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7375: Re: 7372: Re: African-derived words in Haitian Creole (fwd)

From: haiti@ixks.com
>From: Michel DeGraff <degraff@MIT.EDU>
>There's a fascinating book by Pierre Anglade on the etymological inventory
>of creole words with African origins.   

Michel DeGraff's post confirms several things we found at an interesting
meeting with a visiting professor from Benin. We had just arrived in the
States and were asked to do a presentation (drum, dance and song
corresponding to ancestral spirits (Lwa) in Haitian Vodou) in a class called
African Traditional Religion and Thought.  As I've said, the professor was
from Benin and my husband is from the Artibonite (most of us know what that
means in relation to Vodou...).  It was one of the most exciting experiences
of my life because my husband had just come from Haiti where influences
(don't need to name them) are constantly working to convince the people that
Vodou is bad, evil, of the devil, and worst of all; the cause of all
poverty, disease and problems in Haiti.  He was rightfully impressed by this
dignified professor and the professor was rightfully impressed by a master
drummer/drum-maker from the Artibonite Valley.  We started our presentation
and my husband explained the relationship of drum, dance, and song with the
Lwa while I translated.  When we mentioned Danbala, the Beninois professor
literally jumped up from his chair and ran to the board and wrote the name
for the great serpent in his native language, explaining loudly what that
spirit meant to the Beninois.  My husband's jaw kind of dropped and they
gazed at each other in a kind of firey recognition that I can't explain but
felt honored to witness.  This continued throughout the presentation, word
after word, Lwa after Lwa, dance after dance... so many corresponding to the
Beninois tradition.  The professor was so excited to see how the Haitian
people had preserved the West African traditions and even kept the proper
names which had changed somewhat but not much.  And my husband was suddenly
in awe of his heritage, realizing after a lifetime of negative slurs and
accusations, that his traditional Vodou was actually an ancient tradition
carried in the blood of his people over the middle passage, through
generations of slavery and difficulty to this very day, in this U.S.
University classroom, where he and a dignified member of the original land
and tradition had taken his hand and called him his lost brother.  That was
the beginning of a reclaimation that broadens and deepens every day.
Interesting that he is more free to express this in the U.S. than in his
native Haiti...  (persecution?)

But this is not the only evidence of the West African origins of Vodou. It's
only one personal story.  There are many, factual studies that point this
all out more clearly than I can.  Still, it was a beautiful experience and I
thought there might be a few people on the list who would like to hear about it.

C. Henrius