African American Dolls

by JoAnn Bernard

Read this short essay companying the African American Doll, Marie Laveau, the New Orleans Voodoo Queen of 1815.  Based on the legend of Marie Laveau. 

"Marie Laveau"

New Orleans Voodoo Queen of 1815

Holding Gris Gris Bag

written by JoAnn Bernard

    Mysterious Marie Laveau, remembered by some as a woman of mercy, a healer of the sick, and by others as a woman of evil who made bargains with the devil.  She was the New Orleans Voodoo Queen of 1815.  Marie was a tall, well-built, free woman of color.  Her hair was long and black.  Her lips were said to be the reddest of reds.  Heads would turn with fascination as she walked down the streets of the Vieux Carre.  Marie was also an intelligent woman who combined Voodoo with Christianity.  She informed the press of her rituals on the bayou, where she would dance seductively with her snake, named Zombi.  These performances helped her gain notoriety.
    Rich and prominent people of New Orleans called on Marie for her services, purchasing gris-gris.  Marie made gris-gris bags to use as magical potions perhaps to acquire a lover or maybe to destroy one.  Bags were filled with an assortment of items ranging from lizard eggs to bird feathers.
    No one knows the true story of Marie Laveau, some say her ancestry was of French nobility, others say she was a mixture of African, Indian, and white.  All that is known is Marie captivated the public with here ageless beauty and the mystery that surrounded her.

    JoAnn Bernard is a self-taught artist.  Born JoAnn Gonzales on the bayou of Delacroix Island, Louisiana, with an Islenos heritage that stems back to Spain's Canary Islands.  Her love of the beautiful State of Louisiana has inspired the Days of Old Collection, a line of Louisiana heritage character dolls.  Through research, she has reproduced Louisiana ancestry; African American, Cajun, Islenos and others in life-like forms as they were seen years ago.  JoAnn has created a complete original collection.  She sculpts the original pieces and reproduces them in plaster molds.  The face of each character is hand-painted, dressed (clothing and jewelry may vary) and positioned on handcrafted wooden pedestals and chairs to recreate photographs and sketches of the 1800's.  The body designs are unique in construction and design.  All wigs are hand-made by the artist using mohair strands.  The artist developed original clothing designs and patterns.  Props were designed and created for each individual character doll.  All clay pieces are limited editions of 500 and are numbered and signed by the artist.  Booklets and display cards are also designed by Jo Ann to include the number of the piece and a short story about the character doll.   Booklets are attached to the piece, and the display card can be framed to stand along side the piece.  Character dolls range in height from 16 to 18 inches tall.  Total height of the piece may vary depending upon position of character dolls.  A numbered and signed Certificate of Authenticity is provided with each character doll.

ŠJo Ann Bernard

Attached booklets contain above information

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African American Heritage Dolls by JoAnn Bernard

African American Heritage Dolls

Click here to visit The State of Louisiana Crafts Program

Visit the Louisiana State Crafts Program

African American Dolls by Joann Bernard

An original clay doll collection, for the doll collecting enthusiast

Learn about Louisiana Culture through this African American Heritage Doll collection inspired by sketches, photographs and stories of the 1800's.

Display card and Booklets printed on aged parchment paper

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Louisiana Heritage Dolls by JoAnn Bernard

Louisiana Heritage Dolls

Figurines, Sculptured Slates/sketches by JoAnn Bernard

Figurines, Sculptured Slates and Inspirational sketches

Oil Paintings by JoAnn Bernard

Oil Paintings

Duck Carvings by JoAnn Bernard

Duck Carving

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Doll Making Techniques/Bio


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Display card printed on aged parchment paper