Just back from the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa where we spent the day sketching their current exhibition: Vodou. On display until Feb 23. Info here: http://www.civilization.ca/vodou/.
exhibit is more of an art installation than anything else. You’ll find
sculpture, carvings, and numerous artifacts of religious significance. I
found it fascinating and well worth the visit, but I’m not sure it
would be to everyone’s taste.
The highlight of the show is a room of curious figures. I am tempted to call them ‘dolls’, because of, well, Voodoo.
of them seem to be crudely stitched from canvas or leather of some
kind. Most are painted in drips of blood red and some kind of dark waxy
streaks. They range between two and five feet tall. Many sprout horns or
bat wings and carry weapons - swords, spears, clubs. The scars of their
seams, lashed with careless stitching can’t help but suggest an
autopsy, or perhaps Dr. Frankenstein’s handiwork.
the overly theatrical red walls and halloweenish smoky-acid-green
lighting, the curators have created a bit of a house of horrors.
Complete with a room of leering demonic mirrors at the exit.
is a great deal of chit-chat in the wall text about how Vodou has been
misrepresented in Hollywood - but I can’t say the museum is doing much
to clear that up. It seems more like they’ve put on a show for the kids
behind this circus freakshow, there are disturbing hints at a darker
possibility. The heads on these creatures with their malformed faces
drawn in coils of rope, might appear to be cartoons of skeletons. But
the presence of a few three-legged ‘urns’ capped with authentic boney
skulls suggest to me, that there could well be a human head inside each
one of these bizarre figures, eyes blinded with mirror, a new face of
waxed leather stretched across the skull. I couldn’t help but feel that
all of these things conceal human remains.
The impression I received, quite likely having nothing to do with reality, resulted in these sketches.