The story of the impossible. The story of the invisible.
Haiti is the story of the impossible as it is the place where the first successful slave revolt took place. It had to be ignored and the history had to be rewritten by the superpowers such as England, Spain and France because otherwise the victory of the Haitian Revolution would have forced a complete change of the then prevailing narrative about slavery. Instead, the colonialists accepted the first black republic but cut Haiti off from the rest of the world and imposed economic and political sanctions on it, driving it into poverty and gradually invalidating it.
The Haitian Revolution again became unthinkable, even though it happened. If it is impossible to accept some events, how to evaluate them afterwards? How to write the history of the impossible? Is historical narrative doomed to failure? And what if the history of the impossible is unfolding before our eyes? What if the impossible in Haiti is happening today? The history of the invisible, the history of the unseen.
Vodun – beautiful mythological tales, create a Haitian sense of reality. The concept of time has no rational boundaries at all. Today's street of the 2020s might as well be a street of the 1920s. The day of January 20, 2020 could just as easily have happened ten years ago as it could have happened fifty years ago. Therefore, in my visual narrative, I mix photographs taken on the streets of Jacmel during the carnival and ordinary Haitian daily life, creating a visual narrative on the verge of hyperrealism and magical realism.
Working on my project, I wonder if when I persist in investigating the impossible because it is invisible, will I eventually find some tangible traces? Because in Haiti, what cannot be seen does exist. What is more, it is possible. The question is if the photographic narrative is sufficient to tell the story of the invisible.
The title of my project refers to my attempt to tell the story of the impossible, of what we cannot see. In my work, I want to move away from common stereotypical thinking and trite generalizations about Haitian life, religion, and culture. I am interested in what is underneath. I realize that I may never fully comprehend the intangible, even when I come face to face with some physical manifestation thereof: a person who is not really a person, a spirit that is not really a spirit, but who exists somewhere in between. I still try, though. I make every effort to give a visual form to what is invisible.
Haitian Vodun is not a revealed religion but has been "recovered" from Gunee, Africa through myths and their ritual enactments. It is the connection with nature, with the four elements. It is respect for them, and for all human beings. Vodun is about going back to the roots, to ancestries through mutual empowerment, but also self-empowerment. And finally, it is about unity.
"Why are you wet if it hasn’t rained? How come it’s rained and you are not wet?"
"Up in heaven, purgatory and paradise were separated by a bay exactly like to one in Jacmel".
- Depestre, René. Hadriana in All My Dreams
The Vodun gods - the Loa - came from Africa to Haiti under the sea, underwater
Carrefour #1 – loa of the crossroads
The Vodun Poem by Mr. Pop
Loa Simbie - a water snake spirit
Call in on the spirits, calling on the ancestries.
Baron Samedi #1 - the spirit of the dead.
Baron Samedi #2
It was every man for himself in the courtyard. Panicked, all God’s children somehow lost all sense of time: it could just as easily have been three thirty in the afternoon or three thirty in the morning, 1938 or 38 BC.
Depestre, René. Hadriana in All My Dreams
The drums of a new banda, even more feverish than the one that had come before, rein fused everyone’s blood with the very strongest beats of life.
Depestre, René. Hadriana in All My Dreams
Drums are the connection between the animal kingdom and trees.
The sound travels and resonates and thus tells us about the universe.
When the drums play, people forget about the rain. And it might even stop raining itself.
The landscape is intensely tropical. At spots, fierce and untamed, it seems to have been barely touched by man.
Depestre, René. Hadriana in All My Dreams.
Gran Bwa - The Father of The Forest
Baron Samedi #3
The Vodun Poem by Darkmen
Portrait of Darkmen
Baron Samedi #4
Jacmel lives in the past with as much intensity as it doubts its own future.
Follow me to the bottom of that magic well that Jacmel fell into that night, along with all its inhabitants. - R.D.