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Island Possessed by Katherine Dunham

Island Possessed

by Katherine Dunham

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I read this at about the same time as I read Daughters of the Dust, and it was inevitable that I would find similarities between the two, both stories of the history of African peoples on an island in the New World, brought there by slavers, and the lives their descendants made as free people.

Katherine Dunham, probably more famous for the dance company she founded, was also a trained anthropologist, and this book is her story of the time spent doing field work in Haiti, a country which she loved and where she lived for many years.

Much of the book is a discussion of the voudon religion, in which she became an initiate of the gods of Nam 'Guinee. And there is also much discussion of the political situation in Haiti during the thirties, forties and fifties.

It's a fascinating account of a country whose history is not well-known, of a religion that is often caricatured and misunderstood, and of a complex people and society.
  lilithcat | Sep 11, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0226171132, Paperback)

Mention Haiti, and images of poor and battered refugees risking their lives attempting to reach America, or a barren Caribbean island prone to military coups and hideous zombies, come to mind. But when anthropologist-choreographer Katherine Dunham first traveled to Haiti in 1936 to study the country's dance traditions, she fell in love with the people and their culture. Island Possessed, originally published in 1969, captures Dunham's experiences of the island's intricate voodoo religious dances and customs; the friction between the black peasants and the mulatto elites; and the brutal dictatorships that have plagued the nation. Of her three-day initiation into the voodoo religion as a "bride" to the Haitian serpent god Damballah, she writes, "My feeling was closer to belonging to something all-encompassing than I have ever known since." Called by the Haitian people "Mama Katherine," Dunham has contributed a humane and comprehensive overview of the world's first black republic. --Eugene Holley Jr.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:19 -0400)

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