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Kanaval – Oral Histories – Class Presentation

Leah Gordon is a British photojournalist that has documented the Jacmel Kanaval in Haïti for 15 years from 1995 to 2010, releasing a book of her exploits. She hijacks Kanaval characters and takes them down side streets where she captures their images and takes time to interview them. Here are some of these characters, describing in their own words how they construct themselves for Kanaval. Endyen (Indian) Marc Andre Michel The imposing, silent Endyen character was inspired by a Christopher Colombus storybook. He has a machete on the left, a big painted arrow on the right. He pictures the Indians as an industrious, brave and courageous people.   Lanse Kòd (The Rope Throwers) Salnave Raphael a.k.a. Nabot Power The Lanceurs de Corde are making a statement about slavery, and being freed from slavery. They colour their skin pot black with a mixture of crushed charcoal and cane syrup. The cords they carry are the cords that used to bind them.   Jwif Eran (Wandering Jew) Fritz Lubin The theme is a wandering person, an old shoe repairer with nowhere to go. It is a terrible fate.He is 1800 years old. Everywhere he has gone he has ended up in huge battles where he is the only survivor. He only ever has five cents in his pocket.   Chaloska (Charles Oscar) Eugene Lamour a.k.a. Boss Cota Chief Charles Oscar was a military commander in charge of the police in Jacmel. He died here in 1912. At the time there was political instability in Haïti. He took 500 prisoners from the local jail and killed them all. The population revolted and tore the police chief to pieces in the street and set fire to his remains.   Madame Lasiren (Madame Mermaid) Andre Ferner Lasiren is a magical spirit that lives under the sea and does mystical work there. She is a Vodou spirit. The baby carried in her arms is the child of Lasiren and is called Marie-Rose. The necklace is called Mambo Welcome; it is a fetish.   Papa Sida (Father AIDS) Lendor James Many young people die from AIDS and Papa Sida is there to encourage them to use condoms. AIDS is not a lie invented by politicians, but the truth. If you do the AIDS lottery, the cemetery pays out every time!   Zel Maturin (The Wings of Mathurin, character(s) from the St. Michel Mardi Gras) Ronald Bellevue This…

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Review: Kanaval – Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haïti – by Leah Gordon

Leah Gordon is a former punk artist from London. She is also a photographer and this book reflects upon her experiences of Kanaval on the streets of Jacmel in Haïti between 1995 and 2010. Haïti was the first black republic in the Western hemisphere, a black slave nation that overthrew the yolk of its French European masters. A core component of the revolution’s power was the African-inspired Vodou belief system and intertwined with politics the Kanaval (Creolisation of Carnival) traces its routes to the clandestine slave gatherings in the upland forests of the island. Gordon takes powerful black and white images of the key Kanaval characters and interviews these characters, capturing a series of oral histories from the poor local inhabitants who invest their energy effortlessly, creating characters, making costumes, designing props, organising dance routines and applying makeup, to create this pre-Lentern annual orgy of street theatre and fiesta. We meet the Lanse Kòd (The Rope Throwers), Jwif Eran (Wandering Jew), Papa Sida (Father of AIDS), Oungan (Vodou Priest), St Michel and also the Satanic Zel Maturin (The Wings of Maturin). These characters act out a fight of good versus evil, they challenge the audiences to raise small amounts of money and to reflect upon the political realities of Haïtian life. There is a series of critical essays throughout the book from key researchers of Haïti, that reflect upon the essence of Leah Gordon’s work. The book is enlightening and the images, that can be very disturbing, project an exoticism and spirituality that gives the reader a true taste of the Kanaval performers’ messages and allows the reader a glimpse of the post-colonial ‘Other’ that is the Caribbean.

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Review: Kanaval – Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haïti – by Leah Gordon

kanaval

Leah Gordon is a former punk artist from London. She is also a photographer and this book reflects upon her experiences of Kanaval on the streets of Jacmel in Haïti between 1995 and 2010. Haïti was the first black republic in the Western hemisphere, a black slave nation that overthrew the yolk of its French European masters. A core component of the revolution’s power was the African-inspired Vodou belief system and intertwined with politics the Kanaval (Creolisation of Carnival) traces its routes to the clandestine slave gatherings in the upland forests of the island. Gordon takes powerful black and white images of the key Kanaval characters and interviews these characters, capturing a series of oral histories from the poor local inhabitants who invest their energy effortlessly, creating characters, making costumes, designing props, organising dance routines and applying makeup, to create this pre-Lentern annual orgy of street theatre and fiesta. We meet the Lanse Kòd (The Rope Throwers), Jwif Eran (Wandering Jew), Papa Sida (Father of AIDS), Oungan (Vodou Priest), St Michel and also the Satanic Zel Maturin (The Wings of Maturin). These characters act out a fight of good versus evil, they challenge the audiences to raise small amounts of money and to reflect upon the political realities of Haïtian life. There is a series of critical essays throughout the book from key researchers of Haïti, that reflect upon the essence of Leah Gordon’s work. The book is enlightening and the images, that can be very disturbing, project an exoticism and spirituality that gives the reader a true taste of the Kanaval performers’ messages and allows the reader a glimpse of the post-colonial ‘Other’ that is the Caribbean.

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