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Bawon Samedi at the Tap Tap

This past week a friend and I drove down to Florida and all around it was a great trip. We took a day trip to Miami trying to find the Global Caribbean show “Haiti King of this World.” Well, we never found it the center didn’t respond to our email about location and hours until the next day when we were leaving Florida. Disappointed, we left little Haiti to eat at the Tap Tap Restaurant in Miami Beach. It turns out Miami is actually confusing and part of Miami is on the mainland of Florida, but Miami Beach is seperated by water. Luckily we got to the restaurant and they were just about to open, when we first arrived we thought they went out of business until we saw someone go in the back. I did not expect this place to be as amazing as it was. Not only was the food good, the whole place was covered in paintings, one of the reasons why I love Africa and the diaspora, leave no space unpainted or uncarved. The priciple lwa (god) of this restaurant seemed to be Bawon Samedi (Papa Gede) the lwa of death, life, and sexuality. He is also a counselor, healer, and lover of children. The Bawon was represented throughout the restaurant in flags and table paintings depicting his veve and characterizing objects (skull, sunglasess with one lense missing, hot peppers, black rooster, penis).

For more information on Vodou drapo here is an excerpt of my senior project:
Drapo (Fig. 26) is a Haitian art of flag making used in Vodou ceremonies to usher in the spirits and these flags represent different lwa and the spiritual power within the ounfò (temple). Drapo are usually made of satin, velvet, or rayon with sequins, beads, or/and applique embodying a lwa. Many flags feature parts of chromolithographs of Catholic saints frequently found on Vodou altars and names of the lwa and more recently names of the artists as well. These flags are meticulously made and can use up to 20,000 sequins. Bright flashy colors and glittery decorations are prominent in Vodou art because they are eye-catching and help direct attention from spiritual beings. More recent flags have become increasingly elaborate from earlier stems from flags using two or three colors.”

Drapo was not the main art form I was focusing on in my project and was lumped with other Rara art forms in a sequins section of my project. If you’d like more detailed information on drapo read some essays by Donald Cosentino (Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou) or Robert Farris Thompson, both write a lot about both Africa and Haiti, but focus more on Haiti and the connection to Africa. If you’d like more information on how these traditions have come from Africa read Suzanne Blier who writes more on Africa and the forms traditions have taken in the Caribbean.

In case this whole time you were wondering “What the hell is a Tap Tap?” Here is another excerpt from mny senior project, if you’d like more information read Donal Cosentino (Divine Horsepower) or Robert Farris Thompson (Kia Kia, Fula Fula: The Haitian Bus in Atlantic Perspective).

Tap-Taps are small buses used by most as a main means of cheap local transportation, some constructed from old pick-up trucks and then painted with usually a full rainbow of colors. These buses reference lwa, or aspects of Vodou, and have creative names and mottoes which have  references to the self and sometimes social criticism.1Tap-tap can be traced to Yoruba (kia-kia) and the Kongo (fula-fula) who also have painted buses with names and mottoes as well as religious imagery, as well as having connections further back to Yoruba and Kongo canoes. In the Kongo people blessed canoes  with a sign ( which looks like a V inside of a circle) signifying the crossroads inside the sign of life,  the circle of the sun. Afterward the canoe is then smeared with the earth from the grave of a powerful leader or great hunter and palm wine for protection.2 Similar traditions of canoe purification can be seen in Yoruba history. With the advent of the car these traditions were used  to ensure protection of the driver and passengers and decoration became more elaborate.

Haitian tap-tap can be see as moving canvases and are similar to Haitian paintings entering these vehicles into the canon of Vodou art because they blur the lines between fine arts (painting) and folk art bringing them together. Tap-tap painting is also an ongoing competition between drivers because the logic goes if the driver can afford to have the most beautifully painted bus then they must also keep the parts in good condition and will be less likely to break down. Owners name and paint their buses with political phrases or empowering phrases, in Fig. 21 this owner makes comment about “the elite (ypocrite) and their state of shock yo sezi) when Aristide won the election.3” This comment is enforced with another phrase in creole saying “those who fear change, don’t run, just leave period.4” This bus like many others have political messages hidden among intricate designs and other texts and images. Mixed in between messages and designs on this can be seen the names of St. Jacques (James) and Phillipe who represents spirits of Vodou associated with change and the revolution.”

Just going to this restaurant made me wish we got a chance to see that art show. I love the colorful, detailed, historic art of Haiti. I hope you learned something from this post as well. Here are a few more pictures of the restaurant. Until next time!


The founding fathers of Haiti key to the revolution: Henri Christophe (I am sure it’s not Alexandre Petion the 4th father although you never know), Toussaint Louveture, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Erzulie god of Love or better known as Mother Mary. It may surprise you to know that every lwa has a Christian counterpart. Erzulie/Mary, Bawon/Saint Gerard, Legba/Saint Peter and the list goes on.

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Advantages of Being a Woman Artist

This is something I have always found to be funny, mostly because I am a woman artist! These things will always be true if there in the way we view men and women. Men will always have an easier time. How come everyone except Georgia O’Keffe felt her flowers were vaginas? Because she was a woman, if a man made these paintings that response would have been much lower on the list of what you think this means.

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Hungry Fish

Who says who can’t take a good photo with a camera phone. With smartphones these days they are just as good as a regular point and shoot. An awesome photo I took in the summer by my friends house. In a little tiny walk way there is a little small fake pond with a bunch of beautiful fish who on that day seemed to be very hungry. Although I find it is much harder to take a good picture with a phone and limited zoom capabilities or really fast shutter speed which are good to have when take quick on the go photos. All in all I say more people should explore their camera phone more often capture the sights all around you.

 

Happy Tuesday!

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GAL draws Africa

Awesome political artwork. Very powerful.

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

71-year-old GAL draws a weekly cartoon for the Belgian magazine Knack.* More of his 2011 work related to Africa below. All speak for themselves, except maybe for the last one in which Belgian politician Bart De Wever (leader of the country’s biggest party) tells the man at his feet to “take his own responsibility” (a favorite line of his).

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JC Fridays!

See this and more at "Winter Wonderland"

Hey all,

JC Fridays is coming up this friday and there will be a ton of free art all over jersey city! I have two photos going in the “Winter Wonderland” show in the greenville section. There are also so many other cool events that you can check on this website !

Also coming up is Seussical Jr. at Art House Productions! I have been working on a lot of the costumes all weekend, it’s been fun. Come check out these cute kids on December 8, 10, and 11. arthouseproductions.org

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Toy soilders awaken in the night

In my last semester at college we had about ten small toy soilders that guarded out plants in the windowsill. Every day these soilders were in different positions. Some of us began to wonder about their lives when we are not around while I began to document them. Now you all can make up your own story about them.