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Haitian flags from the Cargo Collection on view at the Birmingham Museum of Art
Vodoun Flag or Banner (Erzilie Danthor), Haiti, 1980’s, satin, sequins, and glass beads. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc., at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Robert Cargo Folk Art Collection, Gift of Caroline Cargo.


BIRMINGHAM, ALA.- Beaded and sequined flags, called drapo, are an important component of Vodoun, a religion that was established on the island of Haiti beginning in the 1500s. The Spanish, followed by the French, enslaved hundreds of thousands of West and Central Africans who were brought to labor on Haitian sugarcane plantations. The faith system that emerged, under extremely brutal conditions, combined various African beliefs and practices that connected people to divine sources of strength – spirits called loa – who serve as intermediaries between God and human beings.

Because Vodoun was outlawed, and conversion to Catholicism was forced, practitioners often identified symbols and Saints from the Catholic religion to represent spirits from their hidden faith. Other European traditions in Haiti also became sources of symbolism in Vodoun, including imagery from the Society of Freemasons.

In both African and European traditions, flags and banners are symbols of identity, power, and authority. When used in Vodoun ceremonies, flags represent the loa spirits and are carried into sacred spaces of worship, and even worn over the shoulders. The shimmering banners evoke the great mystery of the loas, who helped Haitians survive unimaginable oppression and obstacles.

In the last 50 years, flags began to be collected as works of art by people visiting Haiti. Flags are now made for both purposes – for ritual use, and for the international art market. This superb collection of Haitian flags is a small portion of the Robert Cargo Folk Art Collection, just under 700 objects generously given to the Birmingham Museum of Art in 2013 by Robert Cargo’s daughter, Caroline Cargo.






Today's News

December 25, 2015

Exhibition of devotional images of the Virgin and Child opens at the Thyssen-Bornemisza

Pointe-à-Callière marks Agatha Christie's 125th anniversary with exhibition

Baltimore Museum of Art presents exhibition of prints and drawings by Henri Matisse

The Morgan Library & Museum announces a partnership with Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Rare and significant Viking hoard from time of the 'Last Kingdom' found in Oxfordshire

Exhibition at Kunstmuseum Bern celebrates Ricco Wassmer's 100th birthday

First retrospective of the work of Franz Ludwig Catel on view at the Hamburger Kunsthalle

Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna presents landmark exhibition of Joseph Cornell's work

Kröller-Müller Museum honors Barbara Hepworth with a large-scale retrospective exhibition

Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago features nearly 120 objects by artists who studied at SAIC

Play inspired by the life and death of abstract artist Roger Hilton on view at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Bellevue Arts Museum brings provocative "Camp Fires" exhibition to the United States

Tomasso Brothers Fine Art to present discoveries and rarities in important European sculpture in New York

Haitian flags from the Cargo Collection on view at the Birmingham Museum of Art

A new international outdoor photography festival to debut in February 2016 in Jaipur

Spink announces Sale of Great Whiskies and Other Spirits

First solo exhibition of Katja Aufleger's work opens at the Drawing Room in Hamburg

Phillip K. Smith unveils new Light + Shadow sculpture series at Royale Projects

Series of sculptural works by Anne Schneider on view at 21er Haus in Vienna

Boise Art Museum gets grant to develop exhibition about World War II Japanese internment camp in Idaho

Exhibition at Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein gives a highly diverse insight into current artistic endeavours

"Brian Ulrich: The Centurion" premieres at George Eastman Museum

Last chance to see "New Arrangements: Contemporary Reimagined" at Heather Gaudio Fine Art

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