Tuesday, November 3, 2015

KOSANBA - Panel Two: Nature and Communion of Spirits

Last week, I attended the 11th International Conference known as KOSANBA,  The elite of the academic world presented papers on a wide variety of topics. Here is my review of the second session focusing on Nature and the communion of Spirits.

Maria Goyoechea presented a the first paper on Elsie Augustave's The Roving Tree. With particular attention paid to the various spirits who visit the protagonist Iris, Goyoechea argues plausibly that the spirits supported Iris in her wanderings to Haiti, Africa and back. Given entirely in French, I was lost in parts, but the general appeal of the passage's that Goyoechea read were very engaging. I will put this one on my list for further reading.

The second speaker was Meshon Jackson, whose paper on Loko, the Orisha Oko and Osanyin was very short and did not hit the mark for me. Drawing analogies between the three spirits, she spoke of the need to focus on trees in spiritual practice. It was only when asked whether she thought trees were specifically masculine, that Jackson perked up. No, trees also produce seeds, she answered, so they are both. She then delved into a bit of Yoruba theology about rees, masculine versus feminine spirits and how this is interpreted in Yoruba theology. I am hoping when she writes the paper for the journal, she expounds on her topic further.

Finally, Elana Jefferson-Tatum spoke about the tale of the Kola tree as an example of African Philosophy and personhood.  An excellent paper, well delivered, she spoke about the idea of people having personhood by way of simply being defined as such by their colleagues, fellow villagers and neighbors. She also linked this observation to the populations of Africans in Haiti, remarking that personhood was the idea taken from them through subjugation, and by which they redefined their place in the world. A very erudite young lady, we ended up flying home together and making a great personal connection.

And that is what I truly found in Montreal. Despite the dryness (who'd have thought that Montreal would be like a desert for humidity!) and the sore leg from my spectacular flying fall the day before: the personal connections I made with folks were the most wonderful thing for me. That we all had communion in that place - everyone supportive and everyone eagerly looking to hear what another had to say or offer. Clearly, Haiti still has much to tell to those willing to listen with an open heart.

Well, communion with my fellow presenters and watching Manbo K try to navigate the metro without her coffee. The best roomie one could ask for, K stumbled along, following me through the halls and subterranean byways till we got to our breakfast spot up on the mount by St. Michel.  And despite our crack of dawn travels, she kept up a witty repartee as we went along. Dubbed one of the Ab-Fab manbos, she was a huge hit with her paper on Medsin Feys in Haiti. More on that next week. Right now, I have a huge Fet to plan, shop and cook for; bathrooms to clean, beds to make and altars to build.

As I said, it may be lots of work to write, speak, and lead, but it sure as heck ain't boring. I assure you not! Ayibobo.

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