Petwo Ceremony Commemorating Bwa Kayiman
Petwo Ceremony Commemorating Bwa Kayiman, 1950
Oil on Masonite
23 × 19 1/4 in. (58.42 × 48.9 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard B. Flagg M1991.107
Photo credit: Efraim Lev-er
According to lore, the Petwo ceremony was a ritual enacted at Bois Caiman (Kayiman) during the Haitian Revolution. A Vodun priestess sacrificed a black pig and partook of its blood to evoke spirits linked to social and economic matters. The act encouraged the Vodun priest Boukman to declare war on the French colonialists, thereby leading to the end of slavery. Castera Bazile’s interpretation fuses history and a revivalist spirit to document the past and simultaneously bring to life the emotion of the moment. Concealed within a room and surrounded by the paraphernalia of Vodun rites, the participating rebels beat drums while the Black Serpent Damballah, symbol of coolness and wisdom, climbs the back right wall. Elevated in the center of the painting, the priestess, brandishing a knife and a beaker of blood, bestrides the sacrificial pig.
Cullen, Deborah, and Elvis Fuentes Rodríguez. Caribbean: Art at the Crossroads of the World. New York: El Museo del Barrio, 2012, p. 232, color illus.
Andera, Margaret, Nonie Gadsden, Britt Salvesen, and Laurie Winters. Collection Guide: Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2004, pp. 64 and 74, cat. 110, color illus. p. 64.
Milwaukee Art Museum. Building a Masterpiece: Milwaukee Art Museum. New York: Hudson Hill Press, 2001, p. 229, color illus.
Caribbean: Crossroads of the World. Perez Art Museum, Miami, April 18–August 17, 2014.
This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.