Myrlande Constant

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

Constant was born in Port-au-Prince in Haiti where, as a teenager, she learned the art of beading while working with her mother in a Port-au-Prince factory making wedding dresses. Once she quit that job she moved on to be one of the most celebrated artists for making Vodou drapo.[2]:p.183 Constant has taken part in the revolution in the art of drapo-making over the last two decades. She has been making flags since the 1900s. Since the 1900s, there was an abrupt shift in drapo-making, which was primarily a male art form. There are several new designers who are women now, one of them being Myrlande Constant. Because of the impact that Constant has on other people, she influences art making in other individuals, in particular Marilyn Houlberg.[3]

Constant bears witness to her nation's calamities. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the artwork Myrlande made represented the collectivistic society through the things that were going on at the time.[2]:p.20

Her works are densely beaded flags (some as large as six by seven feet). Constant's flags are much larger than traditional flags. In 2011, Constant participated in a series of exhibitions, workshops, and lectures at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island where she conducted a three-day flag-making workshop.[2]:p.183

Myrlande Constant had her first sale to Richard A Morse, who was the manager of the Oloffson Hotel in Port-au-Prince. Other subsequent sales of her outstanding Vodou flags were made through the connections of her husband, Charles, who convinced customers and visitors at the hotel to buy her work. Many of Constant's inspiration of her artwork came from her father who is a Vodou priest and Christian. She states that she has no one to thank but the spirits and God before the spirits. She additionally states that the mystical feelings and aspirations come from her thoughts.[2]:p.185 Everything she puts on a flag is there for a reason because the spirit keeps her working. Constant is also inspired by Milo Rigaud's landmark book called Veve. This book contains symbolic drawings of spirits made on Vodou temple floors. Constant uses that inspiration to remember her memories of Vodou ceremonies and knowledge of the spirits to create her own design in the flags.[2]:p.185

The main process of the making of her flags starts with pencil drawings on white cloth. Second, she sews the sequins and beads to the cloth. Lastly, she incorporates the colors that associate with the spirits. Typically, most of her works are as large as bedspreads depicting various significant events in Vodou and Haitian history through using needle, thread, cloth, and tiny adornments.[2]:p.185

Constant is particularly a well known Haitian and Vodou artist in many parts of the world. Specifically, her piece of the 2010 Haiti earthquake apocalypse was recognized as an immediate potential for becoming one of the 2011 Ghetto Biennale Exhibition in New York’s most extreme and powerful artistic visions.[2]:p.9