Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Liturgical Pangi, or Cloth, for Fodu

Catalog Number: P020

Country of Origin: Suriname
Ethnographic Origin: Caribbean
Materials: Cloth
Usage: Ritual (non-yet-used)
Detailed Description of Significance:

The pangi is a common article of clothing among men and women of Surinam’s multiple Maroon populations.  While it marks Maroon ethnic identity in Surinam, it is, according to Dr. Markus Balkenhol, “increasingly used by black youth in the Netherlands who do not have Maroon ancestry.”  He adds, “It is part of a search for cultural identity.”  The most elaborate ones bear appliqué patterns (or banyakrosi) identified with families, with proverbs or with Winti spirits.  Secular pangi evoke proverbs such as “There is always a way” (Teeka wan wani di pasisai di) and “Love is patient” (Lobi abi pasensie).  The patterns of strip-woven Akan kente cloth also bear proverbial meanings, a fact consistent with the historical connections between the Surinamese Maroons and the Akan-speakers that resulted from the Akan origins of many of the African captives taken to Surinam.  In the 20th century, anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits also told the Maroons he studied about the Akan origins of their ancestors, showed them examples of 20th-century Akan art, and may therefore have told them about the proverbial meanings of Akan cloth—a mediated encounter that may also have shaped Maroon cloth-naming practices. 

Sacred pangi depict, honor and invoke Winti spirits.  The snake god of the Winti is known as “Fodu” (pronounced “Foh-doo”).  Fodu is also called Pa Winti. He is the father of the snakes and the husband of the highest divinity, the goddess Mama Aisa. Pa Winti is male and Mama Aisa is female. 

Dr. Markus Balkenhol writes:

The… pangi is dedicated to the Fodu Winti, also known as Papa Winti. He is a ‘gron winti’ (Winti of the ground/earth), that is he belongs to the domain of the ground/earth (the other three domains are: the sky, the water, and the bush/forest). The Fodu is associated with brownish earthen colors (also gold). His symbol is the snake. The other attributes on the pangi also symbolize the Fodu: Sangrafu (Zingiberaceae Costus, a medicinal as well as ritual plant. An important ritual plant that is used for ‘kowru’, lit. cooling down, that is appeasing the winti), Pemba Doti (white earth, see below. At least I think that is what the round things must symbolize), Sek’ Seki (the rattle, made of a calabash with seeds in it). ‘Djogo’ literally means can or jug, traditionally made of clay, and used to hold fluids. Today a djogo usually refers to the 1 litre bottles of beer sold by the Surinamese brewery Parbo. Beer is an ingredient in the Fodu ritual, see below.

Drum: Adjida (also ‘agida’, ayi = earth, da = snake in Ewe-Fon), the largest sacred drum (2,5 to 3 meters, but also in shorter versions of 75 centimeters), which is being played at dancing rituals (Winti Prey) for the Godess of the Earth (Aisa) and for Papa Winti (Fodu). The snake is the symbol associated with these deities. Before it is being played, the drum is washed with beer (or sometimes another alcoholic beverage), sprinkled with white earth (Pemba Doti) and covered in cloth displaying the colors of Fodu (email from Markus Balkenhol, Ph.D. to J. Lorand Matory, Ph.D., 20 April 2016, 5:18 a.m.).