Pierre Augustin’s painting of a mamba (Vodou priestess) transports its viewer to an otherworldly space, filled with architectural arcades, illuminated by candles, and framed by organic, tree-like forms. Wearing a traditional white gown, the mamba sways gently, suggesting that she has been possessed by a loa (spirit-like god), who assumes temporary control over her body and displaces her soul. With the priestess serving as a host, the loa can interact directly with worshippers. The design in the lower-left corner made of two intersecting lines and an overlapping circle is the vèvè (symbol) of the loa Legba, the keeper of the crossroads linking the mortal world of humans with that of the loas. As such, Legba represents communication across and between these two realms. Based on the cross, an important religious symbol in both African and Western European societies, Legba’s vèvè exemplifies the fusion of cultures evident throughout Vodou.
Written by Timothy Clark, Class of 2012
American Art Intern, Fall 2009
architecture; ceremonies; figures; jewelry; religion; supernatural; witchcraft; women
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