Since its inception, Haiti, the second free republic in the Americas, has grappled with enduring misconceptions about its people and the role of Vodou. Haitian artists have been pivotal in visually capturing the cultural interpretations of Vodou, using artistic imagery to document the essence and significance of the tradition’s resistance to colonization. Rooted in Vodou, Haitian inhabitants have preserved an epistemology of liberation through visual depictions—a legacy continued by artists today. LaSirène, the cosmic embodiment of the goddess spirit, and Lwa of the sea serve as a symbol of water, beauty, and fierce sacred healing, having witnessed the middle passage.
This presentation explores LaSirène, particularly within the context of the water Lwa spirits featured in NSU Art Museum’s Cosmic Mirrors exhibition. It also investigates Western depictions of Haiti, revealing distortions that have obscured the nation’s rich cultural fabric. With a focus on Haitian culture’s preservation, the presentation underscores Vodou’s enduring role as a bastion of spiritual expression and resistance against attempts to undermine its importance. Through this exploration, the presentation highlights the intertwined narratives of LaSirène and the water Lwa spirits, unveiling their profound ties to Haiti’s ongoing struggle for identity, autonomy, and cultural preservation. By delving into the role of art in preserving tradition and conveying resistance, the narrative of Haiti’s history is recontextualized, empowering its people to reclaim their stories from misrepresentation.
Date of event: 9/30/2023
Time: 3 – 4 pm
Pricing: Free with Museum admission
Location: NSU Art Museum Auditorium
Presenting NSU Faculty
Charlene Désir, Ed.D.
Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice
Dr. Charlene M. Désir is a research professor at Nova Southeastern University and a Vodou priestess/manbo initiated in Sosyete Nago. She is also the founder of The Empowerment Network, Global; an empowerment non-profit for women and children. Dr. Désir’s academic interest is in the psycho-social, spiritual and academic adjustment of students in the U.S. and Haiti, specifically school’s social curriculum, social trauma occurring in schools, and how social issues affect cognitive ability and psycho-social development. Dr. Désir has presented various papers on the topic of Pan African spirituality and immigrant students’ adjustment to the U.S. She has also served as the 2012 president of the Haitian Studies Association, an academic professional group that supports Haitian scholarship. Presently, she is the vice president of Kosanba – an academic association on the study of Vodou. Dr. Désir has worked as a school psychologist, K-12 school counselor, school administrator, academic advisor, and professor.
Andrea Nevins, Ph.D., M.F.A.
Dean | Professor
Farquhar Honors College
Andrea Nevins is dean of the Farquhar Honors College and a professor of English at Nova Southeastern University. Her areas of academic focus are Caribbean literature and popular culture and creative writing. She grew up in Jamaica and moved to the United States to attend college after she completed high school. She graduated from Florida International University with a B.B.A. in business, an M.A. in English, and an M.F.A in creative writing and from the University of Miami with a Ph.D. in English. She is author of The Embodiment of Disobedience: Fat Black Women’s Unruly Political Bodies (2006) and Working Juju: Representations of the Caribbean Fantastic (2019). Her fiction as well as her scholarly writing have been published in numerous journals, including Small Axe, World Literature Today, sx salon, MaComére, The Caribbean Writer, Crab Orchard Review, Feminist Media Studies, and Social Semiotics.