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African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power Hardcover – March 15, 1995
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From Library Journal
The popular conception of voodoo includes drums in the night, pincushion dolls, and magical tales of zombies and ghouls. In scholarly contrast, Blier has examined vodun-which West African residents of Togo and Benin define as the forces of powers that govern the world and the lives of all who reside there-through an exhaustive analysis of bochio, the small wooden sculptures invested with a host of attributes and powers by their makers and owners. Amply illustrated and copiously footnooted, this study provides a fascinating view of a belief systems carried to the New World by West African slaves. Written as an art historical exploration of the bochio sculptures, this book will also be a valuable research base for readers interested in religion and cultural interchange between Africa and the Americas. For academic collections.
David McClelland, Temple Univ. Lib., Philadelphia
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Blier has compiled an extraordinarily detailed and complex study of the vodun art of two West African countries, Benin and Togo. Her thorough analysis begins with an extended discussion of the philosophy of vodun that includes an intriguing set of possible etymologies of the word itself. The upshot is that vodun teaches "patience, calmness, respect, and order"--acceptance, that is, of what life brings--but it is not fatalistic. While composure is valued, so is action, and that's where ritual and the making and using of vodun art objects enter the picture. Vodun sculptures fall into two categories: the bochio, which are figurative, and the bo, which are objects, sometimes called fetishes or gris-gris. Neither are concerned with beauty, but, instead, focus on the grotesque, the unfathomable, and the frightful. Constructed of a broad range of raw materials, including wood, cloth, feathers, fur, straw, pottery, cowries, chains, bones, and even blood, these sculptures are activated or empowered for use in healing, protection, or effecting change. Blier's examination of the entire, often mysterious history of vodun arts from both cultural and psychological perspectives is, in a word, definitive. Donna Seaman
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