New publication ZADOKELI. EFO SELA x MAWULI ADZEI x ELIKPLIM AKORLI (ed. by G. Edzordzi Agbozo and Niklas Wolf) available open access https://zenodo.org/record/7998232 (DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7998232)
The word “zadokeli” in Ewe, means “eclipse of the sun”. During the global pandemic in 2020, 6 eclipses occurred within the year including 4 lunar eclipses across the world, with one total and one annular solar eclipse in addition. The first eclipse of 2020 occurred between 10th and 11th January, foreshadowing a dark year ahead. In the Ewe worldview, an eclipse, whether solar or lunar, is of deep spiritual significance. Thus, in the event of an eclipse, traditional priests, priestesses and diviners seek answers and offer prayers. These holders of esoteric knowledge engage with the divinities to ‘restore’ normal cosmic order through propitiation rites. Adjei’s role here is as an artist drawing links between the 2020 eclipse and the rise in anti-Black violence and injustice, and positions him among the far-seeing priests and diviners who seek answers in an effort to ‘restore’ both cosmic and social order. Thus, through his new collection of paintings, Sela Adjei visually expands the discussion of analogizing the Black predicament with a recurring image of a gloomy eclipse; Zadokeli is the same theme that animates Mawuli Adzei’s new poetry anthology bearing the same title. The book was edited by G. Edzordzi Agbozo, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA) and Niklas Wolf, M.A. (University of Zurich). The contributing scholars include: Asana Greenstreet, M.A. (Royal College of Art), Matthew Francis Rarey, Ph.D. (Oberlin, Ohio, USA), Elikplim Akorli, M.Phil, Damawa L. Jallah, Alan Dunyo Avorgbedor, Ph.D. (McGill University’s Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture), kwabena agyare yeboah (University of California, Santa Barbara), Kate Wand, MFA, Nii Kotei Nikoi, Ph.D. (College of Wooster, Ohio, U.S.A.), and Fidelia Ankomah, M.Phil (University of Cape Coast, Ghana).
As outcome of her research project “Material Expressions of West African Spirituality in the Americas: Transatlantic Continuities in Haiti” Zainabu Jallo’s conversation with Holger Jebens (Frobenius Institute, Goethe University Frankfurt) on “Acquisition and Display Ethics”, dealing with object transfers, methods of ethical investigation, and display, was published in PAIDEUMA Zeitschrift für kulturanthropologische Forschung 68, Reimer: Frankfurt am Main 2022.
Material Culture in Transit: Theory and Practice (Routledge 2023) – new Publication out now (DOI: 10.4324/9781003282334)
The book was edited by Zainabu Jallo, featuring a contribution by Niklas Wolf.
The study of artefacts, objects, and things – or in whichever term the material world is described – is not only restricted to their physical attributes but engages in an interplay between people and things. (…) This stresses that Onthology, unlike semiotics, is geared towards being and experiencing. (Zainabu Jallo, Moving Matter: Worlds of Material Culture, DOI: 10.4324/9781003282334-1)
Material Culture in Transit: Theory and Practice constellates curators and scholars actively working with material culture within academic and museal institutions through theory and practice. The rich collection of essays critically addresses the multivalent ways in which mobility reshapes the characteristics of artefacts, specifically under prevailing issues of representation and colonial liabilities. The volume attests to material culture as central to understanding the repercussions of problematic histories and proposes novel ways to address them. It offers valuable reading for scholars of anthropology, museum studies, history and others with an interest in material culture.
In probing various representations of Vodun objects within European museums, cyberspace and other non-religious domains, Niklas Wolf scrutinises the agencies of West African Vodun objects in the political contexts of migration and globalisation. The „Material Culture of Vodun“ offers some indications of the meanings and instrumentality of a contemporary and globalised Vodun. Wolf raises questions on issues of „(im)mobilisation, appropriation, and continuous actualisation“ while introducing aspects of steadfast connections between Vodun’s display and material culture in West African shrines. (Niklas Wolf, The Material Culture of Vodun. Case Studies from Ghana, Togo, Germany and In-Between, DOI: 10.4324/9781003282334-11)
Back at the desk, back at home, reflecting on the many conditions of traveling, of seeing and being seen, the research, privileges, questions and time spent waiting in-between as well as the many conundrums (Landry 2019, 25) involved with such a journey.
