Mama Lola and Donald Cosentino

“Global Vodou: Mama Lola and Donald Cosentino in Conversation”

“Change is indeed a constant in Vodou sacred arts.”

“A Vodou clairvoyant is said to have the gift of the ‘eyes,’ which is the ability to discern spiritual power, pwisans , where others only see matter. […] it is the magic within an object which validates its status as sacred art. The magic is often metonymic, residing in some particular aspect of the work […]”

Donald J. Cosentino, “First Word.” African Arts

“As a priestess of the religion, Lola has ‘plenty confidence’ in herself and in her work and brings her own form of diasporic feminism to the table. One of her goals, she states, is to open doors for others—as she has done by taking the formidable risk of allowing this biography to be written.”

“Recently Karen commented, regarding the impact of her work in Mama Lola , “All I did, really, is explain what Haiti gives to us!”
Claudine Michel, Foreword to the 2010 Edition of Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn

Photo courtesy of Claudine Michel.

Photo courtesy of Donald Cosentino.

Photo courtesy of Donald Cosentino.

Mama Lola and Donald Cosentino will discuss the transformations of Vodou in the 20th and 21st centuries as they relate both to local and more complex global networks of practices.

Marie Thérèse Alourdes Macena Champagne Lovinski , better known as Mama Lola , is a Brooklyn-based healer whose practice, based in Haitian Vodou, combines the “skills of a medical doctor, a psychotherapist, a social worker, and a priest”. Mama Lola has become a world-renowned healer who still works out of her home in Brooklyn, but also travels both to heal and to teach about the religion. Recently, she has become an important voice in the Vodou festival sponsored each year by Vodou Authentica in New Orleans.

Donald Cosentino is Professor of World Arts and Cultures at the University of California-Los Angeles. His research interests include Black Atlantic oral narrative traditions, myths, rituals and popular cultures. He has done extensive fieldwork in Nigeria (1966-68; 1976-78), Sierra Leone (1972-3; 1983), Haiti (1986-present) and Los Angeles (1979-present). He is the author of Defiant Maids and Stubborn Farmers: Tradition and Invention in Mende Story Performance (Cambridge UP, 1982) and Vodou Things: The Art of Pierrot Barra and Marie Cassaise (University of Mississippi Press, 1998). He was the curator, editor and chief writer for the award winning project, at the American Museum of Natural History (1995-99), and for “Divine Revolution: the Art of Edouard Duval-Carrie” (2004). As a Guggenheim Fellow (2006), Cosentino completed fieldwork for Chasing the Dead , a book he is writing on Afro-Angeleno Spiritism. Cosentino is also curating a major exhibition entitled “In Extremis: Death and Life in 21st Century Haitian Art,” scheduled to open at the UCLA Fowler Museum in fall 2012.

A third edition of Karen McCarthy-Brown’s Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn:

In 1991, Karen McCarthy-Brown, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Drew University, published Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn , which received the Victor Turner Award from the Society of Humanistic Anthropology, as well as the Best First Book in the History of Religion from the American Academy of Religion. Stephanie May writes that the work that Karen McCarthy-Brown and Mama Lola did together on the book “has crossed boundaries in the study of religion, anthropology, and women’s studies”. Claudine Michel’s new foreword to the third edition of Mama Lola (2011), honors the original iteration of the book, McCarthy-Brown herself, and the work that Mama Lola has done in healing processes of a post-earthquake Haiti and its relationship to the Americas. To contribute to a project to honor McCarthy-Brown’s work please visit: Honoring Karen McCarthy-Brown’s work .

Date: Monday, September 12, 2011

Time: 7PM

We prefer that you RSVP. Your RSVP will help facilitate security. Also, we expect that the event will fill-up quickly. If you are learning about this event at the last minute, please feel free to come, and we will do our best to accommodate you, but we cannot guarantee seating if the event fills up. Please RSVP at [email protected] or (212) 925-6625, ext 207. Please bring a valid picture i.d.

Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Worker Education
The City College of New York
25 Broadway, 7th floor (in front of the bull statue at Wall Street)
New York NY 10004
(212) 925-6625, ext 0

Subways: 4 or 5 to Bowling Green; R or 1 to Rector Street; J or Z to Broad Street

Sponsors and Special Thanks:
This talk is co-sponsored by the City College of New York and Haiti Cultural Exchange.
This talk is possible thanks to major funding from the City College of New York at the City University of New York (CCNY, CUNY). Major funding was also provided by the City SEEDS Award, and with support from the Offices of the President and Provost and President Lisa Staiano-Coico. We would also like to acknowledge support at CCNY from the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Worker Education, the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the M.A. in the Study of the Americas, and the Department of Media and Communication Arts. Additional thanks go to Kosanba, the Transnational and Transcolonial Caribbean Studies Research Group (TTCSRG), Claudine Michel, and Kaiama L. Glover. We are especially grateful to the generosity of Donald Cosentino, J. Michael Dash, Régine Roumain, and Stella Vincenot, without whom this talk would not have taken place.