Obeah and Revival Church

Diary Monday 10th February: Junior Thompson, Myself and Thomas went to walk around the Area of the Castle at New Haven to examine the context. In a side street, within the shanty town, amid a corrugated iron façade of the water-logged street we saw bright flags on tall poles stretching over the fence, high into the sky. One flag was bright red, one was green, one white and blue and another I forget which colour. On the corrugated iron fence were lengthy biblical texts painted in white. Not picturesque but determined. I asked Junior if he thought I could just take a photograph. He said he would ask inside and he knocked on the door. The gate was opened by a very thin lady, with her left teeth all missing and a bright smile. She had a bright red cloth wrapped around her hair with lots of shades and folds. She invited us to come into the little compound, we had to avoid something on the path as we entered. And there we stood in the garden. Around the flagpoles were little console tables on which clear glass bottles were arranged in a cross pattern and filled with water. Hens and cockerels were strutting about. Towards the end of the yard was a wooden shack in good condition, brightly painted in a bright and emphatic cobalt blue. The shack had a generous verandah in which stood a long table, about the length of a full grown man. On the table was a collection of consumer goods arranged in a curious order: Lemonades made by D&G in all its fluerescent colours, lemon yellow, bright magenta, Pepsi, tins of fish and corned beef, biscuits, crackers. I say that the order was curious, because there was order, but not the order of the dinner table, and order of convenience and the liturgy of consumption, where everything is ordered according to the number of seated eaters, taking account of the length of one’s arms, the etiquette of eating and the sequence of courses, the heaviness of a particular dish in relation to the person or person’s serving etc. Nor was it the order of the vendor’s stand, where goods are ordered according to a category of type, beers with beers, pepsi with pepsi, lemonade with lemonade, chewing gum with etc. an ordering of type, enhanced by price and saleability. Nor was it for that matter the order of the table after a meal, where the intentions have been fulfilled and the traces of consumption are marked by that which is left behind. Everything was spread evenly over the table in a wonderful kaleidoscopic pattern of consumer goods coloured by their desire to make much of their presence.

            A large lady appeared. I asked her If I could make a photograph. She hesitated. I was a whiteman she said. This is the church of Zion, she sighed and all her flesh, her enormous breasts loose in her t-shirt, heaved with her. She commanded respect and she was very suspicious of me, she was not smiling. “This is the church of Zion she said again, a church of healing. This is not like your church.” She was very aggressive, standing under the veranda, next to her table. I admired her church, her bright blue shack and her table. She melted. “See those flags, she said, that is the flag of the archangel Gabriel.” He would come down to fight the battle with the devil which had taken possession of the person needing healing. The other flags invoked other angels. I believe Michael was one of them, but I cannot remember. I pointed at the table again and complimented her on its colourfulness. She siad that it was the healing table and on it was sacrifice. “You should come and see us, it is very lively,” she said. I promised [and regret to this day that I haven’t] By now we were allowed to take every picture we likes. Turning back towards the gate we saw what we had had to avoid on our way into the compound: a large rough cross set in the middle of the path and at the foot of it a large enamel bowl with water. Behind us a half-wit was tending to the chickens, in preparation for the next healing session.