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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Culture:Haitian (20th century)
Title:Vodou flag "Diobolo Bossou"
Date Made:n.r.
Materials:textile with bead work and sequins
Place Made:Caribbean; Haiti
Measurements:37 x 33
Accession Number:  AC 2004.02
Credit Line:Gift of James W. Hyde (Class of 1939)

stylized image of Vodou Bull diety (bestower of fertility on the soil)

Label Text:
Bedecked with hundreds of sparkling, hand-sewn sequins, this Haitian Vodou drapo (flags) pulsates with the vibrancy of the religion for which it has spiritual importance. Worshippers charge into a sacred space bearing the drapo during the special ritual invoking the lwa (god-like spirits). Filled with intriguing, complex symbols, the flag further exemplifies the rich blend of cultures and traditions defining Haiti. The drapo conforms to a compositional formula, which features a single, prominent symbol or motif in the center surrounded by a field, often filled with triangles.

The black bull's head staring out through small red eyes from the middle of the flag is the vèvè (symbol) of the loa Bossou, who governs fertility, protects from harm, and controls lightning. Bossou, whose identity is made explicit in sequined text at the bottom of the flag, originates in West Africa as a divine monster. Thus, he harkens back to African religious traditions that were imported to Haiti with the early slaves and then incorporated into contemporary religious belief and practice.

The Mead’s two Haitian flags were possibly created in the Bel-Air slum of Port-au-Prince, famous for its sequin artists and severely damaged in the great earthquake of 2010. Their good condition and plain borders suggest that they were made to be sold as souvenirs rather than to be used in actual rituals.

Timothy Clark, Class of 2012
American Art Intern, Spring 2010

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