Saturday, March 15, 2008

Michel Leiris - Note on the use of Christian chromolithographs by Haitian Voodooists

In a 1953 Michel Leiris - Surrealist and ethnographer - published an article on the way Haitian Voodooists represent the loa - the spirits of Voodoo - using depictions of Christian saints. For example, the notorious Baron-Samedi, spirit of death, is represented by Saint Expeditus. In the article, it become clear how in the thought of Michel Leiris ethnographic and Surrealist theoretical and aesthetic frameworks intermingle:

"This hasty investigation of fifteen chromos bought in Port-Au-Prince would tend to show, then, that it is often on the basis of a purely circumstantial detail, what one could almost call a pun using things rather than words (such as, for instance, the lowered visor of the helmet likened to the chin bandage of the dead person), that the correspondence between the loa and the saint is established; for such a connection to be made, there need not be any similarity in the content of the symbol: a superficial, fragmentary, and, in short fortuitous analogy seems to be enough in many cases.

These 'concrete puns' - aren't they the chance meeting of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table?

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