January 17th, 2020 by: Candice Russell
If you’re in Florida or Georgia or even Alabama, please check out a truly magnificent art exhibition.
It is “SacredDiagrams: Haitian Vodou Flags from the Gessen Collection” at the
Tampa Museum of Art in Tampa, Florida.
The show runs through January 26. The phone number is 813 – 224 – 8130.
As a souvenir please pick up the full-color catalog featuring the noble figure of St. Jacques Majeur on his white horse.
The show is co-curated by Edouard Duval-Carrie and Joanna Robotham, the museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art.
Ed Gessen is a recent transplant to Florida from California. He is an avid collector with
discriminating taste. In a catalog interview, he explains that he is interested in finding the “older, unsigned sequined banners that were produced in the 1940s to 1980s as sacred ceremonial objects.
These flags are often worn and damaged from having been used in actual ceremonies in Haiti. They are the forerunners of the “secular sequin arts of today.”
In my view, collectors usually go crazy for the intact unsoiled Vodou flags or drapo of the present day. Mostly they shun the old and tattered objected used in ceremonies. This is because in Western eyes, these are objects of aesthetic beauty rather than manifestations of religious faith.
Some of the most interesting flag makers have gone off in a more painterly direction. Chief among these is Myrlande Constant, who is also featured in “Sacred Diagrams.” She is or was in the process of crafting Vodou flags as big as a king-size bedspread depicting seminal events in Haiti’s storied history. These elaborate and innately detailed flags should warrant a solo exhibition of their own.
Clotaire Bazile is another drapo maker featured in this show. He is a traditionalist for the most part. He sticks to conventional portrayals of the loa or spirit in mortal form and favors their preferences in terms of colors chosen for sequins and beads.
The whimsical side of the flag making is involved by Georges Valris whose wonderful skeletons recall the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico. These figures are jaunty fellows who fairly laugh at death.
When you see all these Vodou flags gathered and beautifully displayed in a museum setting, one tends to be shocked that they come from a country that is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It is a beauty such as this that is God-given and awe-inspiring as Haitians revere and worship their spirits. Come add enjoy!