Doubtless the most spectacular Haitian art form is the sequin-covered Drapo Vodou or "Voodoo Flag". Vodou banners derive directly from the practice of the Vodou religion, a syncretism of traditional African religions brought to Haiti by slaves, with the Catholicism of their former masters. The banners are traditionally the work of practicing vodou priests and their followers. They are displayed in the vodou sanctuaries and are carried at the commencement of a ceremony. Each flag depicts the vévé symbol or image of the loa to which it is devoted. The flags are made of shiny silk fabrics to which have been sewn a brilliant mosaic of sequins and beads. A full-size banner typically contains 18,000 to 20,000 sequins and may take ten days to complete. The densely beaded flags of many of today's finest artists may take far longer to complete.
Among the more traditional practitioners of the art we show at Indigo Arts are Yves Telemac and the late Sylva Joseph . We have also exhibited the work of the late Antoine Oleyant, among the first artists to expand the bounds of the tradition and thus achieve recognition for his flags as sequin paintings in their own right. His work and life are featured in Tina Girouard's 1994 book, Sequin Artists of Haiti as well as the landmark exhibition, Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou. Other important sequin artists at Indigo Arts include Maxon Scylla, Mogirus, Yves Telemak, George Valris and the late Joseph Oldof Pierre. Exciting current artists include Evelyn Alcide, Roudy Azor, Myrlande Constant, Jean-Baptiste Jean-Joseph, and Mireille Delice. We are fortunate to have some flags, as well as vodou bottles and other artifacts, from the collection of the late Virgil Young, a truly visionary collector who who collected the art and artifacts of Haitian Vodou at a time when few others were interested.
Our friend Nancy Josephson has published the definitive book on vodou flags, Spirits in Sequins: Vodou Flags of Haiti. It is superbly illustrated and includes by far the most up-to-date biographies of all the major (and many lesser-known) sequin artists.