Namn Nan Boutey Vodou: Danbala Stretched Across the Sky

Danbala Stretched Across the Sky

Danabala Stretched Across the Sky

Danabala Stretched Across the Sky

Vodou is an Afro-Creole religion born out of oppression, resistance, and faith. The Hatian people have been historically repressed by foreign nations and Haitian dictators alike dating as far back as the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Vodou was not accepted by those who controlled the Haitians because it gave them spiritual strength and a unique culture of their own. It has been formed through poverty, suffered atrocities, and a desire to be free and proud. The Lwa, or spirits, of Vodou are many and each uniquely based off the myriad of trials and tribulations of life. From Ezili Danto, a fierce mother figure and the patron of many women, to Gede, the unavoidable death, Vodou is as practical as it is powerful. Lwa are also usually either Petwo or Rada. Rada spirits are more old-world and benevolent spirits whereas Petwo Lwa are usually considered to be newer, angry, and fiery; born out of the oppression in Haiti. The spirit world is important to Vodou and its many complexities are present throughout Vodou Practices. One such practice is that of Boutey Vodou, or Bottle Vodou. Created to be a powerful symbol of intention, lwa, and sometimes magic, these bottles are complex. Intensely visual, usually made with materials from around the house and old liqueur bottles, they are meant to be kept away from the eyes because when one wants to call on the power of the bottle one needs to look at it with intention.  They are not meant to be left on a coffee table or window sill. Many of the symbolic art pays heed to the lwa it represents.  My Boutey Vodou pays homage to Danabala. Danbala, considered to be at the top of the hierarchy of Lwa, is thought to be the creator of life and guardian of peace. He is usually depicted as a great serpent with two heads to represent his endless and massive nature. This bottle is inspired by his description in the book Mama Lola. Danbala arches over the sky with his wife Ayida Wedo, the rainbow. As a reference to the life-giving rivers that flow from the mountains of Haiti, that then feed the crops and quench the thirst of its people, it is said Danbala has one foot planted firmly in the Haitian mountains and another in the depths of ocean. The ocean is another important symbol in Vodou. It is thought that its reflective surface represents the unseeable spirit world and the depths of the unknown. Mirrors are also believed to have this property. My bottle is a literal amalgamation of these ideas. I created the ocean using leftover wrapping paper, punching it up and gluing it down to emulate waves. I used leftover blue ribbon to create the sky on which I stuck cloud stickers. The mountains are created out of scrap paper and more leftover wrapping paper. This wrapping paper is holographic, rainbow, and reflective; it simultaneously represents rainbow and a mirrors reflectiveness. The two-headed snake at the top of the bottle is Danbala, stretched and coiled across this landscape. I made Danabala white because it is his representative color; it is also the color associated with purity in Vodou. The two tablets in the middle of sky under the heads of Danbala represent the Ten Commandments. Though most lwa are associated with Saints from Christian/Catholic religions, many Vodou practitioners are also Catholic, Danbala is known as two. Most common is St. Patrick because of his affiliation with snakes, but I chose the Rada Danbala associated with Moses. Moses plays a huge role in my own Jewish culture and I am deeply attracted to the idea of a compassionate spirit.

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