Danbala Wedo

Dandbala Wedo

Dublin Core

Title

Danbala Wedo

Subject

A Drapo sevis, or "Vodou Flag" used for Vodou ceremonial practices.

Description

Georgia Gump
Art 265
Professor Ellen Hoobler
3-April-2016

Clotaire Bazile’s Vodou Flags

Exploration of Haiti and their religion of Vodou uncovers an extraordinary amount of artistic objects, from paintings to punched metal, done in devotion or depiction of Vodou. In awe of this, Selden Rodman introduces his book The Miracle of Haitian Art with a description of the versatility and creativity of the people behind these objects:

“a bookkeeper in Cap-Haïtien was spending his nights painting scenes from Haitian history in a Masonic Temple… in Port-au-Prince an unemployed taxi driver was precisely modeling Chinese roses on a cracked tooth mug… [in an] isolated… village of Bainet… [a] cobbler was sketching chickens and palm trees on discarded Esso Calendars”.1

Rodman continues, however, by stating that upon inquiry on whether or not they were artists, these people “would have laughed in disbelief”.2 Decades after Rodman’s publication, Clotaire Bazile, a high priest of Vodou (known as a Houngan), reflects this same behavior as he considers himself an artist only after tourists begin purchasing his Vodou flags, or Drapô sevis.3 Though plenty of Haitians working within those decades own the title of artist, Bazile’s personal journey and his ceremonial flags illustrate how deeply Haitian Vodou intertwines with daily life and the arts, as well as the trend of Haitian art turning the everyday into an appreciation of the aesthetic.

The Vodou Flag depicted is one of Bazile’s first flags, titled Danbala Wedo. All of these flags utilize specific symbols to represent specific lwas, or spirits. The symbols, also knows as vèvè, remain generally consistent and are used throughout ceremonies in a variety of forms such as drawn on a surface in ash or flour as a means of summoning the spirits.4 Since those practicing Vodou use similar symbols across their practices, the same lwas can be found depicted by many different artists. In Bazile’s case, this paper focuses on his Vodou flag of Danbala Wedo, which implements a double vèvè that depicts more than one lwa. At first glance, the audience notices the colorful and geometric border that surrounds the center of the piece. In the center lies two snakes converging towards an egg and surrounding a heart. Four symbols sit, each in one of the corners around the snakes. As Anna Wexler describes, the egg represents the “principal offering for Danbala” and is “associated with the fecund sexual unity of these primordial male and female spirits”.5 This theme of “bipolarity” arises often in Vodou, with many spirits embodying a balance between forces like the male and the female.6 Bazile himself elaborates on the imagery within, starting with the four symbols discussed earlier: they are considered “pwen, points of concentrated spiritual power” that “stabilize” the “vèvè and indicate exactly which lwa is being invoked”.7 In an interview with Bazile himself, he elaborates on the imagery within, commenting on the heart as a representation of Erzulie Freda because “where Dandbala dwells, [Freda dwells] also”.8 The heart remains the most common symbol of Erzulie Freda because of her associations with love and beauty.9 Every piece of the flag hold symbolic meaning, even the flowering branches within the heart, that “serve as ladders” for the snakes to reach the egg.10 Even the geometric patterns of the border symbolize Danbala and Freda by pairing the colors silver and pink, respectively; these colors in turn mean harmony and love to Bazile.11

Bazile has an incredibly intimate relation with his ceremonial flags and he embodies them with so much symbolism because of his role within Vodou as a Houngan. As Anna Wexler interviews him, the audience discovers just how intertwined with Vodou and the lwa Bazile is, having led his life by following instructions from the lwa in his dreams.12 He describes his process of interacting with the spirits as an expansion of the mind, and when he specifically constructs the Drapô sevis he “can hear [the lwas], or [he] can see an image”.13 Not only do the instructions within his dreams emphasize how intrinsic the practice of Vodou is in Bazile’s everyday life, but the permission he receives from the lwa to sell their images also reiterates both their control and his dedication to serving the spirits through Vodou.14

As these ceremonial flags are a part of everyday life within the rituals of Vodou, they also have become a commodity among tourists and an art form within themselves, practiced by people who do not necessarily serve the lwa like Bazile. However, Bazile’s dedication to the art and interaction with the community show his pivotal role that reflects the path of much of Haitian art, as well as many Afro-inspired art in Latin America by prompting the “transition… from primarily ritual objects to commercial art objects”.15

Endnotes

1. Wexler, Anna. “The Flags of Clotaire Bazile: A Description”. Callaloo Vol. 20, no. 2
(Spring, 1997): 372-377 + 379-382. Selden Rodman, The Miracle of Haitian Art, (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1974) 15-16.
2. Ibid. 16
3.Anna Wexler and Clotaire Bazile, “An Interview with Clotaire Bazile”, Callaloo Vol. 20, no. 2 (1997): 396.
4. “Vodou Glossary”, Canadian Museum of History, last modified in 2016, http://www.historymuseum.ca/vodou/wp-content/themes/vodou/images/Vodou_glossary.pdf.
5. Anna Wexler, “The Flags of Clotaire Bazile: A Description”, Callaloo Vol. 20, No.2 (1997).
6. Marc A. Christophe, “Rainbow over Water: Haitian Art, Vodou Aestheticism, and Philosophy,” in Haitian Vodou: Spirit Myth and Reality, ed. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith and Claudine Michel, 84-102. (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006), 88.
7. Anna Wexler, “The Flags of Clotaire Bazile”, Callaloo (1997), 375.
8. Anna Wexler and Clotaire Bazile, An Interview with Clotaire Bazile, Callaloo (1997): 392.
9. “Vodou Glossary”, Canadian Museum of History.
10. Anna Wexler, “The Flags of Clotaire Bazile”, Callaloo (1997), 374.
11. Ibid., 375.
12. Anna Wexler and Clotaire Bazile, “Interview with Clotaire Bazile”, Callaloo (1997).
13. Ibid., 391.
14. Ibid., 398.
15. Lindsey Westbrook, “Haitain Vodou Flag Maker and Priest Clotaire Bazile”, California College of the Arts, California College of the Arts, Last modified March 16, 2010, https://www.cca.edu/news/2010/haitian-vodou-flag-maker-and-priest-clotaire-bazile-comes-cca-april-8.

Work Cited

Bazile, Clotaire and Anna Wexler. “An Interview with Clotaire Bazile”. Callaloo Vol.
20, no. 2 (Spring, 1997): 383-398.

Christophe, Marc A. “Rainbow over Water: Haitian Art, Vodou Aestheticism, and
Philosophy”. In Haitian Vodou: Spirit, Myth, and Reality, edited by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith and Claudine Michel, 84-102. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006.

Rodman, Selden. The Miracle of Haitian Art. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.,
1974.

“Vodou Glossary”. Canadian Museum of History. Last modified in 2016.
http://www.historymuseum.ca/vodou/wp-content/themes/vodou/images/Vodou_glossary.pdf

Westbrook, Lindsey. “Haitain Vodou Flag Maker and Priest Clotaire Bazile Comes to
CCA”. California College of the Arts. Last Modified March 16, 2010. https://www.cca.edu/news/2010/haitian-vodou-flag-maker-and-priest-clotaire-bazile-comes-cca-april-8

Creator

Clotaire Bazile

Format

Fabric, sequins, beads.

Coverage

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Ceremonial Drapery

Physical Dimensions

39" x 33 1/4"

Collection

Citation

Clotaire Bazile, “Danbala Wedo,” Omeka, accessed June 26, 2017, http://ccomeka.com/items/show/281.