The word "hoodoo" dates from 1875 and refers to cultural and spiritual practices that originated in precolonial West Africa. In 1969, American poet, essayist and novelist Ishmael Reed coined the term "neo-hoodoo" to refer to the use of ritualism in contemporary art.
"Neo-HooDoo believes that every man is an artist, and every artist a priest," Reed wrote in his poem Neo-HooDoo Manifesto. The works in the Menil show date from shortly before Reed's poem appeared in Conjure, his 1972 collection of poetry, to the present and reflect a similarly inclusive spirit.
In many cases, they also reflect what Reed has described as the imperative to "use a variety of materials, modes of expression and allusions from many different cultures, both popular and traditional. Africans in America had few resources and had to make do with what was available. That's neo-hoodoo in a nutshell."
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