31 August 2021

The ‘Copresences’ of Mami Wata in an Afro-Dutch Context

EVENT | 31 August 2021 | 14.30-16.30 CET

This event is dedicated to Mami Wata, a water divinity of Vodun, whose practice is spread across western, central and southern Africa, in the diaspora of the Caribbean and in the regions of northern and southern America: water spirits play a prominent role in practices of healing. Tania Christina Monteiro and Ayaovi Kokousse will open with a performance-as-offering to honor Mami Wata. Then, Monteiro will explain her project through an excerpt of a film she is working on. Finally, Monteiro and Kokousse will join  Aminata Cairo, Kyrah Malika Daniels, and Annabel Guérédrat in conversation.

As part of her studies at the Toneelacademie Maastricht from where she graduates in August 2022, with a grant from the Subsidie makersregeling aanvragen Den Haag, and in association with Roots Reconnection, Tania Christina Monteiro and Ayaovi Kokousse, founder of Forêt Sacrée Obouibé, have devised a program based on their research in the Netherlands and Togo. At the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Monteiro has been working with Wendeline Flores, curator of Caribbean Culture and Colonial Histories. This event focuses on Mami Wata, a water divinity of the Vodun religion and thought, whose practice is spread across western, central and southern Africa, in the diaspora of the Caribbean and in the regions of northern and southern America. In both West Africa and Afro-Caribbean religions, water spirits have played and still play a prominent role in healing. Monteiro’s work is inspired by Aminata Cairo’s invitation to engage Opo Yeye as “a slavery-informed answer to living in the twenty-first century”;[1] Kyrah Malika Daniels's research on lave tèt, literally the washing or cooling of the head as the baptismal stage of initiation in Haitian Vodou”; Annabel Guérédrat’s transnational engagement of performance-as-embodied-knowledge from her native Martinique, as well as U.S.-American Anna Halprin’s postmodern dance and healing and Chadian modern dancer Hyacinthe Abdoulaye Tobio’s elaboration of slowness; Regla de Ocha; shamanism; and Vodou; work by Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús, whose Electric Santería: Racial and Sexual Assemblages of Transnational Religion (Columbia UP, 2015) remind us that regardless of the context—even digital, “authenticity” locates itself  within the ontological: “Rather than just epistemological, these designations are also ontological; that is they transform senses of being” (3). For De Jesús the "authenticity" resides in a “copresence” that honors the deity in multiple forms, even digital. For De Jesús whose engagement is with Cuban Regla de Ocha, what matters is not where a practice takes place, but how, what Monteiro explains is “intention.” Regla de Ocha "takes these oricha diaspora sensings—the electrifying layerings of religious tours, spirits, videos, traveling divinities, and practitioners—as models for thinking through the daily interactions that practitioners engage in with spiritual-religious beings" (Beliso-De Jesús 8). De Jesús’s work grapples with the complex question of “transnationalism and globalization in competing diasporic assemblages” (9), while also insisting that the ontological through-line of healing transforms, but is never lost. As such Monteiro’s and Kokousse’s thinking engages De Jesús’s notion of how "copresence" informs practices in the Netherlands and Togo.



[1] Cairo, Aminata. “Opo Yeye—Mental Well-being and Cultural Identity of the Afro-Surinamese: A Slavery Informed Answer to Living in the Twenty-First Century” (152-75) in Legacy of Slavery and Indentured Labour: Historical and Contemporary Issues in Suriname and the Caribbean, eds. Maurits S. Hassankhan, Lomarsh Roopnarine, Cheryl White, Radica Mahase. Routledge, 2016.
Image: Eduard Duval-Carrié, 'Cascade and Hummingbirds – After Martin Johnson Heade', AM-708-2

Bio | Tania Christina Monteiro

Tania Christina Monteiro is an artist, (yoga) teacher, cultural entrepreneur and Research Associate at the Research Centre for Material Culture (NMvW). She has a Master’s degree in Educational Sciences and studies Directing Performance art at Toneelacademie Maastricht. The combination of art, culture and education is a common thread in Tania's life. She empowers and inspires others through fashion, yoga and theater. In addition, she also is interested in stories related to cultural heritage. 


Bio | Aminata Cairo

Aminata Cairo is an independent consultant “who works with people”.  Born and raised in the Netherlands to Surinamese parents, Aminata left for the US to pursue her college education at age 18.  Here she pursued a double undergraduate major in Physical Education and Psychology, obtained Master’s Degrees in Clinical Psychology and Medical Anthropology and a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology.  Her work focuses on mental health and culture with a special affinity for the role of the arts as a healing tool.  She is particularly interested in using her academic, artistic and community skills to support, honor and celebrate the voices and stories unheard, overlooked, silenced and marginalized.

She received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville in 2013.  She was the first and only Research Professor in Inclusive Education in the Netherlands from 2017 to 2020. She has studied and promoted traditional Afro-Surinamese dance.  For her efforts,  she received the Honorary Order of the Palm in 2016, a state decoration by the Government of Suriname for her contribution to culture.  Her work is always grounded in the spiritual and cultural traditions of her Native American godmother and her Surinamese heritage.


Bio | Annabel Guérédrat

Annabel Guérédrat is a choreographer and performer who lives and works in Martinique. She is also the co-curator [co-commissaire] of the first International Festival of  Performance Art (Festival International d'Art Performance, le FIAP), which has taken place in Martinique since 2017. She is a practitioner of the healing arts, for herself, her baby, and her extended family. She is a sorceress, in the sense that she has the capacity to bring together persons across vastly diverse disciplines, genres, and fields of study. She does so by dealing with issues and themes that are valuable and crucial to her, such as decolonial ecology, Afrofeminisms, and kinship. For the past 18 years, she has worked through the artistic collective that she founded, named la Cie Artincidence. Through the collective, she has choreographed more that thirty performances.  


Bio | Kyrah Malika Daniels

Kyrah Malika Daniels is Assistant Professor of Art History, African & African Diaspora Studies, and Theology at Boston College. Her research interests include African and African Diaspora religions, sacred arts and material culture, race, religion and visual culture, and ritual healing traditions in the Black Atlantic world. Her first book (Art of the Healing Gods, in progress) is a comparative religion project that examines sacred art objects used in healing ceremonies in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Daniels was awarded a Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Art for 2019-2020.

Between 2009-2010, Daniels served as Junior Curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Following the earthquake of 2010, she worked in St. Raphael, Haiti, with Lakou Soley Academic and Cultural Arts Center, a grassroots organization that develops arts-based pedagogy. Her work has been published in the Journal for the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of Haitian Studies, and the Journal of Africana Religions. Daniels currently serves as Vice-President for KOSANBA, the Scholarly Association for the Study of Haitian Vodou, and as a Leadership Council Member for the African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association (ADRSA). She completed her B.A. in Africana Studies at Stanford University, and received her M.A. in Religion and her Ph.D. in African & African American Studies at Harvard University.


Bio | Ayaovi Kokousse

Ayaovi Kokousse is the founder of Forêt Sacrée Obouibé. He was born in Lome, Togo. As a young boy, Ayaovi gathered friends around him after school and taught. In Togo, he was trained in the different dance traditions of his country and danced in various shows and performances of African artists and dance groups. Shortly after he set foot on Dutch soil, he founded his own dance company: Foret Sacree Obouibe. He teaches at the Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten.


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