10 posts tagged cajuns & creoles
10 posts tagged cajuns & creoles
Robert Cato, “Louisiana, from the United States Series” (circa 1947)
This is not so explicitly related to Creole or Cajun culture, but I wanted to include something a little e abstract. Cato evokes Louisiana using only a somber color palate combined with the possibly-loaded symbols of the cotton flower and a snippet of wrought-iron architectural embellishments.
“Black Beans” and “Slap Ya Mama”
gouache and calligraphy marker on paper
on view in the “Southern Open 2011” at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, LA until July 9, 2011
Banuchi’s drawings occupy the outer edge of a wall near the entrance to the exhibition in an area of the Southern Open 2011 I’ve taken to calling the UN. It was located near Dave Greber’s cultural mash-up “Open Arms,” and the NatGeorific photographs of Dr. Jian Hang, and the “cathedral window/mandala” collages of Troy Dugas. Banuchi was representing the cultures of South Louisiana and Puerto Rico with her two drawings. One drawing is of a can of Goya black beans: Gooo, Puerto Rico! One is of a can of Slap Ya Mama seasoning: Gooo, South Louisiana! These two drawings, presented as they are, end up reading as a latter-day Warhol portrait, if you know something about Banuchi: her mother is Cajun and her father is Puerto Rican. The drawings, along with their subjects, become stand-ins for the artist herself. The mix of products identifies the user by way of the cultural associations they engender. This is what saves them from being simply kitsch. What may come across as being homespun and naive, ends up saying something about the artist, and, by extension, ourselves. The infiltration of “products” and the “commercial” in our lives has gotten to the point where these things have begun to speak for or stand-in for ourselves. For instance, a “portrait” of myself would have to include a pack of Pal-Mal menthol shorts, CC’s Coffee, a bottle of Canadian Mist, a pound of cheddar cheese, Facebook, and Tumblr, Yes! It’s sad but true. Art criticism is that glamorous … and healthy!
Anyway, Banuchi had a nice moment in the show - something diminutive, unassuming, yet thought-provoking to it’s core.
- Reggie Michael Rodrigue
Reblogged from thevisionarypost-deactivated201
Marilyn Nance, “The White Eagles/Black Indians of New Orleans” (1980)
The men in this photo are so absorbed in their performance, the feathers of their costumes filling the frame in a way that further reflects the weight of the moment. The Austin Chronicle gives a bit of background behind the Mardi Gras Indian tradition:
To the outsider, the notion of blacks in Native American tribal dress is anachronistic. How did slaves, shackled and shipped into America from Africa and the Caribbean, come to adopt Indian garb?
Popular doctrine is a variation on “my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” that native Louisiana tribes sheltered runaway slaves. Another theory suggests that Buffalo Bill’s traveling Wild West Show inspired imitation of native rituals. Either way, present day styles are more Hollywood than Plains Indian, whose resplendent headdresses originally inspired the Mardi Gras Indians. Costuming is called “masking,” dressing in tribal costumes for the purposes of marching, as they do on Mardi Gras and St. Joseph’s Day.
Segregated from the white Carnival krewes, the Mardi Gras Indians began parading in the late 1800s. On an offbeat path few tourists see and through mostly black settlements in New Orleans, they took on names that often identified them by neighborhood. The names are exciting, evocative, and colorful…: 9th Ward Hunters, Creole Wild West, Young Cheyenne, Golden Eagles.
The purpose of masking is to show off the extravagant costumes with enormous headdresses, or “crowns.” Elaborate protocol sets the stage for peacock-like preening of feathered finery and sparkling stitchery when the chiefs meet. Tribal positions such as “spy boy,” “flag boy,” “trail chief,” and “wild man” lead the parade of colors and relay information about approaching tribes with hand signals, calls, whoops, and dance steps. Like the battlefield often cited in their chants, the tribes face off, big chiefs strutting and swaggering until one acknowledges the other as the “prettiest.”
Les Blank, trailer for “Yum Yum Yum” (1990)
MoMA recently hosted a retrospective of Les Blank’s films, which have documented everything from localized American music genres to things as specific as gap-toothed women. Elements of Cajun and Creole cultures were featured in a number of his films, including the above pean to Cajun cooking, as well as: “Hot Pepper,” a portrait of Zydeco musician Clifton Chenier; “Dry Wood,” which explores black French creole life; “J’ai Été Au Bal / I Went to the Dance,” a history of southwestern Louisiana music; “Marc & Ann,” a look at the Cajun musician couple the Savoys; and “Spend it All,” which features various French Cajun Lousiania musicians. Blank’s career is a testament to the histories and legacies of American folk music and cultures.
Ezili Dantor or Erzulie D’en Tort (also spelled Erzulie with Danto or Danthor) is the Petro nation aspect of the Erzulie family of lwa, or spirits in Haitian Vodou. Ezili Dantor is considered to be the lwa of motherhood, single motherhood in particular. She is most commonly represented by the image of Black Madonna of Częstochowa whose origins are believed to be in copies of the icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, brought to Haiti by Polish soldiers fighting on both sides of the Haitian Revolution from 1802 onwards. Other depictions of Ezili Dantor include the Black Madonna, as well as Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Mount Carmel.My fledgling understanding of this is augmented by Piñon’s collage, which addresses some ideas of hybridity (again), as well as the complexities and ambiguities of the Black Madonna.
