"Vèvè in the Courtyard"
Guarding the Gates
Artist: Evens Florestal
The production of vèvè is a tradition of African origin. In Dahomey, an ancient kingdom in the region that is now southern Benin, palm oil was used to draw certain geometrical figures, such as rectangles and squares, on the ground. The practice of drawing ritual emblems on the ground is also attested in Central Africa, and the practice of producing vèvè in Haiti may owe its origin to a western African and Central African cultural convergence. Some scholars have also pointed to the existence of a similar practice among the Taino and Arawak peoples, with whom Africans came into contact in Haiti.
The references are from Wikipedia.org
Vèvè can be quite elaborate or simple. They are drawn on the earthen floor of the peristyle (temple), using cornmeal or ashes, and their realization, usually by an oungan (priest) or manbo (priestess), requires a great deal of expertise. Vèvè are central to Vodou rituals because they are meant to compel the descending or ascending of the spiritual energy associated with a particular lwa.
"Vèvè in the courtyard" seeks to shed light on the multifaceted aspects of Vodou and its central role in the cultural fabric of Haiti. The exhibition showcases a collection of mesmerizing paintings by renowned artist Evens Florestal, who skillfully weaves together his artistic prowess, profound understanding of Vodou, and personal experiences as a Haitian immigrant living in New York.
As visitors step into the exhibition space, they are immediately transported into a realm where vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and spiritual symbolism come alive. The gates are adorned with large-scale paintings, each meticulously crafted to capture the essence of specific veves. Florestal's mastery of brushwork and attention to detail allow the veves to exude energy and invoke a sense of connection with the divine.
Papa Legba is a lwa in Haitian Vodou, Winti and Louisiana Voodoo, who serves as the intermediary between God and humanity. He stands at a spiritual crossroads and gives (or denies) permission to speak with the spirits of Guineé, and is believed to speak all human languages.
In Haiti, he is the great elocutioner. Legba facilitates communication, speech, and understanding. He is commonly associated with dogs. Papa Legba is invoked at the beginning of every ceremony. Papa Legba has his origins in the historic West African kingdom of Dahomey, located within present-day Benin.
Sobo ak Bade
Sobo is a spirit or loa in Haitian Vodou. He is the loa of thunder and is always depicted and served with his inseparable companion/brother Bade, who is the loa of wind. Together they are represented by the Catholic image of Saints Cosmas and Damian. He is probably West African in origin and a flaming ram is his symbol
Tambou Ogou, Mouchwa Dambalah ak Ezuli
In Haitian Vodou Ogun is known as Ogou and consists of an array of manifestations; most carry the aspect of iron smithing and tools from the Yoruba tradition. The Ogou guard the badji, the sacred altar of the Vodou temple. He carries an iron saber and wears a red sash.
Ogou is also the god of pioneering, intelligence, justice, medicine, and political power; these are associated with the symbol of the tool that can "advance humans' mastery over the environment. Ogou Feray is the god of war. Other manifestations of Ogou are Ogou Badagri, Ogou Balenjo, Ogou Batala, and Ogou Je Wouj. Ezili Dantor is the female counterpart to Ogou
Each lwa has its own emblem, and vèvè are therefore numerous and varied. The central elements are a heart, for Èzili Freda, the lwa of femininity and love; two snakes, for the cosmic snakes Danbala Wèdo and his wife Ayida Wèdo; a boat, for Agwe, the lwa of the sea; a cutlass (sabre), for Ogou, the lwa of war; and a cross, for Papa Legba, the guardian of crossroads.
Vèvè are always traced near the potomitan, the central pillar of the peristyle, the magical axis through which the lwa are believed to come into the world of the living. In fact, vèvè are a material representation of the lwa and are considered magic points. It is for this reason that food offerings and animals sacrificed to a particular lwa are placed on the lwa’s vèvè. When a Vodou service is performed for the feeding of several lwa at the same time, the vèvè drawn will include the ritual emblems of all the lwa involved in the ritual.
As one might expect, the final vèvè may be quite complex and cover a large area of the peristyle. At the beginning of a Vodou ceremony, vèvè will be consecrated with the sprinkling of dried foodstuffs; a libation (offered three times) of rum, water, or some other appropriate drink; and the lighting of a white candle.
