Art is the medium through which some first come to know Haiti, and for others, to know Haiti better. Haitian art is too expansive to be confined to shops and galleries – it is found on public transport, on the walls, in churches and Vodoun peristyles alike. Art is Haiti's only inexhaustible resource. When others use the tired phrase "Haiti - the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere", let us counter that Haiti is the culturally richest country in the Western Hemisphere instead.
Today is the day of the dead. The day meant to honor those who have come and gone before us. Haitians respect that tradition. They also add to it or adapt it. They pay tribute to Baron Samdi, the father of the crossroads, the crossroads from which Haitians come from physically, Gine/West Africa and spiritually. As of late due to the recent hurricanes Haiti has many dead to honor, approximately 800.
We've written about the Jacmel Film Festival and the efforts of the Foundation Festival Film Jacmel (FFFJ) to train a new generation of Haitian film-makers. Through the medium of film, FFFJ continues to tap the creativity and energy of Haitian culture to engage youth, build partnerships with other countries, and lay the groundwork for producing local content for use nationally and abroad. It would be impossible to understand Haiti without knowing its music, art, and dance - perhaps someday we'll say the same about Haitian cinema.
Goats, chickens, cows, and bulls, are very much the sacrificial animals (not Bourik BOS) of Haiti and voodooists. Like turkeys in the United States near Thanksgiving these animals in Haiti get the shakes sometime near July 16th, when Festival Saut d’Eau takes place. Sodo, in Kreyòl, is the site of one of Haiti’s largest religious pilgrimages. Lore has it that the Virgin Mary appeared here long before the death of many the sacrificial fauna.
If you want to read about social unrest in Port au Prince, take a look at this collection of articles on Reliefweb. However, if you need a break from reading about Port au Prince the way I need a break from writing about it, here we are. Haiti is, thankfully, bigger than Port au Prince. Haiti's two secondary cities are Cap Haitian, the city of history, and Jacmel, the city of arts and culture. Though these cities have been neglected under generations of dicatators, each has much to offer and each will play an important part as Haiti rebuilds.
The Second International Haitian Jazz Festival provided an opportunity for many of Haiti's best musicians to showcase their talents. Below, long time Haitian Culture Vulture Tequila Minsky writes about the St. Trinity Music School in Port au Prince, which is educating the next generation of Haitian musicians.
I mentioned to a colleague of mine that Haiti has an International Jazz Festival. He looked puzzled and asked why anyone would listen to Haitian Jazz instead of Kompa, Racine, or Twoubadou? Haiti is uniquely situated to draw on African, European, North American and Latin American musical traditions. Jazz has played a role in each of these traditions. It will never be Haiti's best known genre of music, but it is a part of the wide spectrum of Haitian music. Tequila Minksy provides below an update, through the Heritage Kompa website, on the second annual International Haitian Jazz Festival. All concert photos taken from the website.
Sitting in Project Medishare's office in Thomonde, located in the Plateau Centrale, I overhear the sounds of pounding drums and overpowering song. During the days leading up from Carnival to Easter it is not unusual to come across a Rara band in the rural roads of Haiti. Especially in time for the final week of Easter, Thomonde has Rara bands parading down the streets with drums, maracas, guiros, and cylindrical metal trumpets. The bands construct unique instruments such as trumpets made from cans imprinted with "USAID Vitamin A Fortified Oil" to produce an amazing variety of rhythms and melody that attests to Haitians' creativity and inventiveness.