STORYTELLING IS SACRED
These were our bedtime stories. Tales that haunted our parents and made them laugh at the same time. We never understood them until we were fully grown and they became our sole inheritance.-Edwidge Danticat
Haiti is a small country with an enormous history. Known by the indigenous Taíno-Arawak peoples as Ayaiti (Ay-ti) or the "Land of Mountains" the island of Hispaniola has been a site of contest, conquest, rebellion, empire, immense natural wealth and beauty, and utter natural disaster. The island where Taíno cacique Enriquillo fought for freedom from Columbus and the Spanish crown. Home to the only successful slave rebellion in history, where Jean-Jacques Dessalines defeated Napoleon Bonaparte. Haiti is a place where Vodou Lwa walk with humans. Or more precisely devotees are ridden like "cheval" at the will of the gods, some old and gentle some new and volatile. Faith is tangible, history is ever present and poverty and pride walk hand in hand. It is a land of stories, with an oral tradition that holds a past from far beyond the island. Histories of France and Poland, British pirates and Lebanese traders, Maroon communities of indigenous peoples and folks who escaped slavery, and from from Fon and Dahomey the millions who lived, worked, died and lived on as ancestors are the inheritance of this island. To tell one story of Haiti is to tell many stories at once, to hold haunted histories, to laugh and cry at the same time.
In the over 500 years since Columbus landed on her shores encountered the Taino-Arawak peoples and erected the first permanent colonial settlement the fort of La Navidad, Hispaniola has had many names and flown many flags. It has been conquered, divided, reunited, liberated and divided again. From the start of accessible history it has been a place of rebellion, liberation, abundance, and brilliance. In the face of abject cruelty, genocide and one of the most brutal trades of enslaved peoples in history, the story of this place is a story of resiliency, pride, creativity, and faith. The story of this island is at its essence a story of strong people and a story of the gods that guide them.
What does it mean to learn these stories? To hold them? To pass them on? What traditions must we embrace in order to fully understand who and what we are calling upon when we begin the story of Ti Moune?
In the old oral tradition of Haiti when a storyteller is ready to begin a story they will call out "Krik?" and their audience, eager for the tale to begin responds with "Krak!" Are you ready to begin this story? Krik?
BONDYE BON. GOD IS GOOD.
The gods of the people
Vodou Lwa are central to the story of Ti Moune. Vodou or Vodoun practices both in West Africa and in the diaspora are an ancient faith tradition that is characterized by communion with nature, deference to ancestors, adaptation, synchronism and intimate daily communion with deities and spirits that can help or hinder life on earth. Click below to learn more about the stories of the lwa that inspire the gods of Ti Moune's story. Krik?
PAL FRANSE PA DI LESPRI POU SA.
TO SPEAK FRENCH DOESN'T MEAN YOU ARE SMART.
What are some great sources to learn about Haiti? From Roxane Gay to Zora Neale Hurston some of the greatest minds of our generation (and previous generations) have written about Haiti's complex history, its revolutionary leaders, its faith practices and the many economic and political reasons why it transformed from the "Jewel of the Antilles" to the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. There is a lot to discover, are you ready to dive in? Krik?