Friday, October 9, 2009

Theotokos à l'haïtienne? Maybe...

Within a week of arriving in Port-au-Prince I made the aquaintance of another American missionary, Lauren Stanley, who hails from the Diocese of Virginia and recently served for several years in the Sudan. She lives in a suburb about half-way up the mountain from Port-au-Prince called Petion-Ville. She invited me up for an evening to get to know the town a bit, to meet her street vendor friends, most of whom sell painting, metal works, and wood carvings. We ate lunch at this lovely little restaurant, Fiore di Late, and I bought a painting from one of her friends. The painting is quite fascinating--at first glance it looks like a Haitian adaption of the Orthodox icons depicting the Theotokos with her son, the Christ Child. But upon closer examination, one notes that the woman's feet resolve into a fin-like structure. As it turns out, the image is a Vodou one, depicting La Sirene, the Mermaid spirit who inhabits the waters of the earth. I love the painting because it speaks to the polysemism and interpenetration of religious symbol and ritual on this island, particularly between Christianity and the ancestral traditions of West Africa. It's also a very appropriate confluence of personalities since both Mary and the Siren are associated with the generative, mothering power of water.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jude,
    I am a postulant for the Vocational Diaconate in our diocese, and heard about you and your adventures in Haiti! I, too, and very involved in Haiti and will look forward to following you on your blog. Several partner groups, including our church (St. Paul's Dedham) work in a small village in the central plateau region. We travel there three times a year. I am also learning to speak Kreyol- taught by the Rev. Rospignac Ambroise, a Haitian priest who is at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan. More later, but for now....God's peace in your mission.....Holly Hartman