Myrlande Constant: La Sirène et la Baleine

Myrlande Constant
Born in 1968 and lives in Haiti as of 2020

La Sirene et la Baleine
Satin, Sequin and Beads: 30”X 32”

Purchased by Baruch College with funding from the State of New York, Percent for Art Program, 2003

La Sirene et la Baleine (The Mermaid and the Whale) depicts two mermaids, a common Vodou figure representing the water spirit, meticulously detailed in beads and sequins, playing instruments and floating on a silvery sea.

Vodou began in Haiti in the 16th century when West Africans were brought to the island as slaves. Practitioners of the religion made, and still make, fabric flags similar to Constant’s to honor deities and hang in shrine rooms.

But Constant, who learned her skills from years at a wedding dress factory working alongside her mother, does things her own way. Her works are often twice the size of this work, a more typical Vodou flag size; and hers are immensely detailed, taking on a paint-like look. Another way she strikes out on her own is, that some say, that this is an art form typically dominated by men.

– Josey Bartlett


Myrland Constant
Haitian, b. 1968

La Sirène et la Baleine c. 2000
30” x 32”
Satin, sequins, beads
Purchased with funding from the State of New York, Percent for Art Program, 2003

Myrland Constant is a revolutionary figure in Vodou drapo-making, the Haitian art of creating beaded and embroidered decorative flags. She has helped pave the way for women to become drapo Vodou artists and centers her work around contemporary issues in Haitian life.

The captivating central figure she depicts here with dark skin, flowing hair, and a fixed gaze is La Sirène, the mythological wife of Met Agwe, ruler of the oceans. La Sirène’s origins can be traced back to a combination of African water goddesses and European depictions of mermaids and sirens. She is often shown with her mirror, which she holds in her right hand in this depiction, and a trumpet. She also has inseverable ties to La Baleine, the whale, depicted here just behind La Sirène. La Baleine is sometimes considered La Sirène’s alter ego, and other times is regarded as her mother, sister, or even her lover.

Like the sirens of Greek mythology, La Sirène may entice her victims through irresistable song before possessing them or bringing them back with her to her underwater domain. Though we can never hear her music, Constant evokes her mysterious, hypnotizing power such that we can almost make out the deep tones of her aquatic melody from off in the distance.

– Madeline Pollis