An n’ Pale | Café Conversation with Manbo Dòwòti Desir

Dowoti Alice Ann palePlaces of forgetting, places of remembering. These were the focus of the An n’ Pale|Café Conversation with Manbo Dòwòti Désir on Thursday, October 23, 2014. The talk highlighted her new book, Goud kase goud: Conjuring Memory in Spaces of the AfroAtlantic. The special event, organized by Haiti Cultural Exchange and moderated by Advisory Board member and Kiskeácity founder Alice Backer, was an opportunity to explore the connections between sacred space and public discourse. Those gathered at FiveMyles Gallery enjoyed wine and other refreshments as they awaited the arrival of the guest of honor. Some spoke in hushed voices about the preservation of African culture in the Diaspora, which had been the topic of Manbo Dòwòti’s appearances on Backer’s radio program, Legacy of 1804. Others talked about their travels in Africa and throughout the Diaspora, and wondered aloud at what insights Désir would offer up during the conversation.

As a light rain began to fall, she arrived to hold court. After a brief welcome from HCX Executive Director Régine M. Roumain, Ms. Backer and Manbo Dòwòti took their places in the front of the room. Alice first introduced the speaker, highlighting her extensive work in academia as well as in the cultural sphere, and underscored her participation in the UN’s commemoration of the International Decade for Africa. An extremely regal woman with a warm presence, members of the audience were invited to share in an exchange of ideas as Manbo Dòwòti and Ms. Backer began. In the course of her research for Goud kase goud, Désir completed a multi-year journey to 16 countries, visiting places imprinted with the energy of the Ma’afa. The images and words that she brings together capture the pain and longing of separation, the suffering of oppression, the hope of salvation, and the sweet confidence of liberty.

The author presented a slideshow of the sites detailed in the book. Some are places of forgetting, like the well at Elmina castle in Ghana. The Manbo explained that captive Africans were made to walk around this well several times, reciting incantations that severed their connection with the Motherland. She said that this was as much a show of mercy as it was of brutality. The captors understood that the separation would have been too great, too generationally scarring, without some form of ritual passage. Other sites were places to allow remembrance and reflection, like the “Redemption Song” sculpture in Kingston, Jamaica’s Emancipation Park. The figures, a Black man and Black woman, rise serenely from the water, their faces to the sky. Just as places like Elmina and Goree Islands mark where captives left Home, sites such as Emancipation Park and Manhattan’s African Burial Ground National Monument speak to the ways in which they and their children pursued freedom, dignity, and a new sense of home on the other side of the Atlantic.

During the question and answer session, Manbo Dòwòti spoke of how her journey into AfroAtlantic religious traditions and her experience as an artist in the public domain informed the project that became Goud kase goud. As a vodouisante, she understands how public space and spectacle serve as vehicles for addressing social issues. She conveyed the importance of ritual, of psycho-spiritual healing, in movements for social justice. The evening closed on a high note, with Manbo Dòwòti taking time to speak individually with members of the audience and sign copies of her book.

To see pictures of this event, click here!

To purchase your copy of Goud kase goud: Conjuring Memory in Spaces of the AfroAtlantic, visit the HCX Boutik at 558 St.John’s Place | Brooklyn, NY.

By Gerard D. Miller, Jr., An n’ Pale participant

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 at 11:34 am and is filed under An n' Pale, Archive, Events, HCX Programs, Literature, Photography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.