Sites visited in Ghana are among others the Mamishie Rasta shrine in Dzita (Volta), led by Mami Wata priestess Mamishie Rasta, and Hunua Adoglos shrine in Volta (both of them publicly displaying visualisations of Vodun), the Afrikan Magick Temple in Accra (led by Christopher Voncujovi, publicly educating on Vodun, using social media and the catch-phrase ReVodution), and the Nkyinkyim Museum in Ada, combining aspects of a shrine and a museum, addressing local and global communities.
In Benin the Foret Sacree de Kpasse Ouidah (a museum and shrine, site for tourists and initiates at the same time), Daagbo Hounon Houna II, king of Vodun as well as the Mami Wata shrine at the Door of no Return were visited.
Traveling was accompanied by reading on the conundrums other researchers starting off as outsiders to the imagery and spirituality of Vodun have faced, and reflecting on their ways to dealing with the many questions rising: Landry, Timothy R.: Vodún. Secrecy and the Search for Divine Power, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019 (Print).
image: shrine next to the Door of No Return (Mami Wata), Ouidah. © Niklas Wolf 2022
We will participate at the VAD conference (Vereinigung für Afrikawissenschaften in Deutschland) with this years headline: Afrika-Europe: Reciprocal Perspectives. https://nomadit.co.uk/vad/vad2022/ Albert University Breisgau 7-10. June 2022
On Wednesday 8 June, 16:00-17:30 (UTC+2) we will talk about Artistic Freedom and Responsibility Today and share Some Questions We Ask Ourselves.
Maya Deren kept cats and named them after vodou gods and many of these cats hated each other. Ghede and Erzulie had the run of the house and the others had to be locked up in rooms and behind fences. (from: The Legend of Maya Deren, A Documentary Biography and Collected Works, Volume + Part Two, Chambers (1942-47), Veve Clark, Millicent Hudson, Anthology Film Archives (Eds.), 1988)
The Private Life Of A Cat is a film by Alexander Hammid and Maya Deren. It shows a day in the life of a cat, filmed from a cat’s-eye view. This film was circulated in two versions: a silent version without narration and a longer sound version with a narration read by Maya Deren (1949) this version has the following prolog:
„This film is dedicated to cats. Not in grateful recognition of services rendered, for they neither lend themselves to our sport, nor provide us with material benefits, nor (..) master, they live in friendly, independent equitable peace with man. For this rare talent, which man himself labors to achieve, we pay them homage.“
From storage to work station. Research wall with images of Vodun objects from the Ethnographic collection of the Frobenius Institute, Frankfurt Germany, where the objects reside.
On my desk: Gina Athena Ulysse, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives. A Post-Quake Chronicle (Wesleyan University Press, 2015). An inside view on the repercussions of the devastating earthquake in 2010 and many more issues of Haitian history, culture and every-day experience.
Doing some critical re-reading of Suzanne Preston Blier: African Vodun. Art, Psychology, and Power (1995). The book (re)introduces western terminologies of art (like assemblage) to matter of Vodun (geographically and content wise not as broadly as its title might suggest though, focussing on the Fon, using bocio — figurative containers of power — as an example to follow some global traces of Vodun) by connecting certain pictorial practices to social phenomena, body politics and dynamics, discussing their aesthetics, modes of representation, materiality and meaning (including a stylistic analysis).
Suzanne Preston Blier: African Vodun. Art, Psychology, and Power. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press. 1995. Print.
Currently working between two seminal books:
LEFT: Image from Diálogo Entre Filhos De Xangô of Fieldwork carried out in Ouidah, Benin by Pierre Verger in 1949. The book comprises letters between Pierre Verger and Roger Bastide (with References to Alfred Métreux`s field findings during the same period). It gives insights into the nascent academic formulation of Afro Atlantic religions.
Bastide, Roger and Pierre Verger. Diálogo Entre Filhos De Xangô: Correspondência 1947-1974. Edited by Françoise Morin and Regina Salgado Campos. EDUSP, 2017.
RIGHT: Returning to Robert Farris Thompson for the differentiation within Haitian Vodun. Chapter III, “The Rara of the Universe. Vodun Religion and Art Haiti”, explains Vodun practices in Haiti based on their origin:
“Both Rada and Petro partake of these sources of African influence; neither is traceable to just one source. Both are at once African-inspired and indigenously created. Rada, predominantly Dahomean and Yoruba, is the “cool” side of vodun, being associated with the achievement of peace and reconciliation. Petro, predominantly Kongo, is the hot side, being associated with the spiritual fire of charms for healing and for attacking evil forces” (p.164).
Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Random House, 1983.
Very much looking forward to our second trip to the archive of Leonore Mau in Berlin in April