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Faulconer Gallery screens “Of Gods and Men”

Students gathered at Faulconer Gallery for the screening of “Of Men and Gods” on Wednesday. photo by Helena Gruensteidl

by Emma Friedlander

Students gathered at Faulconer Gallery for the screening of “Of Men and Gods” on Wednesday. photo by Helena Gruensteidl

The student curated exhibition “En Voyage: Hybridity and Vodou in Haitian Art” in Faulconer Gallery continued its event series last Wednesday, Feb. 22 with a film screening of “Of Men and Gods.” The documentary explores the lives of openly gay vodou practitioners in Haiti and the relationship between their sexuality and religion. The event was co-sponsored by the Stonewall Resource Center.

“The main tension of the film, between the religious leaders of vodou and these men who are openly gay, is that the religious leaders of vodou argue that loa (spirits) can only ride you during ceremonies. It’s not a constant possession,” explained Viv Makos ’19, a student curator who worked on education for the exhibition and a Faulconer Gallery intern. “Whereas the openly gay men will say Ezruli (one of the loa) is riding them constantly, that’s why they’re the way that they are. This gives them a protection in that they’re not harassed, and their families are then okay with their sexuality.”

The 2002 documentary follows several men in Haiti, examining how their religion and sexuality intersect with one another, as well as their social, professional and family lives. In 2017, the creators were interviewed by “Women & Performance” in honor of the 15th anniversary of the documentary, and revealed that all but one of the film’s interviewees had died during the AIDS crisis.

When choosing which film to screen in conjunction with the gallery, Makos found herself torn between two documentaries: one was “Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti,” shot by Russian expressionist Maya Deren between 1947 and 1953, and the other was “Of Men and Gods.” Although both films tied in well with the theme of vodou in the Haitian art exhibit, Makos ultimately decided that “Of Men and Gods” had the most interesting relevance and was most palatable to the Grinnell audience.

“In [‘Divine Horseman’] there’s a scene where a goat is sacrificed and it’s a little extreme. And because of Maya Deren and the time it was made, it’s from a very white viewpoint,” Makos explained. “‘Of Men and Gods’ does so many things for the exhibition. It ties in with our theme of vodou, but also the fact that it shouldn’t be stigmatized and that it actually does good.”

Additionally, one of the men featured in the documentary, Haitian singer, dancer and Vodou priest Erol Josué, will be giving a performative lecture on vodou traditions and religious music in Faulconer Gallery on March 14.

Although the art in Faulconer Gallery can speak for itself, the incorporation of other forms of media and educational events serves to provide further opportunity to explore so many other things related to Haiti and Haitian art.

“Other forms of media can reach out into the topics that otherwise we can’t talk about in hundred-word wall labels,” Makos said. “How are you able to talk about the intricacies within modern Haitian vodou practitioners and the religion and how that affects modern communities if you’re looking at, let’s say, a piece of metalwork from the 1990s? There’s a big gap there. By accessing other media, that might be made more contemporary. … Not to say that art can’t also express those things, but there’s a limit. We have word limits unfortunately.”

“En Voyage: Hybridity and Vodou in Haitian Art” will continue its run through March 18. Upcoming related events include Community Day in the Gallery this Saturday, Feb. 24 and Erol Josué’s performance on March 14. 

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