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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dutty Boukman in Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman)

Dutty Boukman in Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caïman) 

It is told that on the steamy, Caribbean night of August 14th, back in 1791 a slave named Boukman  ignited the Haitian Revolution during a secret vodou ceremony in Bwa Kayiman (Kreyol meaning literally, Alligator or Caiman Woods: Bois Caiman in French) in Morne Rouge, which is in northern Haiti. Boukman was a hougan (priest) and along with mambo (female priest) Cecil Fatiman, officiated the meeting where they planned the insurrection and held religious, vodou ritual, in preparation for what would become the most successful revolt and the greatest, far-reaching event in Caribbean history - The Haitian Revolution.

Dutty Boukman

Boukman is said to have been a big, strapping, fierce man, and like many of the early leaders of the Haitian Revolution, he held a position of power on his plantation (he was a slave driver and eventual coachman). Many of the 200-300 attendees at the Bwa Kayiman ceremony held such positions, or were chosen leaders of their specific plantations. The meeting held both political and religious significance - it culminated months of insurrectionist planning and strategizing; and, it served as spiritual, inspirational rally for the impending revolution. At Bwa Kayiman, the beginning of the Haitian Revolution was set for one week later.

Much of the information about Boukman and Bwa Kayiman was written many years after the event, so it's difficult to separate fact from myth. Many say that he was a literate Jamaican slave, Bookman, who taught other slaves in Jamaica to read and so was sold to a plantation in Saint Domingue. Some staunch Haitian historians insist that he was pure Haitian, and suspect that foreign people of African descent are trying to high jack Haitian history to support their own agendas. Since the 1990's, there has been a mostly African-American movement (but which included former Haitian president Aristide) to "Islamasize" Bwa Kayiman and Boukman, claiming Bookman was a "man of the Book" (Koran) and that Bwa Kayiman was in fact Bwa Kay Iman ( the woods by the Iman's house).

To be continued








Boukman's Prayer in Kreyol

"Bon Dje ki fè la tè. Ki fè soley ki klere nou enro. Bon Dje ki soulve lanmè. Ki fè gronde loray. Bon Dje nou ki gen zorey pou tande. Ou ki kache nan niaj. Kap gade nou kote ou ye la. Ou we tout sa blan fè nou sibi. Dje blan yo mande krim. Bon Dje ki nan nou an vle byen fè. Bon Dje nou an ki si bon, ki si jis, li ordone vanjans. Se li kap kondui branou pou nou ranpote la viktwa. Se li kap ba nou asistans. Nou tout fet pou nou jete potre dje Blan yo ki swaf dlo lan zye. Koute vwa la libète kap chante lan kè nou."


Boukman's Prayers as translated by C.L.R. James 

"The god who created the sun which gives us light, who rouses the waves and rules the storm, though hidden in the clouds, he watches us. He sees all that the white man does. The god of the white man inspires him with the crime, but our god calls upon us to do good works. Our god who is good to us orders us to revenge our wrongs. He will direct our arms and aid us. Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who has so often caused us to weep, and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of us all." 

Boukman's Prayer as translated by IBW21.org

"Good Lord who hath made the sun that shines above us, that riseth from the sea, who maketh the storm to roar; and governteth the thunders. The Lord is hidden in the heavens, and there He watcheth over us. The Lord seeth what the blanc (whites) have done. Their god commandeth crimes, ours givethe the blessings upon us. The Good Lord (Bondye) hath ordained vengeance. He will give strength to our arms and courage to our hearts. He shall sustain us. Cast down the image of the god of the blanc, because he maketh the tears to flow from our eye. Hearken unto Liberty that speaketh now in all your hearts."



Boukman's Prayer Translation by thelovertureproject.org

"The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light.The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man's god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It's He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It's He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men's god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that sings in all our hearts."


Cecile Fatiman

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