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Posts Tagged ‘Kanaval’

You didn’t think we were going to leave Carnival without picking up some of those awesome masks, did you?!

Jillian-Mask

On our way out of the city, Jillian and I picked up some masks to commemorate our Carnival experience, and judging by the two, we clearly had different experiences:

Frank-Mask

We got Jillian’s in a little shop by the water that sells Haitian art.  It’s pretty awesome, and will be perfect for Halloween later this year (expect she can’t exactly see when she wears it because she wears glasses and doesn’t use contacts…oh well).  We picked up mine from one of the artisans Ben and I followed before and during the festivities.  The mask was actually used during the parade, and while kinda scary, is a really beautiful piece of art once you’ve gotten past the huge teeth and beady eyes.  Now, we just need to figure out how to get these back to the States…

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As I mentioned before, while taking pictures of Carnival in Jacmel, one of the Lanse Kod, or “The Rope Throwers”, who take sugar cane syrup mixed with charcoal and cover their bodies in it, got me in the face while I was traversing the rows of paper mache masks during the parade.  Well, a photographer friend of ours, Allison Shelley, was in the right place at the right time (or the right place at the wrong time), and snapped a photo of the aftermath.

IMG_6390

Pretty funny…and she was even kind enough to help me attempt to clean myself up with a piece of cardboard I found on the street while she snickered at how ridiculous I looked.  Our attempt to wash the black soot off didn’t work, and so I had a large black splotch on my face and arm for the remainder of the day.

But what’s even better about this is that I was looking through the photos from the parade the next day and found that I was actually taking a picture of the guy who did this to me, while he was doing it!

The-Culprit

Yup! That’s his hand wiping the black gunk all over my face, after which I stepped back, gave him a look trying to say to him, “Come on!!!”, and then he ran away.  If you see this man, please ask him to contact me, as I would like for him to replace my t-shirt, which is now covered in black grease (just kidding…).

But in reality, it came right off.  Jillian had a big black mark on her back from one of these guys doing the same thing to her, and after a quick rinse with soap and water it simply washed away.  No harm, no foul, and a fun time had by all.

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Monkey-Mask

This weekend Jillian, Ben, Alexis and I traveled down to the southern coastal town of Jacmel to see what this whole Carnival thing was all about, and it was pretty amazing.  Hundreds of thousands of people were there to see what had to be thousands of hand made paper mache masks in one of the coolest cultural celebrations I have ever experienced.

Peekaboo

Mother-Mary

Child-Holding-Up-Mask

Man-Posing-with-Masks

Like I said before, Carnival was canceled last year because the earthquake had hit less than two months before, so many of the mask-makers still had the masks that they made for last year but were never able to use.  In addition, many of them made a bunch of new masks for this year, so at times the streets were just packed with them.

Tons-of-Masks

The parade lasted for HOURS, with artisan after artisan showing off their creations.  There was also a concerted effort to get out the word about issues that are currently hitting Haiti.  There were a few groups that used their paper maching abilities to portray cholera, and show what people need to do to avoid it.  There was also some political messaging as well, with some groups calling for the return of Aristide, and others showing Preval as an alcoholic devil. (All in good fun, of course…)

Drinking-Praval

But Carnival is actually more than just scary masks, music, and dancing.  There are a number of groups who decorate themselves symbolically in a way that portrays a time in Haiti’s history.  For instance, there are the Chaloska, who “mimic Charles Oscar Etienne, chief of police who in 1915 killed the political prisoners which led to the fall of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam and then to the American occupation.” (Thanks Christina Schutt!)  Their enormous red mouths filled with large protruding teeth make them hard to miss, and they march down the roads acting out the prosecution of said political prisoners.  It’s actually kind of creepy, but incredibly interesting at the same time.

Big-Tooth-Leader

Big-Teeth-Procession

Big-Tooth-Salute

Also there was the Lanse Kod, or “The Rope Throwers”, who take sugar cane syrup mixed with charcoal and cover their bodies in it.  They are meant to portray the slaves that made up this country before becoming the first independent nation in Latin America after it revolted in 1804.  The ropes signify their slavery, and they run around blocking roads with their ropes and asking for “ti-kob”, or a little money.  They also run around terrorizing revelers, and spreading the black paint all over the place (I ended the day with a big black splotch on my face and arm).

Black-Face-Walking-Away

Black-Face-with-Pipe

Black-Face

There were a ton of other groups which I’m not really sure of their origin, or what they tried to signify, but it goes without saying that it was incredibly interesting and made for some amazing pictures.  It was really nice to see the people here stepping back from the normal craziness of life in Haiti and just enjoying themselves and their culture.  The country needed this, they needed to be able to celebrate something, and having Carnival has given them something to be happy about.

Ben and I are working on making a multimedia with pictures and video that we took from the festivities, and once that is finished (and hopefully bought by someone), I will throw that up here for everyone to enjoy.  Until then, feel free to click the link below and check out some more pictures from the weekend!

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RaRa-Horns

For the past month, on Sunday nights, thousands of Haitians have been taking to the streets to celebrate Kanaval.  The yearly festival is marked by RaRa bands, floats, costumes and parades, and will culminate in a massive celebration in Jacmel on the weekend of February 26th, and another in PAP the following weekend.

Rara-Drummer

Rara-Drum

David and I went down to a Kanaval celebration in Petionville last Sunday to see what it was all about, and to be honest, it was just a HUGE block party.  Music blares on speakers large enough to blow out your eardrums, and Rara bands from local neighborhoods come to play their traditional Vodou music (except not all Rara bands are Vodou, I’ve recently learned).  Women pour glasses of homemade klerin (or sugar-cane grain alcohol), for those who don’t have the money to buy a bottle of Haitian rum, and the party goes on until the wee hours of the night.

Woman-pouring-Klarin

Ben and I are planning on going to Jacmel for the big celebration just over a week from now to take pictures and shoot video of what is one of the biggest cultural events in Haiti.  Because around this time last year the country was still reeling from the earthquake, they didn’t celebrate Kanaval in 2010, so this year is looking to be quite the party.  We’ll keep you posted, and, of course, provide you with plenty of pictures.

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