BK to Benin - A Vodou Pilgrimage
Timoun ki sot lòt bò dlo, (child from the other side of the water) is what I am called by Haitian folks born on the island. Growing up in the Washington D.C. suburbs during the 1970’s, I resisted much of the Jehovah Witness teaching of my parents’ newfound religion. Beyond the hills and valleys of my Christian rearing, I often traveled into otherworldly tributaries.
Brooklyn to Benin is my personal pilgrimage into Vodou and its artistic and cultural survival throughout the Diaspora. Vodou, also spelled Vodun, is a spiritual and religious practice that originates with the Fon and Ewe of Benin, West Africa. Translated, Vodou means - the power, the source, the force, the creator of all things and the mystery.
Brooklyn to Benin is a nomadic experimental mixed media project, exploring the empowering elements and rituals found within traditional and syncretic African religions practiced in the basement temples of Brooklyn, NY to the magnificent Vodou festival annually held in Ouidah, Benin.
The intention of this deep and intense exploration is to promote understanding and appreciation for religious/spiritual freedom while broadening my artistic range and practice in performance, photography, research, and writing and storytelling.
All donations will support my travel, accomodations, classes/workshops in West Africa. From January to April, I will be traveling in West Africa! In Benin, I will be attending the annual Vodou Festival. In Benin and Togo, I will be studying with traditional healers learning the about the divine alchemy that is Vodou and then off to Guinea for a 4week workshop in traditional dance.
Upon my return from this 'Souljourn' abroad, my Brooklyn to Benin project will be shared through
1. various international Artist-in-Residency programs;
2. the publication of my first travelogue which will include WiseWomen lessons learned on the journey, herbal remedies, diary entries and photographs;
3. international photography exhibitions; and
4. a musical CD with traditional Vodou songs from the Americas to West Africa and original folksongs gathered along the journey.
This project is a pilgrimage of a daughter born on the other side of the water – delving into depths of an ancient cascade of myth, memory, magic, and mystery.
Thank you for your love and support.
GUIDE: "Do you want to dance?"
ME: "I do not know. Maybe. "
GUIDE: "Because ...says that you must dance."
ME: "That what?"
GUIDE: "You must dance." ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Sometimes your dreams really do come true. Two and a half years ago, I landed in Savalou, Benin for the annual Vodou Festival. Benin is the only country on the whole continent of A F R I C A that acknowledges #indigenous #africanreligion with an official government holiday on January 10th (schools, gov offices, banks, etc all closed).
My Brooklyn to Benin vision was actualized and here I was in Doissa, a small village in Savalou. This voyage was historical, emotional and oh so necessary.
And now I was being asked to dance. Folks in the living and the spiritual world wanted to see what this daughter from across the waters knew and remembered. Lol. So what do you think I did?
Do you want to find out what I did and what happened next? PLEASE SUPPORT: www.gofundme.com/bktobenin
for my upcoming BROOKLYN TO BENIN travelogue which includes, my photographs and my writing (journal entries, poems, and essays) about my Vodou pilgrimage
T H A N K Y O U | M E S I A N P I L
Do you know about Fanm on Films? Fanm on Films is a podcast that reviews Haitian
Dear family and friends!
I write to you today from Benin, West Africa. Can you believe that two years has passed already? Amazing but true.
As you know, during these past two years in Benin, I conducted research, taught full time at the English International School, as well as directed/produced three short films.
“Brooklyn to Benin: A Vodou Pilgrimage” has been screened in three international film festivals from Lagos, Nigeria, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago and in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, I created the WaWaWa Diaspora Centre which is an inter-generational arts, education and exchange project in West Africa. All of my accomplishments would not have been possible without your generous support and feedback.
Currently, I am in the midst of cleaning/packing/letting go and meditations on moving forward. Yes, after two years of living in Benin, I am leaving and finally returning to Brooklyn, NY. I would have preferred to make the transition during warmer months but, so it goes. Lol.
So I will be in North America touring and sharing my “Brooklyn to Benin” experiences, my reflections, my films, photography and writing.
"Brooklyn to Benin: A Vodou Pilgrimage"
Film/Lecture Series for Black History or Women's History Month bookings at primary/secondary schools, educational institutions, community centers.
Please send an email to WaWaWaDiaspora@gmail.com for rates and availability.
And don’t you love our new film poster? A houanu ka ka to Olatoundji Fagbenro, Assistant Director for this great shot from our shoot out in Ouidah Plage.
Daalu to Aborijin Media for the graphic design work.
Mesi anpil – my sincere gratitude to all of you for your continued love and support. I hope to see you soon.
Greetings friends and family!
Following the lead of my spiritual mentor Zora Neale Hurston - writer and anthropologist, in preparation for my Brooklyn toBenin: Vodou Pilgrimage, I delved into my research of Vodou songs, dances and folklore.
As the recipient of the New York State Council on the Arts Folk Arts 2015 Apprenticeship through the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, I was able to study with master teacher and archivist, Georges Vilson.
It was such a wonderful experience because Georges was oh so patient with me, though my Kreyòl and my singing was not always soothing to the ears. Lol. But I kept trying nonetheless because this is my culture, my inheritance and a powerful gift from my ancestors. Though I did not grow up in the peristyle, the Gods were always with me, especially Papa Ogou.
It is my pleasure to share with you "Obatalah" a recording of one my favorite songs that I learned from Georges' wonderful Kandelab: 101 Notated Haitian Folk and Vodou Songs available at Amazon for purchase, during the NYSCA Folk Arts Apprenticeship.
Much thanks to Eileen Mary Condon for her support and timely assistance and her leadership at Verite Sou Tanbou. This track is masterfully mixed by Val Jeanty.
Haitian Vodou folksong for Ogun/Obatalah with a traditional Nago (Yoruba) rhythms.
Vocals: Régine Romain aka Gigi Love Jones
Drummers: Jean 'FanFan' Rene and Jean Mary Brignol
ReMix: Val Jeanty/VAL Inc.
Producer: Georges Vilson - Kandelab
Engineer: Chico Boyer - Kamoken Studio, Brooklyn, New York
I thank each of you for your continued support of the Brooklyn to Benin experience.
Founder | Director - WaWaWa Diaspora Centre
Email - WaWaWaDiaspora@gmail.com