Never described or recognized before, fantastic images of vodou spirits created by two haitian artists
Pierrot Barra and his wife Marie Cassaise
are the most astonishing artists that the author of this
fascinating book has encountered in more than a decade of
researching Vodou in Haiti. He discovered them deep in
the ramshackle Iron Market of downtown Port-au-Prince
where they make and sell what he considers to be the most
original Vodou art in the world.
In the glitter and bustle of the market
Barra and Cassaise discern the lurking forms of
divinities they serve as both priests and artists. From
rubber dolls, sunglasses, holy cards, barbecue forks,
goats' horns, speedometers, rosaries, junk jewelry,
compact mirrors, Christmas ornaments, crucifixes,
sequins, and velour they assemble fantastic sculptures
that portray the fiery and potent gods of Haiti.
Inspired through dreams sent by his divine
mentor Ogou - generalissimo of the Vodou pantheon -
Pierrot tears apart these random commodities and brings
them back to new life with pop-it beads and tinselcord.
Displaying the power of a magician, he transforms heaps
of rubble into glamorous repositories for the capricious
and demanding gods who rule his life and guide his work.
This volume focuses on how Barra and
Cassaise redefine ancient African-American traditions of
sacred art, even as they push those traditions in
directions the author views as "postmodern" or
"outsider art." The author warns, however, that
no matter how their appreciators may choose to label
their art, Pierrot Barra and Marie Cassaise remain deeply
Haitian and profoundly Vodou. Their sculptures capture
the cultural history of a country sustained by distant
memories of Africa, haunted by the imagery of Catholic
saints and Masonic regalia, and bewitched by imported
Hollywood kitsch. For them, lithographs of the Virgin
Mary nestle easily with plastic figurines of Bugs Bunny.
Yet even within a tradition open to these sorts of
commercial pentecosts, the liberties taken by the artists
J. Cosentino is chair of the folklore program at UCLA and
editor of African Arts magazine.
72 pages, 48 full-color photographs