The characters and costume partially betray their roots in medieval European carnival, but the Jacmellian masquerades are also a fusion of clandestine Vodou, ancestral memory, political satire and personal relevation. The lives of the indigenous Taino Indians, the slaves' revolt and more recently state corruption are all played out using drama and costume on Jacmel's streets... [Haitian culture] is a vibrant, living avatar for not only Haitian history, but for all our histories. - Leah Gordon
- Richard Fleming
Other revolving characters that make up the cast of Jacmel's kanaval are the lwa (vodou spirits), the ancestors, zombis, Yahweh (a savage beast that lives in the woods and gets whipped as he makes his way through the kanaval parade), trannies (traditionally to mock effeminate French colonial lords), prophets and saints, birds, animals and fantastical creatures of the imagination, traditional dancers, the comedic Jwif Eran (Wandering Jew), the members of a courtroom (judge, jury, prosecutor and defense and accused), the heroes of the Haitian revolution, caricatures and parodies of poverty, illness (this year, cholera), imperialism and current social issues, and last but not least... making their debut in 2011, heads advertising the local driving school:
Death by cholera
"Down with Violence"
According to the artist, these masks juxtapose misery with peace
There have been many times [2010 notwithstanding] that the future of Jacmel's Carnival has appeared unstable, but it continues to struggle and survive.... Carnival is dead, long live Kanaval.
Kanaval is not dead. -Gordon
All italicized quotes in this post are from Leah Gordon's book of photography and oral history, Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti