The Women Artists of Matènwa: An Explanation of a Few Common Haitian Vodou Symbols

Atis Fanm Matènwa, or Women Artist Matènwa, is a longstanding Women’s Haitian Arts collective in the Matènwa community in La Gonave. Women from the Matènwa community create and customize beadwork, embroidery, painted silk scarves and other Haitian art by hand. Some of their exquisite customized art integrated symbols from the Haitian Vodou religion. Let’s take a look at what some of these symbols mean.

You can request their handiwork by clicking here.

Many of the graphic designs have symbolic meanings in Vodou. The most common symbol that you will see is the Erzulie Freda Veve. This symbol according to Exemplore, "is the goddess people view as the most beautiful and the one who can help with love and romance. Erzulie Freda embodies love and is the spirit of beauty, jewelry, dancing, luxury, and flowers. She represents the epitome of femininity and compassion. She is frequently invoked to help find a lover, or renew a love relationship. Erzulie Freda is considered a Rada Lwa and so her domain is water and she lives on the riverbanks. Her colors are white and pink. She wears three wedding bands for her three husbands: Damballa, the serpent Lwa, Agwe, the patron Lwa to fishermen, and Ogun Feray, the patron Lwa of iron and technology. Her symbols are a heart, a mirror, and a fan".

Another symbol replicated is this symbol called Papa Legba's Veve. Papa Legba according to Exemplore is the "Guardian of the Crossroads. Papa Legba is the master linguist, the trickster, warrior, and the personal messenger of destiny. He has the power to remove obstacles and he provides opportunities.

All ceremonies begin and end with Papa Legba, as it is he who opens the gates to the world of the Invisibles, much like St. Peter traditionally throws wide the gates to heaven. There can be no communication with any of the other Loas without consulting him first. His gift for linguistics enables him to translate the requests of humans into the languages of the Spirits, the Orishas, and the Loas. Voodoo practitioners place representations of Papa Legba behind the front door of their home in order to clear the path, accomplish goals, and to bring his protection".