All in one: Voodoo, Politics & Art


Today we visited the The Oloffson, a historic Haitian hotel, and spoke with its owner Richard Morse.  The hotel has been described as a type of tropical Gothic gingerbread mansion.  The hotel felt as if it came right out of a Graham Greene novel, with journalist and foreigners populating the airy bar.  Only through later research did I learn that it was in fact the inspiration for Graham Greene’s “The Comedians.”  Walking from the hotel into the garden, where the interview took place, I was struck by the hundreds of pieces of Voodoo art that decorate the property.  Many of the pieces were rather strange, with shrunken skulls, ghosts, and skelton-like figures, but were all very intricate and artistic.

Mr. Morse discussed his childhood in the United States, and the difficulties he faced being a half-hatiain in a country full of racial tensions and the way in which the rhythms of voodoo drew him to Haiti.  He talked about the corruption rampant in Haitian politics and the way in which many Haitian politicians have said one thing to get elected and done very different things while in office.  He argued that the Martelly is the best candidate for Haiti, as he does not have connections to Preval unlike Manigat and Celestine, and can inspire the public.

The interview was particularly interesting as he discussed the way in which secret deals and backstabbing have played a very important role in recent Haitian politics.  Additionally, he provided an interesting explanation of Voodoo and its importance in Haitian religious life, as he compared the extended pantheon of spirits to the saints in Catholicism.  He also made an interesting comparison between Voodooism and Judaism, one involving the escape of slaves and one involving the revolt of slaves.  Finally, he adamantly argued that the television media actively works to misinform the public about Haiti, as the small number of networks means that they can dictate the story and chose to ignore things that fail to fit into their story-line.  I felt that the interview was provided a interesting peak into Voodooism and a better understanding of the intricacies of Haitian politics.

By Cameron Rotblat (cameron.rotblat@yale.edu)

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