By Alexandra Simon
We’re going back to our roots.
A mixed media performance celebrating traditional African spirituality will play at Teatro Latea on Feb. 19. “Vodou Roots: A Love Story Musical,” is a musical-like show inspired by its Haitian-American creator Regine Romain, and her cultural pilgrimage to Benin. The educator and anthropologist’s trip to the West African birthplace of vodou, was a beneficial awakening about its origins, which she wanted to condense her experience and share.
“This is a love story and the show at its core has storytelling, which is specifically myself as narrator, sharing aspects of vodou,” she said.
With many misconceptions surrounding the concept of vodou and all other African-originated religions, Romain said a large part of her show and mission was to educate people on these spiritualities and teach them how much culture was lost with the introduction of European beliefs via the transatlantic slave trade and colonization. But she uses her own experiences to reshape the narratives.
“There is a lot of myth around vodou, and I’m allowing my personal narrative to tell my story because often when we talk about spiritual religions there’s a lot of fear,” said Romain.
She said African-based religions that survived in the western world such as Obeah, Santeria, Hoodoo, or Candomble, are almost always stereotyped negatively or looked at with fear due to maligning by white supremacy. With so much internalization of these labels, a significant portion of the African Diaspora is wholly removed.
“So many people have visceral reactions about those religions, but part of those reactions come from being oppressed out of blackness and accepting themselves,” she said. “But these are our roots and they are fundamental for our survival as black people in America.”
Last year Romain documented her trip in her film, “Brooklyn to Benin: A Vodou Pilgrimage.” In the film she takes viewers on a journey of tracking how despite the harsh realities of colonization and the slave trade, much of those roots still live on consciously and subconsciously.
“I highlight the survival of vodou in Brooklyn to Haiti, and to the source in Benin,” said Romain. “I explore the tradition and what survived.”
The show itself will feature Romain as a narrator, along with Beninese composer Jah Baba, South Carolina based healer and dancer, Ikeoma Divine, and Brooklyn-based deejay DJ Sabine Blaizin.
Romain said she wanted people to reconnect, or at the very least, allow themselves to relearn how much programming they’ve been inundated with steering them away from African spirituality. She said people should try and reintroduce themselves to a life of spirituality prior to forced conversion.
“My endeavor is to soak and connect people with these religions, because the world psyche is awash with white supremacy,” she said.
“Vodou Roots: A Love Story Musical” at Teatro LATEA [107 Suffolk St. between Rivington and Delancey streets in the Lower East Side, (212) 529-1948, www.teatr