Africa Speaks Reasoning Forum

ENTERTAINMENT/ ARTS/ LITERATURE => Books & Reviews => Topic started by: Oshun_Auset on October 27, 2004, 08:26:22 AM

Title: "Island Possessed",
Post by: Oshun_Auset on October 27, 2004, 08:26:22 AM
Katherine Dunham: A Woman who Became One with Haiti


Just as surely as Haiti is "possessed" by the spirit of vaudun (voodoo), the island "possessed" African American Katherine Dunham when she first went there in 1936 to study dance and ritual. In this book, Dunham reveals how her anthropological research, her work in dance, and her fascination for the people and cults of Haiti worked their spell, catapulting her into experiences that she was often lucky to have had. Here Dunham tells how the island came to be possessed by the deities of voodoo and other African religions, as well as by the deep class divisions, particularly between blacks and mulattos, and the political strife still very much in evidence today. Full of flare and suspense, Island Possessed is also a pioneering work in the anthropology of dance and a fascinating document on Haitian politics and beliefs.

Tthe book "Island Possessed",  details Ms. Dunham's experiences and sentiments of her adopted homeland, from the year 1936 to the late 1960s, and even describes her final initiation into the Vaudoun (Voodoo) religion of the half-island. She speaks Haitian Creole fluently, she has owned a beautiful 18th century Haitian estate, "Habitation LeClerc," for decades, and, in the early 1990s, she "put her life on the line" and went on an extended hunger strike, when President Aristide was overthrown and forced to leave the country. Ms. Dunham also adopted a young girl from the French West Indies island of Martinique, back in the 1950s, as further demonstration of her love and commitment to the Diaspora.

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Title: Re: "Island Possessed",
Post by: Oshun_Auset on October 27, 2004, 11:28:40 AM
The work that Katherine Dunham has done for Black people worldwide is too vast to write about in one sitting. Everywhere she went she initiated change for African people!      

In 1950, Ms. Dunham was touring South America with her all-Black dance troupe and was denied aroom in a hotel in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The man at the reservations desk saw that she was Black---but did not recognize her; as the celebrity she was,---and refused her entrance. Her white American secretary had arrived at the hotel ahead of time and already made the hotel confirmations.

The next day, Katherine Dunham went to a Brazilian attorney and told of this incident. Until that time there had been no anti-discrimination laws on the books to protect Afro-Brazilians. Because of this incident, Congressman Alfonso Arinos de Mello Franco introduced a new anti-discrimination law in the House. Because of her refusal to stand for this type of treatment---even as a visitor in a foreign country---a law was passed to benefit Black Brazilians for the first time in their history. Today, this law is known as the "Alfonso Arinos Law," named after the attorney who pleaded Katherine's case before Brazilian congress. More on Ms. Dunham---