This is a Haitian voodoo flag individually sewn by hand in thousand of glimmering sequins and beads on satin. It is a 33"x33" flag that depicts the whale, the siren, the voodoo loa sirin of the Seas. 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.
- Siren and Whale: These two loa are marine divinities, so closely linked that they are always worshipped together and celebrated in the same songs. Some people say the Whale is the mother of the Siren, others that he is her husband; others say they are used for one and the same deity. Popular opinion says the Siren is married to Agwe. When Siren turns up in a sanctuary, the person possessed by her appears simply in the role of a young coquette most careful of her looks, and speaking in French, often offending the peasant serviteurs. Both the Siren and the Whale are often viewed as "upper class." (Descriptions of various Loa of Voodoo, Compilation from class assignments, Spring, 1990. Done for Bob Corbett by Jan Chatland)