Artful Musing

THE ARTFUL BLOGGER: A sneak peek at the Museum of Civilization’s voodoo exhibition, opening Nov. 15

By Paul Gessell

Pwen Ibo (Ibo point). Made from terra cotta, bone, wood, and cloth. Pwen possess the power of a lwa or the spirit of an ancestor. Made by maji practitioners, they offer protection to those who request them. © MCC/ CMC, Frank Wimart.

Mauro Peressini is walking, most respectfully, through the rooms of the Canadian Museum of Civilization that, come November 15, will be filled with sacred Haitian voodoo objects.

On this particular day, with many of the 300 artifacts still to be installed in the 15-month-long exhibition, the rooms are largely bare, except for a few man-sized scary figures called lwas. These are the voodoo spirits that can, according to adherents of the religion, enter people and take control.

These lwas have been deconsecrated by voodoo priests or priestesses. But they are far from simply inanimate objects. They are, for example, deliberately not being put into glass display cases. That would be disrespectful.

As well, these lwas still supposedly have the potential to cause people to go into a trance, not unlike evangelical Christians who claim they are visited by the Holy Spirit and, in a trance-like state, start twitching, fainting, and speaking gibberish or, what is often called, “speaking in tongues.”

Peressini, the lead curator for Vodou, says museum staff have been trained in how to deal with anyone who suddenly falls under the spell of a lwa in the exhibition. Such people are to be held closely and carefully guided to a seated position on a chair until the trance passes. (more…)