‘Vodou Roots’ embraces active living spiral of Black identity, culture

Haitian artist, Regine Romain.
Pavan Carter

A Brooklyn-based, Haitian-American artist, educator, visual anthropologist and racial equity coach has produced a mixed-media art project embracing the active living spiral of Black identity and culture through “Vodou Roots.”

Régine Romain said “Vodou Roots” also remembers “who we were and are as people of African descent living in the Americas.

“This racial justice work is an act of resistance, memory, cultural recovery and reconciliation,” she said. “It offers an open invitation to students, educators and community members to explore issues of historical mis-representation, structural/institutional power and privilege, and internalized oppression in relation to African and Diaspora religions (ADR).”

Roman said “Vodou Roots” — curated through film, oral storytelling (podcast) and live performances to preserve Vodou’s cultural expressions and indigenous knowledge — dispels xenophobic biases towards it while promoting equity and tolerance of “Black indigenous ways of being.”

She said “Vodou Roots” is an outgrowth of 25-plus years of anthropological research, teaching and personal practice, highlighted through “Brooklyn to Benin: A Vodou Pilgrimage;” “Vodou Roots: A Love Story Musical;” and “WaWaWa Diaspora Centre.”

Romain said “Brooklyn to Benin: A Vodou Pilgrimage” is a short film chronicling her three-year sojourn to Benin, formerly Dahomey, the birthplace of Vodou, an ancient West African religion.

“’Brooklyn to Benin’ is my personal pilgrimage into Vodou and its artistic and cultural survival throughout the Diaspora,” she said, adding that Vodou, also spelled Vodun, is “a spiritual and religious practice that originates with the Fon and Ewe of Benin, West Africa.”

“Vodou Roots: A Love Story Musical” is an intimate audio-narrative journey about Romain’s life and her relationship with Vodou and other traditional African religions/spiritual practices.

She said this 32-minute podcast explores Vodou’s historical survival, cultural impact, universal values, arts and healing modalities.

Romain said “WaWaWa Diaspora Centre” is a mobile platform created in Benin (2016) and incorporated in New York State as a not-for-profit (2018).

She said it “advances racial harmony and healing” for the Black descendants of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, through inter-generational arts, education and exchange programs.

With over 20 years of teaching, training and supporting diverse communities, Romain said she uses photographs/film/performance as mixed-media educational tools “to promote love, understanding and respect in addressing issues of race, representation and justice through participatory and reflective learning practices.”

Through an extensive global network, she said she produces culturally-transformative curricula, workshops, salons, performances, forums, exhibits/festivals and tours.

Romain is the founder of Urban PhotoPoets, Brooklyn Photo Salon and the Brooklyn to Benin projects.

Portraits for “Self-Determining Haiti,” Romain’s photographs of Haiti after the devastating 7.0 earthquake, was featured at A.I.R. Gallery as her first solo exhibition as a 2011-2012 Fellow.

She said images from this exhibition are in the permanent collection at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and are highlighted in a photo essay featured in Meridians, Vol 11, No. 1 (2011), a journal published by Indiana University Press.

Romain said her work has been displayed at the Teatro Nacional de Cuba, Cuba; UN Photography Society, NY; and the Charles Sumner Museum, Washington, D.C.

Romain is the editor of “Diaspora Diaries: An Educators Guide to MoCADA Artists” (2009).

Her photographic work on “Vodou” appears in MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora (2017).

Romain is a co-author and featured artist in “Ritual as Remembrance,” a Photoville lesson plan for 5th to 12th graders, based on the MFON project “Altar: Prayer, Ritual, Offerings,” exhibited at Photoville from Sept. 13-23, 2018 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Romain received her Bachelor of Science in international studies from Bowie State University, a public, historically-Black university in Prince George’s County, MD, north of Bowie.

She also received her Master of Arts in photography and urban culture from Goldsmiths, University of London.

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