HAITI AND CARIFESTA
...a fairyland of Voodoo drums, strange ritual
dance, Zonbies and rich Third World art ....
Only whisper "Haiti" and inaioe of a dark world of
Voodoo and dlar: doings, blackma-ic, death and the grave take
form in mind. lWhisper in far away places, "Haiti is coming
to CARIFESTA" and images of people who change at will into
strange shapes and forms even animals and have a tete-a-
tete and siestas with the gods when savage irresistable drums
start to throb, take shape.
Those who know, say that V- oo to the Baitian people
means many strange but wonderful things ... in fact some feels
it means everything.
And ranybc it is true that of the cultures of the
200,000,000 peoples that will be represented at CARIFESTA,
that of the 4,600,000 Haitians are the strangest and the most
unique. BUt like all cultures, tho strangest are usually the
most exciting and colourful.
It is in "Black Ballet" and rhythms of the afterworld;
in Damballa o `nce ritual and Voodoo movements portrayed by the
Ballets D' Haiti led by Lavinia Williams that the beauty of
the Haitian culture will come to life for the CARIFESTA audience.
Indeed any troupe that can unravel the mysteries of
Haitian Voodoo in song and dance ... any troupe that can make
people of an alien world understand that Voodoo to the Haitian
people is a thing infused with the very essence of living ... is
life has done much.
Any troupe that shows V 'd as the spirit of Haitian
folk and that it includes dances and songs and every song and
and dance has a god ... that it includes ritual for the living
and for the dead and that it loves dtruns ... that the Haitian
people have their whole lives tied up in the sound of drums,
deep throated and mellow irresistable Voodoo drums, has
indeed done a great deal.
Even the most inaudible vibrations from the lips of
the drums say something to their go'', they say ... beautiful*
Any tro.uye that can tell the world in rippling
frenzied movements that 7ocdoo is an attitude of the people
toward life and death, a concept ",f ancestor and the after-
world, an understanding of the forces which control man and
his activities ... that it has meanings, subtle meanings
beyond and above the understanding of inquiring: scientific
minds has to be the troupe led by Lavinia Williams.
Few know about the origin of Voodoo. Few know that
though it was brought from Africa across the seas it also
contains nuances of nrny relijions and the rituals of even
indigenous Ciboneys Indians who ri--inally inhabited the
Island of Hisz:nila, part of which is now Haiti.
But to really understand FoWdoo we must go back to
the times of the coming of the African peoples to Hispaniola.
Like Colombus and the Conquistadors, they brought their gods
to the New 1orld. And the gods they brought were many.
For each tribe had more than one god and there were some 50
tribes which were c'irried to His .anioln.
Since all of these tribes came from '.est Africa they
all reflected the same type of religious belief. There were
striking similarities in the use of the drums, songs, and
dancinR in the religious rituals and ancestral worship.
They all believed in the possession of the wrrshir:er by the
god. The result was that deities of the numerically dominant
groups absorbed the deities of the other groups s and gods like
Ogoun of the warlike lTc.-os tribe became powerful in Haiti.
Therefore out of many gods emer:cd Voudcun(the supreme god)
which is made up of spirits (lea) of all the nations that
came to Haiti.
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In essence every Vnrodoo ceremony is the worship of
one of many of these ancestral spirits. It is the feast of
song and dance until the ancestral spirit is please:l and
possesses the body of the worshipper who is translated into
a hevecnly world of ecstatic splendour as he is sprinkled
with the blood of a sacrificed chicken.
If there is one thing that will come out of CARIFESTA
is the fact that people will become more aware of the cultures
of the many people of the Caribbean and Latin America.
For one thin- mn,any people will now get a better idea
of the culture of the Haitian people. More people will under-
stand for o.np.le the reason why the Haitian people speak
with great reverence of D_-nibrlln. leol,'. This god to them comes
as a snake slippery and swift, plunging at once into the
sacred waters prepared for him and then writhes, dripi.inr and
inarticulate, upon the ground or mounts a tree where he lirs
in the hi7h branches as a primordial source of all life and
wisdom nakinr his signs and gestures of benediction; when
he speaks it is barely intelli-i'ble hissing.
To the people Dr,.ballc Je'J and his mate Ayida are
patrons of the waters of the heavens and represents sexual
totality. Dariballa enconI:asses the cosmos as a serpent coiled
around the world.
The oc': the world o,. is the special symbol for
the Damballa tworshipper ... and the egg is the particular
offering to Danballa. Millions have been offered to him. He
drinks them all crushing the shell with his teeth ... so the
Along with Damballa there are Badessy the wind;
Sobo and Ar.-arou Tonerire the thunder; all deities of the
elements brinCin, back strong connotations of another time
now fcry,-,tten when the gods ruled the elements. And by
invoking these goEds today the Haitian V.-od.,-A worshippers
virtually stretch their hands back across time to gather
up all of their history in a solid ecnteiporary ground
beneath their feet.
All of ....4/
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All of these ceremonies have been put to dance that
people can understand by the Ballets D' Haiti. Even dances
like La Dfnzse "Ibo" which express the cynicism of the Ibo
tribe of Nigeria, are portrayed. It is said that the Ibos
refused to be subjected to slavery preferring to commit
Many are the accounts of how these Ibos would meet
at a particular place and time and commit suicide together.
The belief was that after death they would return to-e.ther
to their hamel.nd across the seas. In fact every Voodoo
dance is a dance that is done to call the gods from the shores
of Africa and it is the Vocdoo drums that make them rush to
Haiti ... that is why there are special drums to call special
gods and if the drums lose their sacredness through foul
touch they become dumb and would not be heard by the gods.
That is why drums are kept in a sacred place *.. a thing
not to be touched by women.
Haiti will add a special touch to CARIPESTA ... will
help bring about a greater awareness among our several peoples.
All of the countries participating in this Cultural
exposition will create an awareness of people. CARIPESTA is
about our several peoples, whether they are the simple Hindu-
stanis of Surinam, the Black Caribs of Belize, Rastafarians
of Jamaica, Bahians of Erazil or the strange and captive ting