , , , , , on April 2, 2017 by cheshirecatman

Mambo Sallie Anne Glassman has published a detailed review of the recent Vodou episode of CNN’s “Believer” TV series.

Ayiti Foto Konbit

Posted in Haiti, Uncategorized with tags , on November 23, 2015 by cheshirecatman

Invisible Mirrors

I was made aware of this project to create a refreshingly positive collection of images of Haiti made by young Haitians via a recent article by Alexandra Fuller on the National Geographic website:  ‘Showing Haiti on its Own Terms‘. The article itself gives a very clear “nutshell” overview Haitian history that is unusually free of outrage, sentimentalism or sensationalism. And many of the images are great too!


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Voodoo practitioners mourn the death of leader Max Beauvoir

Posted in Haiti, Vodou, Voodoo with tags , , , on September 16, 2015 by cheshirecatman

“Max Gesner Beauvoir, the “Ati” or supreme leader of voodoo, Haiti’s traditional Afro-Caribbean religion, died Saturday afternoon, aged 79.”
Video posted on the Daily Mail site

The World Of Vodou: Exhibit Brings To Life A Highly-Misunderstood Religion

Posted in Haiti, Vodou with tags , , , , on November 13, 2014 by cheshirecatman
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I wish I could see this exhibit; it looks wonderful.

“An Outsider at the Crossroads” article by Alley Valkyrie at Wild Hunt

Posted in Ghede, Ghosts, Life Lessons, lwas, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2014 by cheshirecatman

I highly recommend this article by Alley Valkyrie on The Wild Hunt site. It’s a fascinating account of a white artist moving into a neighborhood heavily populated by Caribbean people as well as a commentary on race relations, privilege and gentrification. Vodou also included.

An Outsider at the Crossroads

Medical Volunteering this August in Cap Hatien, Haiti

Posted in Haiti with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2014 by cheshirecatman

Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity (VOSH) is an optometric organization in Pennsylvania that is dedicated to eradicating eye disease in Haiti by 2020. They have asked Mambo Vye Zo Komande LaMenfo of Sosyete Du Marche to travel to Haiti with them this August to serve as ambassador and translator.

VOSH PA routinely travels on 4 missions to northern Haiti in the Cap Haitien and Milot area each year. They refer surgical and advanced treatment patients to Hospital Sacré Couer in Milot,  and spearheaded a new clinic which opened in May of 2013 called  Vision Plus Clinique. With so much care needed in Haiti, they are starting to expand into the southern part of Haiti. Later this year, they will be going to Jacmel to begin the work of setting up a clinic there to help people with eye problems and conditions.

Volunteers are expected to pay their own way, which means airfare, hotel and food, as well as part of the in-country transportation costs. Any money collected that is above and beyond her immediate expenses will be donated to VOSH for eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicines and surgical supplies.

You can read more about this mission on Mambo’s blog. If you would like to donate, check out her GoFundMe campaign. There are some nice perks being offered, including a CD of Haitian music, a copy of her book, a reading and a Lave Tet.

An excellent blog post on white saviorism

Posted in Haiti with tags , , , , , , on February 6, 2014 by cheshirecatman

I stumbled across this excellent blog post by Alice Backer on white savior complex. A good read for all non-Haitian Vodou folks and other people practicing faiths outside of their culture.

Beautiful images from Haiti

Posted in Haiti, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , on October 9, 2013 by cheshirecatman

Someone on Facebook posted a link to this page, and I thought the images were very beautiful. Enjoy!

Voodoo alive and well by Marie Arago

More thoughts on cultural appropriation, humility and Vodou

Posted in Haiti, Life Lessons, lwas, Religion, Vodou with tags , , , , , , on June 25, 2013 by cheshirecatman

I doubt that anyone not born or at least raised in Haiti from a young age can ever understand Vodou in its full depth; the development of Haitian Vodou is so rooted in the history and culture of that country. Those of us adopting the religion can learn as much as we can, but some nuances will be lost on us due to differences in language, concepts and environment. We will never be the ‘experts’ in the way that someone who has always lived in the tradition is.

I am not saying that outsiders cannot be called by the lwa. If I believed that, then this blog would not exist. But I do see the topic of cultural appropriation brought up a lot in the online places where I lurk. This is mostly a good thing, as all of us who are not Haitian need to keep this in mind as we learn. But cultural appropriation is a tricky beast, and can be aided and abetted (and sometimes with good intentions) by the same people who are trying to avoid it.

To some extent, appropriation began the moment Vodou gained some popularity outside of Haiti. Outsiders became initiated, and a handful became Vodou’s mouthpiece for the outside world as more outsiders sought research materials that were easily accessible to them in the form of books and websites in languages other than Kreyol. Vodou is a beautiful faith and way of life; it is not surprising that it would attract outsiders once the stereotypes were pushed aside.

