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Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Haitian Revolution (The Revolt That Birthed a Nation - Part 2)

The Haitian Revolution 
(The Revolt That Birthed a Nation - Part 2: Vincent Oge and Dutty Boukman)
                               by K. Omodele @TheAbeng

How the French Revolution Affected the Haitian Revolution

   After the French Revolution toppled the French Monarchy (King Louis XVI) in 1789*, the French National Assembly issued the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens. News of these events were carried from France, off ships and spread amongst the people of the colony of Saint Domingue, stirring hope among the oppressed and disdain among the upper classes. Then in 1791, this new, revolutionary government decreed that free, property-owning mulattos (gens de couleur) in Saint Domingue were to possess the same rights as plantation owners. Saint Domingue's Colonial Assembly (which was comprised of plantation owners of French descent) refused to accept this decree and bucked against the orders from the new French republic.

Vincent Oge and the uprising of Gens de Couleur

   The colonial plantation owners sought representation in the French National Assembly, but wanted no representation for mulatto freemen. The colony's own assembly excluded mulattos from representation, which poured gasoline on already-fuming racial tensions. In February 1791, the gens de couleur, led by Vincent Oge, rushed to arms and rebelled against the white colonials. But their revolt was quickly squashed, and Vincent Oge escaped to Santo Domingo (the Spanish side of the island). He was subsequently caught and extradited to Saint Domingue, where he was sentenced to death by the gallows. Right before he was hung, he was stretched and quartered**; then, after being hung to his death, his head was chopped off.
   But by now, the flames of insurrection had ignited. In August of that year, the slaves jumped in the fight and the revolt roared towards a full-blaze revolution for emancipation, equality and national independence.

"Dutty" Boukman - Hougan (Vodou priest)

Dutty Boukman was a vodou priest (hougan) in the northern Saint Domingue  countryside, holding clandestine meetings in secluded areas around plantations. His gatherings were intense with vodou worship and charged with talk of rebellion. Dutty Boukman preached with insight and persuasion; his mystique was powered by spiritual, esoteric rituals passed down from ancestors. 
   In Saint Domingue, many slaves were either African born, or one or two generations removed from the continent and as a result, their ties to the African motherland were still strong. Vodou priests were respected, revered as leaders, spiritual griots linking slaves to their African origin. Boukman's oratory skills captivated his audiences; and at Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman) on August 14, he incited the slaves to revolt - from rebellion to revolution to freedom.

The Haitian Revolution (The Revolt That Birthed a nation - Part 3)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Caribbean Culture: Where Does Winding Come From?

Where Does Winding Come From?
by Kaya Omodele .@The Abeng (first published in Method Mecca @ZigZee)

     A while ago, I stumbled across a website where someone was asking "How do you wine dance?" (you know, winding, wineing, wining, however you want spell winding your waistline) Then in the comments/replies, X-amount of people jumped in with they own answers, without thinking, knowing or even considering logic before opening their mouths. ;-)
     Trinis, Yardies, Bajans, GTs, people from the biggest to smallest islands, everybody claiming is they island, and their island alone, that invented winding. And what's more, nuff of them insisted their island wind the best.

     Then, somebody interjected, writing how "Africa is where the dance originated." But, that comment just sat there, unnoticed, midst the bag of noise that surrounded it. So, make me set the whole controversy straight:

     Winding didn't start with dutty wine (dutty wind) nor go-go wine nor dollar wine nor even tiny winey. There's a reason every island knows it, from Jamaica to Trinidad, down to even Bahia in Brazil; even if people perform it with different styles and in different fashions. And it's because of the one thing we all have in common, but nuff of we choose to forget.
     Africa. Africans. Yes, them - the ancestors.

African Dance

     You see, from the earliest times, dancing has played significant roles in African societies. In day to day tribal life, dances were used to ward off evil, express emotions, display fertility, ask for blessings in peace and in war, and even worship in rituals. Not to mention, dance throughout the continent was also used in celebration ceremonies such as marriage, birth and harvest. In other words, dancing affirmed life.

     African dance is distinct in some ways from dancing in other parts of the world where a dancer's entire body acts as a single unit (you ever see people waltz?). In most areas around the world, dancers are taught to keep strict lines in body flow and movement. Not so in African dancing, where the dancer is almost always moving different sections of his/her body to different counts within the rhythm itself. The movement in African dance is much more complex as the various segments of the dancer's body move in conjunction with each other.

Caribbean Dance

     Now compare this to Caribbean dancing. Notice how in dancehall a woman will move her waistline in a different timing than her shoulders and arms. Just like in soca and calypso.
      Now except for spiritual dances like Nyahbingi and Shango, the dancing most of us do here in the West is celebratory and not so much spirituality. But you can still see Africa in the winding skill Caribbean women possess.
     Some things are just imbedded in the genes. Know thyself and recognize!

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