- VooDooDoll What if Haïti were a Woman: On ti Travay sou 21 Pwen or An Alter(ed)native in Something Other than Fiction
A Preamble of Sorts
Permanent readiness for the Marvelous—Suzanne Césaire
…Perhaps those who brought about the revolution should have waited until the great powers saw fit to grant Saint-Domingue its freedom.
…Haiti and Haitians remain a manifestation of blackness in its worst possible form because, simply put, the unruly enfant terrible of the Americas defied all European odds and created a disorder of things colonial. Haiti had to become colonialism’s bête noire if the sanctity of whiteness were to remain unquestioned. In considering the issue of representation and the meaning of symbols, I believe it is imperative that we begin with a singular question: How did the enfant terrible of the Americas become the world’s bête noire?
…The distortions that emerged in the aftermath of the successful revolution would have impact for years to come. Black freedom, and the stereotypes of savagery that go with it, to this day remain central to how we talk about Haiti, represent Haiti, understand and explicate Haiti and Haitians. This, of course, begs us to ask a bigger question concerning the role that these narratives play in more practical matters, in policy papers, and so on.
…Indeed, there are certain narratives that allow us to remain impervious to each other by the way they reinforce the mechanics of Othering. Or as Michel-Rolph Trouillot puts it, “The more Haiti appears weird, the easier it is to forget that it represents the longest neocolonial experiment in the history of the West.”
A Performance-Installation Project, VooDooDoll is an avant-garde meditation on coercion and consent inspired by Gédé, the spirit of ancestral dead and sexual regeneration, that intersperses Haiti’s geopolitical history with personal narrative, statistics, theory, and Vodou chants. [End Page 104]
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(1) The Doll: She is no longer as PLUSH in certain areas as she once was in her days of glory. Still from afar, she resembles a human cake adorned with what could be CANDIED POLES with flowing streamers ready to be served at the next supper. Further inspection shows these to be tattered flags bearing national emblems & family crests.
More scrutiny reveals the poles as pins pricked so close to parts of her that an estimate they cover nearly 80% of her surface would not be an exaggeration. Each needle that now protrudes from her is well wedged into the hypodermis. They had either been carefully placed in various points away from her meridians to provoke nervous conditions or were thrown par hazard from some distance. Flying arrows from blindfolded archers seeking to impress their rivals. Those who made their mark got 10 points. The ones who did not received 30. There is always a reward. The game was not about winning but an exercise in devotion to the sport. It is always the dare. [End Page 106]
(4) The Numbers: The ones that really matter actually remain unknown. Quantitative analysis may anchor some studies that have done little to disrupt entrenched beliefs that fermented long before she became synonymous with backwardness & evil. What we still don’t know is the number of religious missions offering her food, clothing, shelter, education and of course salvation. Or the actual number of offsprings young and old whose laden J distorted perejil to their fatal detriment. The contested estimates range from 20,000 to 35,000 depending on which side of the border you ask. We know the initial value ascribed to the collective lives of the dead $750,000 would later be reduced to $525,000. 5+2+5=12. 1+2=3. Triad. A triumvirate or just another Holy Trinity. That is between $17.50 – $26.50pd (per dead). In actuality, the payment received was a personal draft for $250,000 and $25,000 in palm oil. We don’t know whom if any among the massacred actually benefited from this transaction. But we do know that she has long been a site for the trading of human chattel. In fact, years...