Rare artifacts reveal the real meaning of Haiti’s Vodou tradition

November 14, 2012


For immediate release

Gatineau, Quebec, November 14, 2012 — A powerful new exhibition opening at the Canadian Museum of Civilization brings to Canada, for the first time, over 300 objects from one of the world’s most important collections of Vodou artifacts.

 Vodou opens on November 15, 2012, and runs until February 23, 2014.  This stunning exhibition looks beyond the myths and manufactured Hollywood images that are commonly associated with Vodou, to reveal a vital spiritual and social force that remains, for many, an important part of daily life in Haiti.

Vodou is both a religion and a profound expression of the Haitian national experience, with rituals that remember the horrors of slavery and honour the spirit of resistance that has sustained Haiti through centuries of hardship.

“Through this exhibition, visitors are given a rare opportunity to learn about a complex spiritual tradition, its beliefs and rituals, from the viewpoint of the people who practice it,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “Visitors will quickly see that Vodou, as presented at the Museum, has very little to do with the Hollywood version, its zombies and pins stuck in dolls.”

At the heart of Vodou are more than 300 objects—including altars, drums and vivid representations of lwa used in vodou ceremonies—from the internationally-renowned Marianne Lehmann Collection.  A Haitian born in Switzerland, the Lehmann Collection of over 2,000 pieces is now managed by the Fondation pour la préservation, la valorisation et la production d’oeuvres culturelles haïtennes, based in Pétion-Ville, Haiti. Three curators—the Museum of Civilization’s Dr. Mauro Peressini, and two founding members of the Fondation, Professors Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique and Didier Dominique—have created a special Canadian version of an exhibition originally presented in Europe.

The Canadian version of Vodou features Canadian-Haitian vodouists filmed during an actual Vodou ceremony, and in videos in which they explain their worldview, history and beliefs underlying Vodou practices. The curators worked in close consultation with members of Haitian-Canadian communities to help ensure the authenticity of the exhibition. The result is an experience that brings museum-goers into direct contact with Vodou artifacts and the people who use them.

Vodou is presented by the Museum of Civilization in collaboration with the Fondation pour la préservation, la valorisation et la production d’oeuvres culturelles haïtennes (FPVPOCH), in partnership with the Ethnographic Museum in Geneva, Switzerland and the Tropenmuseum in the Netherlands.

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