My photographic work is represented by Riflemaker, Soho, London.
Currently I am working alongside the Sculptors of Grand Rue, an artists' community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We held the 'Ghetto Biennale', the first arts festival located in a popular neighbourhood in the developing world. In December 2009, artists from around the globe came to Haiti, to make and exhibit work. Soon an archive of the event will appear on the website.
Each year, Jacmel, a coastal town in Southern Haiti, holds pre-Lenten Mardi Gras Festivities. Troupes of 'performers' act out mythological and political tales in a whorish theatre of the absurd that courses the streets unshackled by traditional parade.
The characters and costume partially betray their roots in medieval European carnival, but the Jacmellien masquerades are also a fusion of clandestine Vodou, ancestral memory, political satire and personal revelation.
The work is accompanied by oral histories from the participants. The next few pages of this gallery include extracts from these histories.
Lancers du Cord
We are making a statement about slavery and being freed from slavery. This is a celebration of our independence in 1804. The cords we carry are the cords that were used to bind us. We are always sullen and menacing and we never smile. The blackness of our skin is made with crushed charcoal, pot black, kleren (cane spirit) and cane syrup mixed with a little water in a bucket. Although we know that slaves never wore horns, we wear them to look more menacing as this is about the revolt of the slaves.
Zel MathurinWe did not invent this story. It came from older people but we are keeping the tradition going.
There is a long procession of Zel Mathurin but St Michel kills them by using his mighty sword. The strongest devil, the red devil, myself, arrives. This devil fights much harder but after a long struggle is finally killed. All the devils lie dead on the street conquered by St Michel the Arcangel but then the black devil arrives. He is bigger than the others wearing chains. He is chained mystically because his mystic powers are so strong that he must be restrained. He carries a skull and presents it to the four cardinal points and hits the red devil three times. Once the red devil is revived all the other devils leap awake.
The black devil is a Vodou devil whereas the other devils are just Christian devils. As you can see from the masks on the wall I am not a bible person, well you don’t play the part if you don’t like the part.
ChaloskaThe Chief Charles Oscar was a military commandant in charge of the police in Jacmel. He was tall and strong with big feet and teeth and feared by all. He took 500 prisoners from the local jail and killed them all. There was so much blood it made a river of death. The population was so angry that that revolted and tore the police chief to pieces in the street and burned him down. He was killed in the same violent way that he had treated the people.
When I created Chaloska I also wanted to create some other characters to go along with him. I created Master Richard and Doctor Calypso. Master Richard is a rich man with a big bag full of money and a huge fat stomach. He walks with the group of Chaloska buying justice and paying the judges. He represents the impunity and corruption that hides behind Chaloska and is the real chief of the city.
These characters are still here in Haitian society so it is good to parade them on the street. It is a message to all future Oscars that you will end up this way.