Material Expressions of West African Spirituality in the Americas: Transatlantic Continuities in Haiti
Within the various modes of West African Vodun, spiritual faith is expressed through a wide range of material forms. Its doctrinal system and spirituality are founded upon the belief that the immanent characters of divinities are accommodated within natural elements and the material world. Therefore, objects of belief are at the core of its practice, professing vodun as a highly potent spiritual tradition that attains transcendental states of trance via objects and corporeal entities in ritual ceremonies.
Through the medium of “objects of belief”, this enquiry begins in the ancient Kingdom of Dahomey (present-day West Africa), from where strong traditions Vodun and Orisha worship have emerged. Next, it traces “Vodou” as a diasporic spiritual continuity across the Atlantic to Haiti as a consequence of the Middle Passage, where Vodou remains pervasive and resilient in the face of stigmatization mainly by other religious sects.
In demonstrating the importance of materiality in transatlantic continuities of Vodun/Vodou, this investigation will be realized through the analyses of two prominent collections; the West African Vodou collection of Marie Luce and Marc Arbogast and the Marianne Lehmann collection, made up of objects from Haitian Vodou temples.