When the Spirit Is Ill: Sacred Arts and Religious Healing in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo
Daniels, Kyrah Malika
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CitationDaniels, Kyrah Malika. 2017. When the Spirit Is Ill: Sacred Arts and Religious Healing in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractGrounded in the fields of Africana Studies, Religion, and Art History, my dissertation examines the ritual arts traditions and religious healing legacies paralleled in Kongo-derived communities of Central Africa and the Caribbean. Framed as a comparative religion and material culture project, my work investigates how sacred arts mediate relationships between humans and spirits in Haitian and Congolese healing ceremonies today. Further, the study explores how ritual objects restore balance when clients and patients are faced with physical illness, psychological disorder, or social affliction. I examine various categories of spiritual illness and focus on three types of ritual art objects—ritual rattles, sacred vessels (pots and bundles), and divine mirrors—that operate as “religious subjects”. I argue that Black Atlantic religious communities relate to sacred arts neither as “fetish” objects nor as inanimate “things,” but rather as sacred entities and integral elements of ritual, holistic treatment.
Given the scholarly emphasis on the global rise of 21st century Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism, my research demonstrates the continued relevance of African-derived religions in contemporary ritual healing traditions. My research further highlights the contribution of Africana healing systems as a complementary health system, revealing the benefits of both Western and Black Atlantic traditions of medicine. Finally, I assert that sacred arts operate as “blurred genres,” collaborating with humans and spirits when assembled (kumbika a bundu) in rasanblaj form. Ultimately, my research underscores ritual arts legacies as valuable, indigenous bodies of knowledge that illuminate understandings of health, wellness, and wholeness in the Black Atlantic.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41141526
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