Saturday, May 2, 2015

Haitian Vodou Veve-Like Symbol In A Malawi, Africa Video

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides a video of Malawian children dancing. A portion of that video shows a traditional Malawian healing dance that begins with a healing design drawn on the ground with baby formula. My transcription of that video is also included in this post.

I also include information about Haitian Vodou veves as they appear to be a similar custom to the healing designs that were shown being drawn in that Malawian video. Two videos of Haitian are also included in the Addendum to this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the Childern's Heart program for their service in Malawi. Thanks also to Where Is Andrew for highlighting this program. Thanks also to all those who are featured in these videos. Also, thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

"Malawi, is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Malawi is over 118,000 km2 (45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of 16,777,547 (July 2013 est.). Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi's largest city; the second largest is Blantyre and the third is Mzuzu. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area

The area of Africa now known as Malawi was settled by migrating Bantu groups around the 10th century. Centuries later in 1891 the area was colonized by the British. In 1953 Malawi, then known as Nyasaland, became part of the semi-independent Central African Federation (CAF). The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and in 1964, Nyasaland gained full independence and was renamed Malawi...

Malawi is a majority Christian country, with a significant Muslim minority, although the exact figures are disputed. There is limited data with widely varying estimates on religious affiliation in the country. According to the Malawi Religion Project[63] run by the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, approximately 68% of the population identify as Christians, 25% as Muslim and 5% as "other".[64]"...

Editor's Note:
I'm including information about Haitian veves because the traditional Malawian custom of drawing designs on the ground is similar to the Haitian veves. The people of Malawi are Bantu (as per the Wikipedia article above) and one theory about the origin of veves in Haiti is that "However, it may descend from the cosmogram of the Kongo people". (Wikipedia article that follows).

"A Veve (spelled Vévé or Vevé in Latin America) is a religious symbol commonly used in Vodou and Palo. It acts as a "beacon" for the Loa, and will serve as a loa's representation during rituals.

The origin is unknown, though it is believed that the veve was derived from the beliefs of the Indigenous Taíno people. However, it may descend from the cosmogram of the Kongo people*; or originated as the Nsibidi system of writing for the Igboid and Ekoid languages.

According to Milo Rigaud "The veves represent figures of the astral forces... In the course of Vodou ceremonies, the reproduction of the astral forces represented by the veves obliges the loas... to descend to earth." [1]

Every Loa has his or her own unique veve, although regional differences have led to different veves for the same loa in some cases. Sacrifices and offerings are usually placed upon them, with food and drink being most commonly used.

In ritual and other formalities, veve is usually drawn on the floor by strewing a powder-like substance, commonly cornmeal, wheat flour, bark, red brick powder, or gunpowder, though the material depends entirely upon the ritual. In Haitian Vodou, a mixture of cornmeal and wood ash is used.

Veve can be made into screenprint, painting, patchwork etc., as wall hangings, artworks, and banners."

"What is a Vever and how are they used?
A veve/vever is a symbolic design, formed on the ground (in the peristyle) by sprinkling wheatmeal, cornmeal, or some other appropriate powder from the hand, at or before the beginning of a ceremony. Such a design represents a Loa to be invoked, and serves both as a focal point for invocation and a kind of altar for offerings. Several vevers of different Loa may be drawn for one ceremony. The designs incorporate well-recognized traditional elements, but reflect also the individual intentions and creative skill of the Houngan or Mambo."

SHOWCASE VIDEO: Dancing in Malawi

Where's Andrew? Published on Apr 5, 2012

Visiting Save The Children's HEART program in southern Malawi, where children learn through the arts, including dance. Amazing to observe all of these dances & to even participate myself.
The healing design portion of this video is found at 11-.52.

Here's my transcription of this video. (Additions and corrections are welcome.)

"I spent two days in Southern Malawi participating in Save The Children’s HEARTS program, healing through the education in the arts. Dance is an important part of the education program. I watched as these children practiced a healing dance from the Northern Malawi. First formula is placed in a design on the ground. Then the patient sits in the middle. Prayers are said and then the dancing, singing, and chanting begins. As a traveler, I was so excited to see that these rituals are being remembered. Because all it takes is a single generation for a culture to be lost and forgotten. But the purpose of dancing for education is also about self-expression, about teaching children confidence and communication.

There are no spectators. Even I got to participate. Dancing was great for these kids. It’s fun. It’s free. It’s something they can all do. All you need is a beat and in Africa someone will start dancing. And if you turn on music, it’s a party.

I’m so grateful to all of these children for reminding me that all of us need to dance."

Example #1: Parts Of A Vodou Service

DongoRemi, Uploaded on Mar 13, 2011

The essential parts of a Vodou ritual, including the drawing of Veves, chants for the Lwa and possession up through performing magic spells.

Example #2: VeVes

GWIZARD071, Uploaded on May 2, 2011

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