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A Guide to the Maya Deren Collection of Haitian Vodou Recordings

Finding aid created by Wondy Joseph

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
October 2015

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Deren, Maya
Title: Maya Deren Collection of Haitian Vodou Recordings
Dates: 1947-1954
Bulk dates: 1953-1954
Abstract: Recordings of Vodou ceremonies made by Maya Deren during her trips to Haiti.
Extent: 16 Reels.
Identification: MSS 0344
Language(s): Haitian/Haitian Creole
Online ContentItems from this collection have been digitized and are available online in the UF Digital Collections. For more information please see the note below.

Biographical/Historical Note

Maya Deren (1917-1961) was born Eleanora Derenkowskaia in Kiev, Ukraine. She belonged to a Jewish family who moved to Syracuse, New York in order to escape anti-Semitism. Shortly after, her father shortened the family name to Deren. After making her first film Meshes of the Afternoon with Alexander Hammid, Deren changed her first name to Maya, meaning "illusion."

Deren's source of inspiration for ritual dance came from editing Katherine Dunham's master's thesis on Haitian dances in 1939. She first visited Haiti in September 1947, after she divorced her second husband Alexandr Hackenschmied. In 1954, she went on three additional trips to Haiti in order to document and record the rituals of Haitian Vodou.

During her time in Haiti, Deren filmed 18,000 feet of Vodou rituals; she recorded and photographed many hours of Vodou ritual, and also participated in ceremonies.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 16 reels of sound recording tape. The contents include music from vodou ceremonials and rituals, such as baptisms, ceremonies of possession, drums, and specific celebrations to Agassou, Damballah, Erzulie, Ghede, Ibo, Petro.

Access or Use Restrictions


The George A. Smathers Libraries are unable to provide access to the physical recordings; however, digital reproductions are available via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC).

Related or Separated Material

Gene Baro Papers

Administrative Information

Alternative formats

Digital reproductions of selected items from this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Maya Deren Collection of Haitian Vodou Recordings, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Deren, Maya
Vodou music

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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