Granbwa Beaded Flag (Ruler of Forest), 2000
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16.50 x 19.25 in
The present work is an excellent example of the flags and banners of Haitian voodoo practice. It is constructed of cloth with hand-stitched glass beads and sequins, representing the figure Gran Bwa (also Grand Bois, spelled on the flag "GRAИD BOI"). According to Patrick Arthur Polk, Gran Bwa, "ruler of the forest, is the master of herbal remedies. He also presides over initiations which require, at least symbolically, the secrecy of the forest’s darkest recesses. He normally appears as a tall, symmetrical figure that is half man and half tree." He continues to discuss how flags like this one are meant to honor or invoke gods, as well as depicting their likenesses or attributes using dazzling displays of color. The imagery of Haitian Voodoo culture is derived from multiple sources, and the culture seems to have the ability to integrate the various sources from popular culture to catholic imagery into traditional African symbols, values and rituals. Images like that of Gran Bwa are based off ritual drawings, or vévé, used to invoke the deity and to consecrate ritual space. Such vévé in Voodoo, unlike images appropriated from Catholicism or from popular culture, are probably based off of ground drawings from Central and West Africa. The relatively young age of this example shows the power and influence the imagery continues to have in Haiti to this day. 16.5 x 19.25 inches, artwork 24.25 x 27 inches, frame Polk, Patrick Arthur. Haitian Vodou Flags. University Press of Mississippi, 1997, pp. 14, 19. Framed to conservation standards using 100 percent rag matting and museum glass within a gold gilt frame.