La Mama-Snekie, ou Water-Mama, fasiant ses conjurations
"The Mama-Snekie, or Water-Mama, Doing His Conjurations" (caption translation). This lithograph shows a female diviner kneeling before a bowl holding a stick in the air, while a man stands and watches the ceremony. According to Benoit, "using her spiritual powers, a healer is helping to cure a child who is not present. After engaging in certain ritualistic behaviors, she gives the mother, who stands before her, a herbal decoction, made in the pot in front of her; the mother is told to drink the decoction several times and then is given some herbs which she is to give her child. These healers, who are regarded as oracles by the Negroes, are usually older black women who are called Mama Snekie, Mother of Serpents, or Water Mama." Benoit observed one of these women at work, and describes the scene he witnessed, including the furnishings of her house. Although his description is relatively brief and sparse in ethnographic detail, it nonetheless represents a rather unique first-hand account of an African-type spiritual practitioner. Pierre Jacques Benoit (1782-1854) was a Belgian artist, who visited the Dutch colony of Suriname on his own initiative for several months in 1831. He stayed in Paramaribo, but visited plantations, maroon communities and indigenous villages inland.
"Figure 36" in Pierre Jacques Benoit, Voyage à Surinam; description des possessions néerlandaises dans la Guyane (Bruxelles: Société des Beaux-Arts de Wasme et Laurent, 1839).
Benoit, Pierre Jacques
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