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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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The Repeating Island – Representations of the Francophone Caribbean

With close reference to Benitez-Rojo’s notion of the ‘repeating island’, discuss how the Francophone Caribbean has been represented by writers, travellers and artists.   This essay shall focus on how various writers, travellers and artists have represented the Francophone Caribbean. The Islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Haiti shall serve as the focus as these are the locations in the Caribbean where a Francophone culture dominates. From the art of Agostino Brunias, to depictions of Haitian revolutionary hero, Toussaint Louverture. From Martinican poet, Aimé Césaire’s, Le Cahier du Retour au Pays Natale to how film director Euzhan Palcy depicts Plantation culture in Rue Case Nègres. Of course, Benitez-Rojo’s notion of the ‘repeating island’ shall never be far from our minds and in order to utilise his ideas to full effect it shall be essential to firstly summarise exactly what this Cuban author refers to in his conceptualisation of Caribbean culture. Antonio Benítez-Rojo sees in the Caribbean a meta-archipelago that is affected by elements of Chaos that repeat across the different islands, incorporating a polyrhythmic essence that reverberates across the multilingual cultures that comprise the Antilles. In the postmodern, post-colonialist environment, the remnants of slavery cannot be escaped in that Plantation culture remains embedded, a core component of cultural discourses, resistance and a division along racial lines, more so than in other geographical regions of the world which adapt more readily to the global environment as they haven’t the same inherent difficulties as having to constantly define history, the oft suppressed history of the Atlantic Slave Triangle, the undocumented creolization, an oral history of African traces or eradicated Carib races or of illiterate Maroon communities who struggled against their Béké masters. The repeating island is a polyrhythmic syncretic agglomeration of different cultures that unites Africa with Europe and Asia with the Americas. Agostino Brunias was a London-based Italian painter from Rome, whose travels to the West Indies have bequeathed us with a rich vein of material of a not only escapist, but also romantic nature. Agostino Brunias ‘The Linen Market Santo Domingo’, ca. 1775   Agostino Brunias ‘Mujer criolla y criadas’, Saint-Domingue (Haiti), painted between 1773-1796     Agostino Brunias ‘Dancing Scene in the West Indies’, 1764-1796  In the first of the three paintings Brunias depicts a market scene. There is a stark contrast in the painting between the use of black and white, with the women mainly wearing white clothes. The…

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