To discover the dry and wet months of the year: "Take twelve onions all the same size. Then cut a hole in the top of each onion. Then fill each top with the same amount of salt. Then lay each onion in a straight row on a table. You must lay them the way the sun rises and sets. You must do this on Christmas Eve between eleven and twelve, and don't let anyone go near the table after you have put them there. Get up on Christmas morning early and go to the onions and say, 'January, February, March, April' and so on. Then look at each onion. Some onions will have water running out of them and some will be dry. The onions that have water running out of them will be wet months and the dry onions dry months for the coming year." Folk-lore from Adams County, Illinois, 1935.
Folkloristically, an action is designated as the pseudo-ostension when an individual knowingly re-enacts a legend or myth as a hoax, and their actions are witnessed by a third party and subsequently believed to be the fulfillment of the legend. The action of the perpetrator thus becomes a truth for the witness.
In the practice of superstitious ritual, an individual’s actions are not dictated by a belief system, institution, or master, but rather by the archetypal symbols and consciousness inherent in their gesture and being. The action thus embodies an individual’s personal relationship to their specific location in space and time, and empowers them to control their environment and the forces around them: life, death, afterlife, sickness, health, poverty, wealth, weather, the cosmos, the natural world, spiritual and physical entities.
For the 4th Ghetto Biennale, Lazaros performed and actualized pseudo-ostensive superstitious rituals as sculptures within a family's residence in the neighbourhood of the Grand Rue, all in an effort to fulfill the family's request for "jobs, easy living, and love".
KREYÒL, VODOU AND THE LAKOU : FORMS OF RESISTANCE
After the Haiti Revolution, the formerly enslaved peasants had three tools for their ‘counter-plantation’ position; the Kreyòl language, the Lakou system and the belief-system and ritual practices of Vodou, a triumvirate of linguistic, territorial and cultural resistance. Laurent Dubois, writing in ‘Haiti: The Aftershocks of History’, notes that, ‘thanks to a remarkably strong and widely shared set of cultural forms – the Kreyòl language, the Vodou religion, and innovative ways of managing land ownership…- they built a society able to resist all forms of subjection that recalled the days of slavery.’
The language of Kreyòl, which was born in the colonial plantations, began as a basic and rough method of linguistic communication between the culturally and geographically diverse populations of the colony. After the slaves revolt Kreyòl became a language of resistance and retreat from the metropolitan state, which continued to use French as the lingua franca of power and capital in Haiti.
Vodou is a creolised religion forged by African slaves and their descendants which is comprised of elements from a wide range of diverse religious practices including many African traditions from the Fon, Dahomean, Kongo, Yoruba, and other African ethnic groups; Christianity and of the indigenous Taino Indians who were the original inhabitants of the region. As Dubois comments, ‘As they suffered together through the trauma of plantation life, Africans and creoles developed their own rituals of healing, mourning and worship.’
The Lakou is a sub-altern land management system in the rural provinces of Haiti which refers to clusters of houses around a yard which house extended and multi-generational families, forms of land management, ownership, co-operative labour and trade practices which attempted to resist the return to the plantations. As Dubois wrote, ‘In order to preserve that control, the Lakou system established its own set of customs to regulate land ownership and land transfers. The state had no part in these transactions, which were overseen entirely by community and family institutions.’
Vodou is a contested theme in studies of Caribbean and Haitian art. Current discourse interrogates both auto-exoticism by Haitians, and the ‘othering’ of outsiders. Important concerns include the appropriation of the impoverished peasant or ghetto culture as an essentially neo-colonialist strategy, and the precarious position of Haitian art in general, trapped as it is between the historically marketable ‘naïf’ or ‘primitive’ Vodou-celebrating tendency, and a contemporary desire to take its place on the stage of the international global art world.