January 22, 2004
Contact: Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.- The Mead Art Museum of Amherst College will present Visions of Haiti: Vodou and Carnaval à Jacmel - Photographs by Phyllis Galembo, brilliant color images that present the human and divine faces of Haitian Vodou and the costumed participants of Carnaval masquerade, from Feb. 20 until May 16. Galembo will present a slide lecture accompanied by Haitian performers Erol Josue and Fan Fan Damas Louis on Thursday, March 4 at 4:30 in Stirn Auditorium. Reception will follow in the Mead Art Museum.

On her first trip to Haiti to photograph in Port-au-Prince in 1993, Galembo discovered pervasive African-originated Vodou religious beliefs that have sustained Haitians through centuries of oppression and struggle. As a visual artist, she is fascinated by the beauty that survives in poverty and the magic that is realized in ordinary objects. Her 30 images of Vodou practitioners and Carnaval masqueraders are portraits of individuals wearing ritual dress but not in the context of the actual religious rite. In setting up the shoot, Galembo becomes a sympathetic participant with the subjects as they choose how to present themselves. She also photographs Vodou altars and ritual objects, being allowed access to intimate and sacred settings. Her photographs capture the truths of Haitian life and the power of Haitian spirituality, from the altars and sanctuary rooms to the faces of priests and priestesses who work magic for their devotees. Visiting the plunging waterfalls at Sodo, she witnessed a quarter of a million Haitian pilgrims who had come to bathe in the magical waters. Galembo documented worshippers as they became cleansed in ecstatic rituals in the swirling waters. In a selection of these black and white photographs, Galembo reveals the intense Vodou spirituality in the Haitian countryside.

Galembo, a professor of fine arts at the University at Albany, State University of New York since 1978, has produced photography exhibitions and books on African subjects, including Divine Inspiration from Benin to Bahia (1993), Aso-ebi, Cloth of the Family (1997), and Kings, Chiefs, and Women of Power, Nigeria (1998). Her most recent project, Dressed for Thrills: Halloween and Masquerade Costumes (2003), was on view at the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum in New York, and published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

The Mead exhibition is presented with the cooperation of Partobject Gallery, Carrboro, N.C. and Diego Cortez Arte Ltd., New York. Support for the exhibition and related programming has been provided by the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund of the Mead Art Museum.

The Mead Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Thursday evenings until 9 p.m. More information can be obtained on the museum's Website at www.amherst.edu/mead or by calling the museum at 413/542-2335. All events are free and open to the public.