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

A powerful new exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) brings to Canada, for the first time, over 300 objects from one of the world’s most important collections of Vodou artifacts. (“Vodou” is the new politically correct word for “voodoo”.)

Vodou, which runs from November 15, 2012 all the way to February 23, 2014 (!), is a stunning exhibition that looks beyond the myths and manufactured Hollywood images that are commonly associated with “hot voodoo” to reveal a vital spiritual and social force that remains, for many, an important part of daily life in Haiti. Visitors will see that Vodou has very little to do with the Hollywood version of voodoo – with its enslaved zombies/walking dead, premature burials, and pins stuck in dolls. Voodoo dolls, said to unleash evil forces when stuck with pins, are a fictional creation manufactured by an entertainment industry eager to appeal to audiences’ fearful fascination with so-called “primitive” African-influenced religions, says Mauro Peressini, CMC’s co-curator of the exhibition. In actual fact, voodooists call upon the gods to cure illness, to protect the people from bad fortune… not to inflict pain, death or a mind-controlling trance upon them.

Vodou is a religion with rituals that remember the horrors of slavery and honor the spirit of resistance that has sustained Haiti through centuries of unbelievable hardship.

At the heart of the Vodou exhibit are more than 300 objects – including altars, drums and vivid representations of Iwa (or gods) used in Vodou ceremonies. In the room of mirrors, six ornate and macabre mirrors are elaborately carved with dark and fiercely exclamative voodoo figures and shapes. It’s all rather unsettling, but thrilling. So come on down to the CMC for a shuddering good time.

For more information about the Vodou exhibition, visit civilization.ca

ALL PHOTOS: Musée canadien des civilisations, Artefacts     = Canadian Museum of Civilization, Artifacts