Tracing the Vèvè, Healing the Nation: Exploring Bakongo Cosmologies in Haitian Vodou

Mariah Bender, University of Chicago

This paper explores the connections between Bakongo cosmologies on the role, function, and manifestation of the spirit in the Petwo rites of Haitian Vodou. I argue that that the Bakongo conceptuality of the spirit is the realization of the human experience of enslaved Africans in Haiti. As such, the spirit is liberator, life-giving, life-sustaining. Finally, the spirit and the meaning of spirit has historically traveled with the African people regardless of nationality, and is best demonstrated through the art of Vodouisants and even African-Americans. Ultimately, the ability for the conceptualization of spirit, ancestor, and connection to one’s African identity to endure historic oppression and imperialism is proof that the African spirit lives as the African people live.

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 Presented in Session 100. Religious Encounters and Meaning