Under the helm of Managing Director Eric Lewis and associates, the laudable task of bringing the woman Catherine Brizan to the fore and debunking the myths of her alias Mother Cornhusk, culminated in an exhibit that was unveiled at approximately 2:35pm yesterday. In attendance were Express’s Richard Charran and photographer, as well as students from the Moruga Roman Catholic Primary School and the principal Mrs. Paloo, a Hype student, elders from the local community and the general public and staff of the museum totaling 15 persons who waited with baited breaths to see the legendary Mother Cornhusk.
The display shrouded in cloth was dramatically unveiled, much to the anticipation of both the young and old, imaginations running wild as the public waited to get a glimpse of the fearful Mother Cornhusk, believed to have been an ‘obeah’ woman. When Mr. Eric Lewis revealed the display, those in attendance where privy to viewing memorabilia from her home and chapel as well as never before seen pictures of the woman donned Mother Cornhusk.
Common contemporary pieces of the time such as an electrical iron and even a bread pan, were displayed from her home as she was a woman with need of ‘modern’ appliances like any other. She is also seen in photographs smiling and even playing a cuatro as “regular folk” would. As a result Mr. Lewis called on those in attendance to reassess preconceived notions of the woman; she was no witch with long nails or tattered clothing, rather a simple woman, warm and very kind.
Undoubtedly underwhelmed by the ‘commonness’of the woman, the audience was left to ponder whether the years of negative comments on the legendary Mother Cornhusk were warranted.
The Moruga Museum seeks to disprove or rather grant objective insights into the fanciful misconceptions of Mother Cornhusk and instead highlight the woman Catherine Brizan, a product of her time. The MM also seeks to also place this woman into an historical space that would only shed light on the bizzare and reveal the logical.
Mr. Lewis addressed the audience revealing that she was born 1917, and that Mother Cornhusk was born in Grenada. She came to Trinidad at the age of seven and as an adult practiced Spiritual or Shango Baptism (terms both used interchangeably). As is customary with this religion, the syncretism of African, Catholic and Hinduism was evident as a Hindu God concrete pillar, a bible, the St. Anthony and Virgin Mary and Christ child statues were displayed, all found in her St. Anthony’s chapel, demonstrative of the integration of these forces in her worship .
A number of misconstrued cultural practices have shrouded the woman that is Mother Cornhusk. For instance the fact that she preferred to go barefooted in the 1970s, 1980s was seen as odd, deviant, a testimony of her evil presence even. However, placing her as a woman who adhered to the practices of her ancestors that walked barefooted for medicinal reason( for blood circulation), one can then appreciate the facts.
It is fact that she took in members of the public, cooked and cleaned and cared for them, providing shelter when one was down in luck, a woman willing to even just listen to one’s problems, soothing like a mother would. Whether an obeah woman or herbal healer, testimonies from Miss Gragier who was also in attendance,painted a contrasting image, that she was a loving woman, welcoming, far from deserving the fearfulness attached to even uttering her alias.
The unveiling ceremony lasted until 4:00pm where the audience applauded the excellent and objective presentation on the wonder that was Mother Cornhusk. Members of the audience were then allowed to view her photographs and get closer looks at the items on display.
The public is invited to come to the museum to view this temporary display from 8-4pm Mondays to Fridays or 9-5pm Saturdays (Sundays on appointments).