Beads, bones, rags, straw, leather, pottery, fur, feathers and blood - these are the raw materials of "vodun" artworks. As objects of fury and force, these works are intended to protect and empower people and cultures that have long been oppressed. In this major study Suzanne Preston Blier examines the artworks of the contemporary "vodun" cultures of southern Benin and Togo in West Africa as well as the related "voudou" traditions of Haiti, New Orleans, and historic Salem, Massachusetts. Blier employs a variety of theoretical psychological, anthropological, and art historical approaches to explore the contrasts inherent in the "vodun" arts - commoners versus royalty, popular versus elite, "low" art versus "high." She examines the relation between art and the slave trade, the psychological dynamics of artistic expression, the significance of the body in sculptural expression, and indigenous perceptions of the psyche. Throughout, Blier seeks to pushe African art history to a new height of cultural awareness that recognizes the complexity of traditional African societies as it acknowledges the role of social power in shaping aesthetics and meaning generally.
This book should be of critical interest not only to those concerned with African, African American, and Caribbean art, but also to anthropologists, African diaspora scholars, students of comparative religion and comparative psychology.