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Maya Deren Collection of Haitian Vodou Recordings

Identifier: MSS 0344

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 16 reels of sound recording tape. The contents include music from vodou ceremonials and rituals, such as baptisms, ceremonies of possession, drums, and specific celebrations to Agassou, Damballah, Erzulie, Ghede, Ibo, Petro.


  • Creation: 1947-1954
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1953-1954


Language of Materials

Haitian Creole


The George A. Smathers Libraries are unable to provide access to the physical recordings; however, digital reproductions are available via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC).

Biographical/Historical Note

Maya Deren (1917-1961) was born Eleanora Derenkowskaia in Kiev, Ukraine. She belonged to a Jewish family who moved to Syracuse, New York in order to escape anti-Semitism. Shortly after, her father shortened the family name to Deren. After making her first film Meshes of the Afternoon with Alexander Hammid, Deren changed her first name to Maya, meaning "illusion."

Deren's source of inspiration for ritual dance came from editing Katherine Dunham's master's thesis on Haitian dances in 1939. She first visited Haiti in September 1947, after she divorced her second husband Alexandr Hackenschmied. In 1954, she went on three additional trips to Haiti in order to document and record the rituals of Haitian Vodou.

During her time in Haiti, Deren filmed 18,000 feet of Vodou rituals; she recorded and photographed many hours of Vodou ritual, and also participated in ceremonies.


16 Reels


Recordings of Vodou ceremonies made by Maya Deren during her trips to Haiti.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternative formats

Digital reproductions of selected items from this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Related Material


A Guide to the Maya Deren Collection of Haitian Vodou Recordings
Finding aid created by Wondy Joseph
October 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America