oil on board
36 x 48 in.
Cemeteries figure prominently in Haitian vodou culture as sites that offer the living access to dead loved ones. People petition their ancestors for assistance in love, health, and other matters, leaving their requests on the tombs in the form of food or other small gifts. Other common activities at cemeteries involve hiring a pretsavan (bush priest) to officiate prayers to the dead, or staging rituals that safeguard the well-being of the family. One such ritual known as the manje pov (the feeding of the poor) can be seen in Sylvain’s painting: in the middle foreground, a man and two women offer mugs of coffee to a barefoot man seated near the foot of a cross. This gift serves as an invitation from the family performing the ceremony to visit their home and partake in a feast. Helping the poor and other socially vulnerable groups guarantees the continuing goodwill of the ancestors and the lwa.