New ‘Vodou’ Exhibit Opening at New Jersey’s WheatonArts


A new exhibit, “Remembering Ginen: Haitian Vodou Bottles, Flags and Vèvè,” opens Sept. 20 in the Museum of American Glass at WheatonArts and continues through Jan. 5, 2014. This exhibition is one of a series of major presentations of Vodou arts at arts and cultural institutions around the world that aim to overcome the misconceptions and misinterpretations of the Haitian arts and culture and to inspire understanding and appreciation of Haitian creativity and artistic expressions.

Vodou arts reflect the memories of Ginen, the African homeland and the spiritual abode of the ancestors, thus creating a sense of cultural identity, shared aesthetics and social cohesiveness among the Haitian people. Vodou arts are integrated into the Vodou ceremonies, but the Vodou lwa (spirits) also serve as muses inspiring Haitian artists to create vivid art works that relate to universal human values and join us all in a dialogue about the meaning of the past in the present, harmony and balance, life, hope, and possible future.

The exhibition’s major focus is the artworks of contemporary Haitian artist Kesler Pierre, who creates the sacred bottles that adorn Vodou altars, the ceremonial rattles (ason) used in Vodou performances and the elaborate vèvè designs that derive from cosmograms traced on the floors during Vodou rituals. Each of his bottles is designed to incorporate the physical representation and/or the vèvè associated with the individual lwa for whom it is intended. Pierre uses paint to present a contemporary artistic vision of the traditional beaded bottles. But he also uses glitter to achieve a sparkling effect similar to that provided by the use of beads. The exhibition also includes displays of traditional beaded Vodou bottles that offer a comparison of techniques and designs. Some are created by the Haitian artist Lina Michel. Others came from the private collections of Lois Wilcken and Angus Kress Gillespie.

The displays showcase several painted-on-glass sacred rattles (ason) created by Pierre. Ason (sacred rattle) and bells (klochèt) are also used in rituals. Ason is traditionally made of gourds and adorned with beads. Like to the bottles, the painted-on-glass sacred rattles (ason) present contemporary interpretations of this art form as deemed appropriate by the artist. They were created in partnership with the WheatonArts Glass Studio where the glass rattles (ason) were made and later painted by Pierre in preparation for this exhibition.

Pierre’s vèvè designs are symbolic representations of individual lwa (spirits). The shape of the vèvè reflects the character of the lwa for whom it is created.

Displays of Haitian Vodou flags (drapo) complete the exhibition design thus providing a more comprehensive understanding of the Vodou ceremonies and their meaning as reflected in the art works of the Haitian flag makers. The flags in this exhibition are a valuable part of the private collection of Nancy Josephson and Ted Frankel.
Pierre’s photographs of Vodou rituals and additional explanatory panels provide the necessary cultural context for symbolism and artistry thus contributing to the overall experience of the Haitian culture and artistic expressions.

Additional programs being offered in conjunction with the exhibit:

■ Haitian Vèvè Designs Workshop with Kesler Pierre. November 9 from 2 to 4 p.m. Pierre will demonstrate and teach Vodou vèvè designs, while explaining their meanings and significance in the Haitian traditional culture. He will interpret the story of the vèvè designs as symbolic representations of individual lwa (spirits), who are a part of the Vodou pantheon and will explain the meaning of the Vèvè as a sacred sign drawn on the floor either at the foot of the altar or around the center pole in a Vodou temple. Participants will learn how the vèvè’s shape reflects the character of the lwa for whom it is traced, create their own vèvè designs, and learn how to understand both the meaning and the artistry of the vèvè in the context of other Vodou arts. Additional visual works will be provided as well as handouts for future practice.

■ Spirits in Sequins: Vodou Flags of Haiti. A Special Presentation by Nancy Josephson. Nov. 10 from Noon to 1 p.m. Josephson will share her experiences with this unique art form. She will focus on flag making techniques while interpreting the cultural beliefs at the core of the flag designs and a folk lore expressed in the outstanding works of the Haitian artists.

■ “Remembering Ginen: Traditional Music and Dance of Haiti” featuring La Troupe Makandal of New York. Nov. 10 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Haitian people remember and celebrate their history through the arts, and these include music and dance. Makandal’s work also derives from Vodou, an Afro-Haitian spiritual practice that honors and serves the ancestors and the forces of nature. The Troupe’s presentation features a suite created from the dances, songs and drumming styles brought to Haiti from West Africa and the Congo region. The program tells the stories of the various peoples who survived enslavement, struggled for and won independence, and established the modern state of Haiti. The program also includes an interactive music and dance workshop for audience members.
For additional information about the Museum of American Glass and/or WheatonArts call
800-998-4552 or 856-825-6800 or visit

WheatonArts is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open Labor Day. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

WheatonArts strives to ensure the accessibility of its exhibitions, events and programs to all persons with disabilities. Provide two weeks notice for additional needs. Patrons with hearing and speech disabilities may contact WheatonArts through the New Jersey Relay Service (TRS) 800-852-7899 or by dialing 711.

Funding has been made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the New Jersey Cultural Trust, and the Cumberland County Urban Enterprise Zone. WheatonArts receives general operating support from the New Jersey Historical Commission, Division of Cultural Affairs in the New Jersey Department of State and is supported in part by the New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism.

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