Sunday, September 16, 2012

Maya Deren - The Divine Horsemen

Relevant clip discussing women as divine vessels

With the suggestion from Professor Zita Nunes (who taught during the Factory of Ideas Program), last night I checked out the biography and works of Maya Deren. I had never seen her work before and didn't realize her relevance to Landes' City of Women as a female artist with an ethnographic perspective in the 1940-50's (in the same field as Zora Neale Hurston, for example). Deren graduated from New York University a few years after Landes did, and later in her life made a film on Haitian Vodun, which provides similar proof to the role of females as divine vessels and authorities in the Afro-Haitain religion related to Candomblé in Brazil.

Of course, the medium of film through which Deren communicates this information provides a different perspective and experience than Landes' book. However, the informality and access to the intimate religious space facilitated by the medium appears quite similar. Deren's film and experience may provide a way for me to argue for the travel-style and narrative approach of Landes' City of Women as an art form. In Landes' case, she used it as a way to respect the people of candomblé by not distancing the work with difficult anthropological and academic jargan, but rather providing a timeless medium available to most everybody. Even today many people within candomblé in Bahia speak fondly of Landes' book and appreciate it as a historical telling of the candomblé they practice today.

I hope to go back to the Ruth Landes Papers at the National Anthropological Archives this December-January, and if/when I do I can see if there are any correspondences between the two. So far I haven't found anything linking them personally, though they are both heavily cited in works on the ethnography of Afro-American culture, religion, music and dance especially between Brazil, Haiti and Cuba (see search results from google books "Ruth Landes, Maya Deren").

P.S. It appears the Exposition at Gantois must be postponed because they need support from a private organization that doesn't receive government funding. So far they haven't been able to find any fitting group (which surprises and dissapoints me). So until then the exhibit of Landes' photos won't be happening in November.

Full version "The Divine Horsemen" 

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