The Cult of the Black Madonna is really interesting. It really shows the sensuality/sexuality of even the most austere interpretations of the Virgin.
“Black Madonna” by Javier Piñón
Few religions are as misunderstood and as steeped in often-cartoonish misapprehension as Haitian Vodou. Countless people around the globe, shown images of a ceremony, might confidently say, “Yes, that is Vodou.” But very few, when pressed, could coherently discuss the core tenets of the belief.
For photographer Anthony Karen, who has traveled extensively in Haiti over the years, Vodou is at once a fascinating subject and — in a very real sense — the gateway to his vocation.
“About 13 years ago,” he told LIFE.com, “I was in a difficult, transitional point in my life. Out of nowhere, I felt Haiti calling to me. I traveled there, and saw two Vodou ceremonies in person. On the same trip, I discovered my passion for photojournalism.” Here, LIFE.com presents previously unpublished pictures of a June 2011 Haitian Vodou ceremony, along with Karen’s insights into so-called “marginalized” groups and his own work as a photographer.
see more — Inside Haitian Vodou
While Karen is obviously talented, I have to say that there is little here to challenge most viewers’ preconceived ideas about Vodou (as metonymic of Haiti). The very same images have been circulated since the earliest literary and photographic representations of Haiti emerged in the nineteen-‘teens: upturned eyes indicating possession (although the theological mechanics of it are almost never addressed); fire juxtaposed against darkness, suggesting that Haiti remains a ‘jungle’; the drinking of blood in orgiastic delirium; knives pressed against heads and tongues; writhing Black bodies, underground and on the ground; partially exposed breasts and bands of vaguely sinister-seeming women singing untranslated songs. Nothing novel, except the angles and brands of equipment employed to execute the images.
Some of Karen’s slides are highly graphic scenes of sacrifice—which, while probably not staged for Karen’s benefit, are also sacred, and I believe are remarkably exploitative in the context of a mainstream North American publication. It was perhaps Life’s decision not to include text explaining what is happening in the photographs in any specificity, but it is also the photographers’ responsibility to his subjects to provide context and refuse the use of material that is only being included for its potential to titillate viewers. Quotations from Karen only stir my disquiet:
“A goat in distress or pain can sound like an infant crying,” Karen says. “Obviously, it can be really disturbing. I’ve seen so many ceremonies by now that I’m aware of the process, and know when it’s coming. Still, in all my years of witnessing Vodou rituals, I’ve never seen a sacrifice as intense as the one that I documented in June. When five people, in a frenzy, began to suck the blood out of the goat’s neck, I had goosebumps racing up my spine — because of what I was witnessing, and because I was in the perfect spot to capture it with my camera.”
It’s typical for the scholar or artist engaged with Vodou communities to project the “goosebumps racing up [their] spine” onto their subjects. No surprise there. Yet Karen’s purported concern is to ‘capture’ this event in order to illuminate a marginalized tradition. His project as a whole merely threatens to further malign it by showing that the stereotypes are indeed ‘true,’ because one of ‘us’ has been ‘there’ and witnessed the ‘reality.’ ”It’s raw, and it’s primitive,” Karen says, with what Life would have us think is the authority of a practitioner. While Karen seeks to disarm critique by pointing out the extent of his participation in rituals and esoteric knowledge—“I won’t even get into the cleansing ritual preformed on me involving the blood of a chicken”—his statements chiefly serve to legitimate his presence in what he recognizes are exceedingly ‘intimate,’ ‘vulnerable’ settings.
The last photo in the series is of Karen (a self-described “big white guy”) with a Haitian child, with text that painstakingly enumerates his praiseworthy deeds as a volunteer for different organizations. This is not sarcasm; I do admire his commitment to the groups listed. I’m afraid, however, that this parting shot only reinforces the dichotomy between ‘irrational’ Haitians and the American ‘saviors’ forever depicted as coming to the rescue. This may be the most pernicious trope of all, formulated as the U.S. first used to invade and occupy Haiti between 1915 and 1934, then to intervene militarily and diplomatically throughout the twentieth century. It’s unfair to lay all of this at Karen’s feet, since it’s not clear he understands the pictorial and ideological history he stumbled into. But I’m left wishing he would have realized the artistic potential of showing that “people tend to have everyday, general conversations” about Vodou. That would have been something new.
plshantrelle’s photo of Jacques Rony’s “Ra Ra”
Rony’s metalwork was featured in the Caribbean Culture Center African Diaspora Institute’s Standing with Papa Legba event and exhibition. Text from Forgotten Language describes his practice: “Rony works in the tradition of metal découpe, which transforms oil drums into stunning, hand-hammered works of art. Utilizing imagery from daily and spiritual life in Haiti, Rony evokes the love, beauty and hope of the island.”
The multi-artist exhibition Standing with Papa Legba, which explored notions of spirituality in Haiti, was a part of the larger Re-Imagining Haiti, a collaboration with MoCADA’s Le Projet Nouveau. Le Project Nouveau showcased artworks that demonstrate a nuanced, resilient vision of Haiti post-earthquake, countering the many images of destitution in the disaster’s aftermath.