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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://