Wilson Biguad

Haiti b. 1931
Zombies 90.0041

Born in Port-au-Prince, Bigaud was discovered by Hector Hyppolite, who brought him to Le Centre d'Art in 1946. During his career, Bigaud has seen much political upheaval in Haiti. In the late 1950s, his expressions turned toward violent feelings and his world was transformed into a demonic place, resulting in an emotional collapse and several nervous breakdowns between 1957 and 1961. His painting, Zombies deals with the religious fraternities known as secret societies. Today, some function as strictly religious organizations; others are used as fronts for illegal activities. For a long period, Haiti lacked the infrastructure to be truly governable from its capital city, Port-au-Prince. So, before Duvalier instituted the system of section chiefs, the countryside was in effect governed by vodou secret societies that controlled the rituals of zombification. The zonbi is characterized as lifeless because of a nerve toxin that may have been administered by members of the secret society. This would have been done clandestinely to destructive or overly offensive members of the community (usually in rural areas) as part of a mock death sentence followed by a real funeral. Later, members of the secret society would break open the grave of the "dead" person, resuscitate him or her, and banish them from the area. Sometimes brain damage would result from either the toxin or the lack of oxygen during entombment. The zonbi character is central to Haitian folklore. It articulates a memory of the loss of control over self suffered during the period of slavery--a very real cultural event in Haitian history. In Bigaud's painting the zonbi has further reference to the physical labor of slaves on Haitian plantations. The zonbi/slave is forced to do mindless labor on a plantation owned by a tyrant/sorcerer. He is led around on a leash, chained at night, and beaten when he does not respond quickly enough.




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