This Haitian vodoo flag (The Zaka/Bosou/Danballah) is an Art Flag, individually sewn by hand in thousand of glimmering sequins and beads on satin. It is a 32"x28" flag that depicts "Zaka or Azacca" on top, the voodoo loa of agriculture, Bosou in the middle (the bull) and Damballah at the bottom.The Artist was inspired, Kouzen Zaka. Its shimmering and glistening beauty is not quite captured by the picture.
A "drapo" Vodou is a handmade flag, typically embroidered and decorated with beads and sequins. Although flags may have been made in West Africa before the arrival of Europeans, the flags widely used there by 1600 were derived from European flags. They were used as symbols of ethnic, military or religious allegiance. The drapo Vodou also drew on Yoruba beadwork, Catholic vestments and Masonic aprons. In the 19th century and early 20th century most drapo Vodou were made from one or two colored fabric pieces decorated with embroidery, metal bangles and glass beads, with an image of the lwa made of shiny fabrics appliquéd to the cloth using techniques still followed in West Africa. Flags and banners used in the 21st century in rural areas often still have stylistically simple designs, in part due to the high cost of decorative material. With the older flags the background field that frames the image was usually decorated with widely spaced sequins or beads. Modern flag makers often completely cover the fabric of the field with sparkling sequins of one color, or with intricate geometrical patterns. Borders, which were either simple or did not exist on early drapo Vodou, have evolved into highly elaborate patterns. Nowadays, ateliers are dedicated to this art craft have opened creating a vibrant market for the flags. Thousands of glimmering sequins are individually sewn by hand making this a tedious and fine task.
Azacca or Zaka: This is the loa of agriculture, but is generally seen as the brother of Ghede. For this reason Ghede will often come to the ceremonies for Zaka and come when Zaka has mounted someone. Zaka is a gentle simple peasant, but greatly respected by the peasants since he is a very hard worker. He is addressed as "cousin". He is found wherever there is country. He is usually barefoot, carries a macoute sack, wears a straw hat, and has a pipe in his mouth. By nature he is suspicious, out for profit, fond of quibbling, and has a fear and hatred of town folk. His vocal stylization consists of the almost unintelligible sounds of a goat. He is known for his gossip he spreads and for his "girl chasing." He is young and like to play when not working.
There are interesting similarities between the sophisticated Ghede and the more bumbling Azacca, as though a younger less sophisticated brother were imitating a more secure older brother. Like Ghede, Zaka loves his food. But, unlike Ghede, he is rude and voracious in his eating habits, often running away to hide with him food and eat it quickly. His favorite dishes to eat are the ones peasants feed on--boiled maize, bread soaked in oil and slices of small intestine with fatty membrane fried, unrefined sugar. His favorite drink is white rum and his tree is the avocado. Zaka controls the fields, and like the farmers themselves, he is very watchful of detail. He notes who is treating whom in what manner, who is flirting with whom, who says what to whom etc. When he mounts someone he often spills out all the local gossip to the embarrassment and amusement of all. He does not forgive easily.
It is rumored that Zaka often appears in concrete forms. In this concrete form, he assumes a limp and dresses in a ragged peasant outfit. Then he begs for rum or cassava melons. Those that refuse to give him anything are punished.
Zaka is a polygamist and considers all his children as investments. He stands for the incest taboo, though, and will not break it no matter how rich he could become.
Dumballah (Dumballah Wedo, Damballah): Known as the serpent god, he is one of the most popular. Dumballah is the father figure. He is benevolent, innocent, a loving father. He doesn't communicate well, as though his wisdom were too aloof for us.
Dumballah is the snake. He plunges into a basin of water which is built for him, or climbs up into a tree. Being both snake and aquatic deity, he haunts rivers, springs, and marshes. Again, as the snake he is rather uncommunicative, but a loving quiet presence. Dumballah does not communicate exact messages, but seems to radiate a comforting presence which sort of sends a general spirit of optimism into all people present. Because of this, he is often sought after during ceremonies. When Dumballah mounts someone the special offering to him is the egg, which he crushes with his teeth.
Dumballah is the serpent god, also lightning. He and his wife, Aida-Wedo, are often shown as two snakes who look as if they were diving into the sink and by a rainbow. He is the bringer of rain; this is a necessity for good crops. People possessed by him dart their tongues in and out, slither along the ground, and climb trees, or roof beams, falling like a boa. He is known to whistle because he has no speech. His special day is Thursday, and his favorite tree is the bougainvillea. White is his color. He is in charge of white metal (silver) and must be fed white food and drink. He grants riches and allows treasures to be discovered. Dumballah sustains the world and prevents it from disintegrating. Dumballah and his wife Ayida, represent human sexuality.
He is sometimes referred to as Da. Dumballah is often spoken of as a serpent. In the voodoo culture, the serpent is a symbol of fertility. He is one of the oldest of the ancestors and is so sacred that he doesn't speak, but expresses himself through hissing sounds, just like that of a serpent. In the voodoo religion Dumballah is closely associated with the Catholic's St. Patrick.
He is Dahomean in origin. His favorite foods are eggs, cornmeal, melons, rice, bananas, and grapes. The usual offering to him is a hen and a cock. It is believed that if respects are paid to him by a married couple, he will keep them happy.
(Descriptions of various Loa of Voodoo, Compilation from class assignments, Spring, 1990. Done for Bob Corbett by Jan Chatland)