of Haiti -
Activities for Haiti
Learning about Haiti
Festivals of Haiti
Carnival (Mardi Gras)
(Feb to April)
The most festive time of the year in Haiti is during Carnival (or Mardi Gras). The festivities start a couple of days before Ash Wednesday and take place in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The days are filled with music, parade floats and people dancing and singing in the streets. The three-day carnival that ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is traditionally a time of all-night parties and escape from daily life.
Following the Carnival in Port-au-Prince Rara celebrations, also known as the ‘Peasant Carnival’ or ‘Rural Carnival’, begin. These celebrations occur each weekend during the entire period of Lent (the 40 days preceding the Easter) and are a colourful and musical on-the-move show of Voodoo society.
Rara bands sing, dance, make music and march through the streets, displaying the wealth and strength of their Voodoo congregation. Brightly coloured and elaborate costumes adorn the dancers and musicians and represent the strength of their protective Iwa (voodoo spirit). The Iwa protects the group members from the Iwa of other groups.
The Rara bands use a variety of homemade (and often unique) instruments. They include vaccines (bamboo trumpets), drums, horns, and shakers of all sorts. The bands stroll through the countryside picking up revelers on their way into the towns. Bands in the most populous areas can have up to one thousand members by the time the day is finished, as it's easy to become immersed in the music as the Rara band moves slowly down the road. Although the bands may look chaotic, the members follow strict ritual codes of how, when and where to dance.
As Good Friday and the end of the celebration approaches, the Rara bands appear more frequently to fill the roads with bright dancers and boisterous music, representing the strength of their Iwas and showing off their health and vitality, wealth and congregational strength.
Activities to Learn About Haiti
Rhythm & Music
No Carnival or Rara band would be complete without instruments. All the instruments used by the Rara bands are homemade and include drums, trumpets, horns, maracas and bells.
Try making your own musical instruments with the ideas listed below:
Fill a clean jar with dried rice or beans, tighten the lid and shake out a rhythm while you dance.
Place a handful of dried beans or rice in an empty aluminum pie plate. Glue an identical plate on top and once it is dry, shake it, tap it and enjoy it!
All you need is two metal pot lids and some enthusiasm for the noise!
The drum is the most important Haitian instrument, with its roots tied to Africa’s Vodun system of beliefs. The main rhythm families include:
- Dahomey - Three cow-skin drums (Katabo, Gonde, Manman) are played by three people using 2 sticks, hand &bow (agida), and 1 hand/1 stick, respectively.
- Rada - Three cow-skin drums (Boula, Segon, Manman) are played by three people using stick, hand and bow similar to the Dahomey.
- Petwo - Two goat-skin drums (Ralé and Manman) are played by hand only.
your own variety of drums, use your hands to beat out a rhythm
on a number of household objects. Try different sized boxes,
pots and pans, tabletops, plastic containers and whatever
else you come across. Once you’ve experimented with
your hands, find drumsticks (2 small branches, chopsticks,
wooden spoons, etc.) and go through the house again.
sea of color
Lavish and colorful costumes worn during the Carnival and Rara celebrations are not only fun and expressive but are also used to display the wealth of the congregations that make up the Rara bands. Many of the outfits are heavily sequined and brilliantly colored creating a sea of beautiful colors.
Nothing beats a rainy day than wrapping yourself up in the most colorful materials you can find while dancing and singing your favorite songs. Get out your hats, feather boas, costume jewelry and outfits and have some fun. Incorporate any instruments you have in your house for even more fun.
Krik? Krak! - Storytelling
Life is hard in Haiti; poverty is high and much of the work is labour intensive. To make the days go by more pleasantly, Haitians use stories, songs and games of riddles. Due to the high rate of illiteracy in Haiti much of the Haitian knowledge and traditions are passed down the generations through this storytelling.
This oral tradition of sharing stories, fun and games is known to Haitians as “Krik Krak”. When someone is willing to tell a story they will shout out “Krik?” If people within hearing distance want to hear the tale or riddle (which is almost always), they’ll answer back “Krak!” Over the years storytelling has evolved into a performance art as the storyteller uses different voices for each character and sings songs to embellish the narrative.
Tell your own stories. Share your adventures of the day at dinner, or your favourite moment of the week at bedtime. This is a great way to share your experiences with the rest of the family in a fun and creative way. Don’t forget to add a dramatic flare with songs and voices!
Share riddles with each other. Think up riddles about each other and have everyone try to guess who you are talking about as you sit around the dinner table (kindness is the key here), or post a riddle on the kitchen bulletin board each morning and share answers at dinner. Take turns coming up with the riddles.
For some great riddles for younger children, check out Just Riddles and More
Drapo art, also known as voodoo flags, are pictures made with thousands of sequins and beads sewn onto cloth. Each work of this sacred art takes days to make and when done, is a beautiful and colourful piece of artwork. Visit www.haitian-art-co.com/flag2.html for examples of Drapo Art.
To make sequin flags at home, gather a variety of beads and sequins and sew them onto a piece of cloth in your own creative pattern. Perhaps you want to make a family flag or wall hanging, or maybe each family member wants to make their own piece of art. For young children, consider gluing the sequins onto paper rather than sewing them onto cloth. Working with such tiny materials will provide wonderful fine motor skill practice, but be careful that none get eaten!
Haiti is a country steeped in poverty and hunger, political upheaval and insecurity. A great family activity this month involves charitable action. Talk about how Haiti is a country with children in need. Talk about poverty. Talk about political corruption. Talk and then take action. Collect money to donate to organizations such as Save the Children (see below for more information). Take in your bottles, organize a bottle drive, hold a bake sale, start a coin collection, or hold a garage sale and send the profits to make a difference. Involve your families, friends, schools, and communities.
Save the Children is a non-political, non-religious organization that provides both emergency relief and long-term development assistance through partnership with local communities, government bodies and international organizations. Through our programs, Save the Children tackles key children's rights issues including: health, HIV/AIDS, education, nutrition and food security, gender discrimination and early childhood development
Children Canada supports "Centre de Santé Emmaüs"
a health centre located in Port-au-Prince which provides health
care to more than 5,000 street kids. The Emmaüs health
centre provides a diverse program which includes medical and
psychological consultations, pharmacy and medicine services,
laboratory analysis, follow-up for early pregnancy (street
girls), immunization, prevention training, dental care, street
workers, etc. A bus to transport children from different shelters
and from the street to the centre is planned in the near future,
and an office providing legal assistance to children in conflict
with the law and children in prison will soon be opened. This
health centre is the result of joint efforts made by Save
the Children Canada, partner organizations and other international
institutions working to improve the quality of life of children
Another way to support the Haitian people is to utilize your purchasing power to support fair trade initiatives as a family. Check out One World Projects, who offer a variety of traditional Haitian crafts such as banana leaf hampers and sisal baskets. One World Projects pays Haitian craft makers fair prices for their products while supporting environmental initiatives to protect rainforests. The products are well worth taking a look at.
Teens and adults in the family may also be interested in joining Amnesty International. Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights. The voice of Amnesty International is a voice of over 1.5 million people worldwide who actively campaign through actions such as letter writing for the humane treatment of people everywhere and specific persons whose rights are being violated.
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