Why are there so many misconceptions about religion and spirituality in Haiti? Haiti seems either demonized for its deep ties to the African-inspired religion Vodou, or fetishized for being exceptionally "spiritual" or "magical." This one-day symposium invites together Christians, Vodouists and Freemasons from Haiti for an interfaith conversation on demystifying religion and spirituality. This symposium is organized by CLACS faculty members Wynnie Lamour (Kreyol at NYU Instructor) and Katherine Smith (Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of Latin American and Caribbean Studies).
About our speakers:
Manbo Dòwòti Désir is the Founder and President of the AfroAtlantic Theologies & Treaties Institute (ATI) www.ATI-global.org, and the DDPA Watch Group. Manbo Désir is also the Chairperson of the NGO Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Afrophobia and Colorism located at the United Nations. She serves on the Advisory Broad of the Drammeh Institute. An essayist, photographer, and educator, she has focused on the contemporary arts and culture of the African Diaspora; and the religions and sacred arts of the Afro-Atlantic region. A past Advisor to UNESCO on projects related to the global African community. The author and co-author respectively of Conjuring Memory in Spaces of the AfroAtlantic, www.maafamemories.com, and Personal Vision: Photographs Adger Cowans, she is a Manbo Asogwe (High Priest) in Haitian Vodou, and in 2015 served as the official Spokesperson of, and Ambassador to the Haïtian Diaspora (Gwètòde de Outre-Mer) appointed by the National Confederation of Haitian Vodouists (KNVA, in Haïti). In this capacity she was the sole representative the global Haitian Vodou community at the high-level summit, “International Launch of the African Initiative for Education, Peace and Development, Interreligious and Intercultural Dialog: Coexistence, the Key to Dialog,” which focused on security in Africa (Cotonou, 2015). She is a Sare (Chief) of the Organization of African Vodou Religions in Republics of Benin and Togo (OCVA). Manbo Désir is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University and has a Master’s degree in contemporary art and critical theory from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College. She is committed to the holistic health and wellbeing of communities-of-color and is an advocate of African spiritual practices as theologies of liberation in relation to the human rights of African descendants, and the demand for reparations.
Renowned houngan (vodou priest) Jean-Daniel Lafontant organized one of the premiere parties of the Ghetto Biennale at the temple Nah-Ri-Veh: an epic night of vodou drumming followed by rara from Forever Rara Fanm, one of Haiti's only all-female rara troupes. In this conversation with the Radyo Shak team, Lafontant discusses rara and drumming's deep relationship to vodou, including its origins in pre-Columbian Hispaniola; the organization of the lakou; the spiritual power of the drum; his own origins as a vodou priest; and his reasons for sharing this experience with the Biennale visitors.
Dr. Jean Paul Errol Toussaint
Global Spiritual Life at NYU is an open, authentic, and vibrant community at the forefront of international conversations on religion and spirituality. Our mission is to offer environments and tools for transformative multifaith and spiritual encounters at NYU and beyond.
The Religious Studies Program explores religious practice as an important aspect of social life in three ways. Students study the theories and methods by which religion is analyzed today, including psychological, sociological, anthropological, hermeneutic, philosophical, historical, legal and literary work. They also approach the study of "religion" as a concept, which has itself been an intellectual object of inquiry, and has played a key role in the development of the social and human sciences. Second, students learn empirically about religion in different times and places either through historical or ethnographic study, using textual, visual and audio sources. Third, approached as lived practices, religions present us with a valuable lens through which many realms in social life can be examined: gender and sexuality, race, the nation-state, violence, memory, ethics, emotions, politics, economy, power, art, literature and media. These realms, in turn, impact upon religions. It should be stressed that the program is oriented towards the academic study of religious phenomena and does not promote or endorse either religious belief itself or the views of any particular religious tradition. The program makes use of resources from several areas of study in the College. Courses may be taught by scholars of Anthropology, Classics, English, Fine Arts, French, Hebrew and Judaic Studies, History, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Music, Performance Studies, Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literature, and other academic disciplines.
The event is free and open to the public. Photo ID required to enter building.