Leah Gordon is a British photojournalist that has documented the Jacmel Kanaval in Haïti for 15 years from 1995 to 2010, releasing a book of her exploits. She hijacks Kanaval characters and takes them down side streets where she captures their images and takes time to interview them. Here are some of these characters, describing in their own words how they construct themselves for Kanaval.

  1. Endyen (Indian) Marc Andre Michel
Endyen

Endyen

The imposing, silent Endyen character was inspired by a Christopher Colombus storybook. He has a machete on the left, a big painted arrow on the right. He pictures the Indians as an industrious, brave and courageous people.

 

  1. Lanse Kòd (The Rope Throwers) Salnave Raphael a.k.a. Nabot Power
Lanse Kòd

Lanse Kòd

The Lanceurs de Corde are making a statement about slavery, and being freed from slavery. They colour their skin pot black with a mixture of crushed charcoal and cane syrup. The cords they carry are the cords that used to bind them.

 

  1. Jwif Eran (Wandering Jew) Fritz Lubin
Jwif Eran

Jwif Eran

The theme is a wandering person, an old shoe repairer with nowhere to go. It is a terrible fate.He is 1800 years old. Everywhere he has gone he has ended up in huge battles where he is the only survivor. He only ever has five cents in his pocket.

 

  1. Chaloska (Charles Oscar) Eugene Lamour a.k.a. Boss Cota
Chaloska

Chaloska

Chief Charles Oscar was a military commander in charge of the police in Jacmel. He died here in 1912. At the time there was political instability in Haïti. He took 500 prisoners from the local jail and killed them all. The population revolted and tore the police chief to pieces in the street and set fire to his remains.

 

  1. Madame Lasiren (Madame Mermaid) Andre Ferner
Madame Lasiren

Madame Lasiren

Lasiren is a magical spirit that lives under the sea and does mystical work there. She is a Vodou spirit. The baby carried in her arms is the child of Lasiren and is called Marie-Rose. The necklace is called Mambo Welcome; it is a fetish.

 

  1. Papa Sida (Father AIDS) Lendor James
Papa Sida

Papa Sida

Many young people die from AIDS and Papa Sida is there to encourage them to use condoms. AIDS is not a lie invented by politicians, but the truth. If you do the AIDS lottery, the cemetery pays out every time!

 

  1. Zel Maturin (The Wings of Mathurin, character(s) from the St. Michel Mardi Gras) Ronald Bellevue
Zel Maturin

Zel Maturin

This tradition came from the older people. There is a play, a fight between good and evil. Zel Maturin is the red devil and is always the strongest. He fights St Michel the Archangel and is killed by the sword.

 

  1. Atibruno – Tira Jorssend
Atibruno

Atibruno

Atibruno is a peasant, and people say that peasants are like donkeys, and that they are very stupid. But we know that peasants are not stupid. There are clothes, trousers and shoes on the donkey and he has a mobile phone to show that he is as good as everyone who lives in the town.

 

  1. Oungan (Vodou Priest) Clerment Beauvais
Oungan

Oungan

His father was a Vodou priest. He got into Vodou after the death of his father. The most striking impression of Vodou at the Carnival is Zel Maturin and the devil. Vodou is the strongest, Vodou is resistance. Vodou is Haitian culture.

 

  1. St. Michel (Saint Michael) Jony Aubin
St Michel

St Michel

One half of the Mardi Gras group is on the side of God and on the other side are the Satans. St Michel stands up while a group of priests behind him sing hymns and preach. Then the devils appear. St Michel kills all the devils but at Kanaval there is always one that gets away and resurrects the others by pouring water on them.