Culture of Haiti
The culture of Haiti is primarily the culture that has very strong West African roots, as well as strong French roots due to the French colonization of Haiti, as is evidenced in the Haitian language, music, and religion. The culture also encompasses additional contributions from native Taino and Spanish imperialism. “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s brutal rule was noted for its use of Haitian folklore to terrorize the population, such as the Tonton Macoute.
Haitian Compas (sometimes written as Compas Direct, konpa direk, konpa, or kompa) is a musical genre, as well as a dance that originates from Haïti. It was named «Compas Direct» by Nemours Jean-Baptiste, on a recording released in 1955. The name derives from compas, the Spanish word meaning rhythm or tones. It involves mostly medium-to-fast tempo beats with an emphasis on electric guitars, synthesizers, and either a solo alto saxophone, a horn section or the synthesizer equivalent. Unlike zouk (which derives from compas of the French Antilles), the lyrics are mostly in Haitian Creole.
Brilliant colors, naive perspective, and sly humor characterize Haitian art. Big, delectable foods and lush landscapes are favorite subjects in this land of poverty and hunger. Going to market is the most social activity of country life, and figures prominently into the subject matter. Jungle animals, rituals, dances, and gods evoke the African past.
Artists paint in fable as well. People are disguised as animals and animals are transformed into people. Symbols take on great meaning. For example, a rooster often represents Aristide and the red and blue colors of the Haitian flag, often represent his Lavalas party.
Many artists cluster in ‘schools’ of painting, such as the Cap Haitian school, which features depictions of daily life in the city, the Jacmel School, which reflects the steep mountains and bays of that coastal town, or the Saint-Soleil School, which is characterized by abstracted human forms, and is heavily influenced by Vodou symbolism.
The most festive time of the year in Haiti is during Carnival (referred to as Kanaval in Haitian Creole or Mardi Gras). The festivities start in February. The cities are filled with music, parade floats, and people dancing and singing in the streets. Carnival week is traditionally a time of all-night parties and escape from daily life. Rara, a festival which occurs before Easter, is celebrated by a significant number of the population as well, and its celebration has been led to it becoming a style of Carnival music. Many of the youth also attend parties and enjoy themselves at nightclubs called discos, (pronounced "deece-ko") (not like the discos of the U.S), and attend Bal. This term derives from the word ballad, and these events are often celebrated by crowds of many people.
Haiti's most famous monuments are the Palace of Sans Souci and the Citadel, inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1982. Situated in the Northern Massif de la Hotte, in one of Haiti's National Parks, the structures date from the early 19th century. The buildings were among the first to be built after Haiti's independence from France.
Haiti is similar to the rest of Latin America, in that it is a predominantly Christian country, with 80%-85% Roman Catholic and approximately 20% professing Protestantism. A small but growing population of Muslims and Hindus exist in the country, principally in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
Vodou, encompassing several different traditions, may contain a mix of Central and Western African, European, and Native American (Taíno) religions is also widely practiced, despite the negative stigma that it carries both in and out of the country. The exact number of Vodou practitioners is unknown; however, it is believed that a small amount of the population practice it, often alongside their Christian faith. Some secular Christians also have been known to participate in some rituals, although indirectly.
Haiti is known for its rich folklore traditions. The country has many magical tales that are part of the Haitian Vodou tradition. The Haitian dictator Papa Doc was a strong believer in the country's folklore and used elements of it to guide his brutal rule of the country.
- "National History Park – Citadel, Sans the great Souci, Ramiers". UNESCO.org. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
- "Heritage in Haiti". UNESCO.org. 2010-01-20. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
- Kelsey, p. 120
- Kelsey, Carl (1921) "The American Intervention in Haiti and the Dominican Republic" in American Academy of Political and Social Science; National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection (Library of Congress) (March 1922). Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science C. Published by A.L. Hummel for the American Academy of Political and Social Science. pp. 109–202. Retrieved 8 June 2011.