Caribbean

Haitian masks of wood, metal

Most Haitian masks are made of papier mache and painted. You can see some of them in the “Caribbean Category” of our archives. Ordinary people can afford some them for carnivals and other ceremonies. More expensive masks are made of steel taken from the side of oil barrels, same as the famous steel drums used by Haitian musicians. One of the masks shown here is steel. Almost all these are decorative and sold to the tourist trade.

Others are carved wood and much older. Within the African Diaspora, Haitian culture is known for its strong connection to Yoruba, Congo, and other Cross river cultures which, over centuries, combined with influences from local Taino Indians, Europeans and from Vodoo ceremonies. These are very hard to find nowadays. I’ve seen a Haitian cow mask and am not sure, even though it was labeled as such, that it isn’t African or Guatemalan. But it certainly looks old and used. I hope some of our regular viewers will tell us what they think.

Here is some more about Haitian carnivals. This cultural event is generally held during the month of February, the day before Ash Wednesday, with celebrations in the capital city of Port-au-Prince as well as other major cities throughout Haiti. The celebration lasts multiple days and people celebrate freely in the streets. The elaborate floats, the costumes, the music and dance, and the colors are a reflection of Haiti’s rich and beautiful culture.

During the festivities, many Haitians dress in traditional garments full of color or disguise themselves as characters from pop culture, Zombies, animals, and Voodoo characters The Rara, a unique form of Haitian music, usually takes place on the last day of Carnival, ending the celebration. Children love Carnival and enjoy participating in the fun. Schools plan special activities for the children, They make masks, dance and sing along with their friends and teachers. It is a fun way for the children forget their problems and have a good time.

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