Damballa, also spelled Damballah, Dambala, Dambalah, among other variations (Haitian Creole: Danbala), is one of the most important of all loa, spirits in Haitian Voodoo and other African diaspora religious traditions such as Obeah. He is traditionally portrayed as a great white or black serpent, originating in the city of Wedo (Whydah or Ouidah) in modern-day Benin. Damballa is said to be the Sky Father and the primordial creator of all life, or the first thing created by Gran Met.
In others, being the first thing created by God, creation was undertaken through him. By shedding the serpent skin, Damballa created all the waters on the earth. As a serpent, he moves between land and water, generating life, and through the earth, uniting the land with the waters below.
Baron Samedi is usually depicted with a top hat, black tail coat, dark glasses, and cotton plugs in the nostrils, as if to resemble a corpse dressed and prepared for burial in the Haitian style. He is frequently depicted as a skeleton (but sometimes as a black man that merely has his face painted as a skull), and speaks in a nasal voice. The former President-for-Life of Haiti, François Duvalier, known as Papa Doc, modeled his cult of personality on Baron Samedi; he was often seen speaking in a deep nasal tone and wearing dark glasses
Ogou Feray is syncretized with St. James the Greater (St. Jacques Majeur) in the Vodou tradition. He is a flower spirit and he guides Vodou followers against their enemies. He is symbolically covered in iron and may not be harmed by his enemies. As in Africa, his symbol is a piece of iron, a machete, or a knife. As in Africa, Ogou is revered among blacksmiths, many of whom are of Yoruba origin. He is also noted to like women and alcohol.
In Vodou ceremonies followers of Ogou wear a red shirt, pants, and scarf. A follower of Ogou in a possession-trance is offered Haitian white rum during the ceremony. In some ceremonies rum is burned in a container to allow Ogou to "wash" the hands of the followers.
Agaou di se ase
In Haitian Vodou, the lwa serve as intermediaries between humanity and Bondye, a transcendent creator divinity. Vodouists believe that over a thousand lwa exist, the names of at least 232 of which are recorded. Each lwa has its own personality and is associated with specific colors and objects. Many of them are equated with specific Roman Catholic saints on the basis of similar characteristics or shared symbols.
The lwa are divided into different groups, known as nanchon (nations), the most notable of which are the Petwo and the Rada. According to Vodou belief, the lwa communicate with humans through dreams and divination, and in turn are given offerings, including sacrificed animals. Vodou teaches that during ceremonies, the lwa possess specific practitioners, who during the possession are considered the chwal (horse) of the lwa. Through possessing an individual, Vodouists believe, the lwa can communicate with other humans, offering advice, admonishment, or healing.
Maman Brigitte (English: Mother Brigitte) sometimes also written as Manman Brigitte and also known by Gran Brigitte, Grann Brigitte, Manman, Manman Brigit, and Maman Brijit is a death loa (or lwa) and the consort of Baron Samedi in Haitian Vodou. She drinks rum infused with hot peppers and is symbolized by a black rooster. Maman Brigitte protects graves in Haitian cemeteries that are marked by the cross of Baron Samedi. Graves that are protected by Brigitte are marked by a mound of stones. In Vodou practice, the first burials serve as offerings to either Baron Samedi or Maman Brigitte depending on the gender of the person being laid to rest.
If the deceased person is male then the grave is dedicated to Baron Samedi; if the deceased person is female then the grave is dedicated to Maman Brigitte.
The Erzulie is a family of loa that are often associated with water (fluidity), femininity, and feminine bodies. They are one of the only group of spirits directly tied to these characteristics and those who become possessed (through spirit possession) often are women or Masisi (effeminate and or homosexual men)
Erzulie Fréda Dahomey, the Rada aspect of Erzulie, is the Haitian African spirit of love, beauty, jewelry, dancing, luxury, and flowers. She wears three wedding rings, one for each husband - Damballa, Agwe and Ogoun. Her symbol is a heart, her colors are pink, blue, white and gold, and her favorite sacrifices include jewelry, perfume, sweet cakes and liqueurs.
Erzulie Dantòr is the Queen of the Petro nation and the mother of "Ti Jean Petro", she is often depicted as a fearsome black woman, protectively holding "Ti Jean Petro" in her arms. She is a particularly fierce protector of women, children and the neglects of society. She is the lwa pwen, in contrast with Èrzuli Freda who will bless you with material riches, Èrzulie Dantòr will give you the Spiritual Knowledge needed to navigate through this material reality.