And this is where some of the appropriation occurred, in spite of the best intentions. Non-Haitians became prominent in this movement, not that this was undeserved or that hard work wasn’t involved. The problem is that the Non-Haitians became better known than the Haitians who taught them, with very few exceptions. The non-Haitians often do their best to connect newcomers to the original sources, but this has limited success. This is not dissimilar to what happened when blues music became popular among white musicians in the US and the UK. It morphed into rock and roll, which owes its existence to blues but is not blues in its original form. Nothing necessarily wrong with that except that the rock musicians became far more rich and famous than the blues musicians who inspired them, in spite of bands like the Stones making efforts to promote their blues idols. Popular media seems to have a life of its own sometimes. So I can’t blame those Haitians who express concern about foreigners adopting Vodou.

As outsiders, we should approach Vodou with a humble and respectful attitude; we begin as visitors and guests in this world whether we like it or not. Few things scream “appropriation” as loudly as people who initiate into a spiritual tradition not native to them, and then immediately present themselves as experts on the topic. Granted, they may have a good deal of knowledge about the tradition, but it is not going to be at the same level as someone born into the tradition. So ego needs to be placed aside, as they are akin to the graduate student who, while qualified to teach undergrads, is still not a full professor.

I also seriously have issues with those of European descent who study or initiate into a path and then set themselves up as the Billy Jack/Lt. John Dunbar/Jake Sully of said path (aka great white savior complex, which seems to be a bit more prevalent among males than females from what I have observed). I am not sure why they have a need to do this. In some cases it may be a combination of ego and a sense of entitlement (conscious or unconscious); in other cases it may be overcompensating for being a member of a privileged group (aka white guilt). Or perhaps they are simply the outsider attempting to gain the approval of the insiders by saying/doing what they think the insiders want them to say or do. A few of them seem to delight in publicly humiliating others, usually other non-Haitians whom they believe are more guilty of appropriation than they are, in spite of the white savior posturing, which is a particularly insidious form of appropriation that can sneak up on a person.

What can we do to mitigate appropriation? We need to locate reliable sources of information and follow regleman as accurately as we can. We can learn some Kreyol. We can follow the examples given to us by Haitian clergy when possible, and defer the spotlight to them as much as we can. We need to hear their voices more often.

There are a number of good mambos and houngans out there to learn from. There are also some very good groups and pages on Facebook run by Haitian people (although be forewarned that the crusaders may be there as well). Whatever happens, don’t give up. If you are diligent and meant to be on this path, the lwa will help you find your way.

Some recommended resources:

Sosyete La Deesse De La Mer Vodou Temple Facebook page

Sosyete l’Afrique Ginen Facebook page

Remembrance: Roots, Rituals, and Reverence in Vodou by Jerry M. Gilles and Yvrose S. Gille.

Relief: The Harsh Truth about International Aid

Posted in Haiti, Vodou with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2013 by cheshirecatman

My friend Sandra Whiteley has a new film project in the works. Sandra is the director of Real Voodoo, which I reviewed previously. The new film, “Relief: The Harsh Truth about International Aid,” is a labor of love, as well as an important human rights project. Unlike “Real Voodoo,” this film is not backed by a studio. Sandra is producing this on her own, and seeking public support. Even a small contribution of $1 would be appreciated. $25 will get you a copy of the completed film.

The film will be made in Haiti and employ Haitian people to work on location.

As Vodouisants, we have a responsibility to give back to the country that birthed our faith. If you can’t contribute now, please spread the word.

Here is the description from the website:

Short Summary

I am a Canadian documentary filmmaker who first went to Haiti to follow a mobile medical mission. I was shocked by what I discovered. After that trip I made a human rights documentary entitled “Real Voodoo”. But for me that was not enough. I have seen first hand the failure of International AId as have many high profile authors and journalists. “Relief” will take my stories and those of other writers to expose the truth about International Aid. Relief will use Haiti as a backdrop but make no mistake the problem of aid is global.

I have spent the last 13 years working for the same company, I am now for the first time striking out on my own so I can tell the real story without restraints. I am not financially in the position to make the film that is why I need your help. Let us all use our voice to make a change.

What We Need & What You Get

We need $250,000 to make this film. The money covers the cost of the crew, the travel  the equipment and post production. We will be hiring Haitians to work on location with us to make certain that our film does not exploit the country but brings work and commerce to Haiti.

If you become a funder you will have the unique satisfaction that you may have changed the way people look at developing nations and the powers that try to control them.

The Impact

If you become a funder you will have the unique satisfaction that you may have changed the way people look at developing nations and the powers that try to control them.

My film “Real Voodoo” played in film festivals around the world and seriously impacted people’s views on a much maligned religion. During the Q & A’s following the screenings I heard so many people say “I just did not know that” I had one NGO commit to educating their workers on respecting cultural and spiritual beliefs. We can change the world and I want to do it, one film at a time. ANd you can help be a part of that change.

Other Ways You Can Help

If you cannot contribute but you belive this project to be worthwhile then share this with those who are in a position to help. Thank you so much

Sandra Whiteley, Director