Mecene Jacques image
 
 

Mermaid Chair
Mecene Jacques
1990s

Mermaid Chair Front View

Mermaid Chair Back View

 

 


Mermaid Chair
Mecene Jacques
1990s

This chair was made by a contemporary Haitian-American furniture-maker, Mecene Jacques.
Jacques immigrated to the United States during the economic and political turmoil that embroiled Haiti in the 1990s. Like many other Haitian immigrants, Jacques brought to this country not only his craft and skills, but also a creative vision fueled by the folklore and vibrant cultural traditions of Haiti.

In Haiti much of the meaning of the mermaid comes from the religious symbolism and belief system of Vodun, a religion with its origins in West Africa. Despite the predominance of Yoruba religious traditions, Vodun actually integrates traditions from several different African cultures. In addition there is a conspicuous Roman Catholic influence, most easily seen in the pairing of Catholic saints with West African gods. Vodun recognizes several gods or "saints," each with distinct attributes, and associated with discrete colors and foods. Each saint also has several identities, usually both male and female.

The mermaid (or la sirèn) is most often associated with the goddess Ezili or Erzuli, who takes on several different identities. Sometimes she is Ezili Freda, who can be seen as a beautiful and engaging young woman. She has other incarnations where she is called by other names; then she can be hideous and destructive, even dangerous. Ezili also frequently takes the shape of a mermaid, who either protects fishermen, swimmers, boaters, and others on the water, or else causes them to drown.

In this carved chair, one sees all the elements of the beautiful Ezili Freda--her sexuality and her sensuousness. One can also see the evidence of her mixed-race--her long flowing black hair, the fullness of her hips, and the classic African pose with arms akimbo, i.e., with hands on hips.