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#3580: Culture Vulturism: Grey replies to Selby


<< Was going to the ceremony part of building a relationship with the 
community?  I think of the "fee" of $10 (even in 1978) as a small price for 
an initial presentation to a community of serviteur/serviteuses.  The money 
may go to more Florida water, food, rum, etc.; in a sense, it is supporting 
the faith.  Or perhaps it is going straight into the pocket of someone who is 
not accountable to the community.  Whatever may be the case, I believe the 
outsider, however devoted to Haiti, is not in a position to call
 the shots, or micro-manage in the abstract. >>

Unless that "outsider" is the one being asked for some of that "outsider" 
money, in which case they have every right to express their point of view.

Now, let me turn devil's advocate for a minute.  It is true that we are all 
too often treated to journalists or anthropologists or whoever, who show up 
uninvited at Vodou services, and then proceed to stick their tape recorder 
under my jawbone and their cameras in my face as I am trying to induce 
possession, fer cryin' out loud.  They ask bold questions, they demand 
information, they go away and sell their footage and never send a dime back.

Now, here is how I do it.  I have been on both sides of this issue, as a 
Mambo and as a journalist and photographer and videographer myself.  If I am 
*working* in these latter capacities, I try to see the officiating Houngan or 
Mambo prior to the ceremony.  I introduce myself respectfully, or better yet 
have my local contact introduce me, and I ask permission to record and 
photograph.  Rarely am I refused.  Then, I give and request contact 
information.  If I sell footage or images or whatever, I share the money with 
the peristyle.  I also make gifts, as I have noted, usually rum and candles 
and clairin, mouchoirs and bottles and things like that.

For instance, almost every year I attend Rara in Petit Riviere de 
l'Artibonite.  I photograph like mad.  The following year, I return with 
copies of the pictures, and enlargements of the best ones, which I present to 
the subjects of the photos as gifts, with extra copies for the president of 
each Rara band I photograph.  I make copies of the video footage, too.  And I 
sometimes bring fabric for costumes.  I then feel perfectly free to ignore 
the obnoxious drunk slobbering "Blan bay mwen kob!", or to bring him to the 
attention of his band's president.

When I am on the other side of the aisle, so to speak, and running a 
ceremony, if the initiates want to photograph their own ceremonies they can 
do so, as much as possible.  If they want to ask someone to take a picture of 
them, that is fine.  If visitors want to photograph, just casually, they can 
do so.  But if it is a professional who is unfamiliar to me, who I do not 
regard as a colleague, then they are asked to pay observer fees.  Television 
crews who contact me ahead of time are asked to pay consultant fees to me, 
which they cheerfully do, and which I share with my partner Houngan.  
(Actually, they always seem to cancel at the last minute, some more 
newsworthy event always seems to come up, but that is another topic...)

Selby is right, ceremonies cost money, and we are not paid for making a 
dance, we spend money to do that.  We are paid for performing ceremonies on 
request, doing initiations, making wanga, and so forth.  For a better 
understanding of the economy of Houngans and Mambos, check The VODOU Page and 
under Special Topics click on "Money in Vodou".

Peace and love,

Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen

"Se bon ki ra", 
     Good is rare - Haitian Proverb

The VODOU Page - <A HREF="http://members.aol.com/racine125/index.html">http://