SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Jepson Center presents a new art exhibit inspired by artist Tafy LaPlanche’s native Haitian culture. The Afro-Latina portrait painter has created a series of five pieces entitled “N/um” which depict a ceremonial dance of healing, an important ritual in voodoo. The dance is said to offer spiritual and physical health to people who suffer under the influence of the spirits of death.
The paintings show the progression of the dance and the course of the N/um. The N/um is difficult to describe. It is an object of spiritual energy that travels through the body to the skull and brain. The N/um is represented by plants in the paintings.
On the last board, the N/um has reached the skull.
“There it stops and explodes in the brain,” LaPlanche explains on his website. “This explosion is the sign of a rebirth and the reason why the skull is the symbol of a new life directed towards the right path according to the good humor of the ancestors.”
LaPlanche has an interesting entry into the art world. When she was a child, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and spent time in the hospital. In the hospital, she wasn’t allowed to play with games like children younger than her, so she started drawing the nurses who came into her room.
From there, her mother enrolled her in art school, where they only spoke Mandarin. LaPlanche quickly discovered how well art can be communicated even with a language barrier.
“I think the great thing about art is that, through the eyes of other people, it kind of unlocks all of this different potential that it has,” LaPlanche said at a talk on Thursday.
LaPlanche thought this series was timely given the pandemic that has affected so many over the past few years.
“This show is really about holding on to the pain for maybe a little too long and just dealing with it and learning how to let go of it,” LaPlanche said.
The series can be viewed outside the Jepson Center on Barnard Street. It is part of the Boxed in/Break out project which focuses on “activating windows facing the audience” of the Jepson Center. You can learn more about the project and the series by visiting the link here.
You can also view LaPlanche’s work on his website by visiting the link here.