Haitian Culture

Cultural Information

Art

Haitian art offers us a unique reflection of a complex mix of cultures from African roots to indigenous Euro-American religious influences.This wide range of influences produces a lot of diversity in Haitian art, which can be broken up into three different “schools” of painting: the Cap-Haitian school, which largely depicts city and town life; the Jacmel School, which depicts coastal villages and the sea; and the Saint-Soleil School, which depicts voodoo symbolism & abstract human forms. Sculpture also plays a major role in Haitian art. It is also a byproduct of the early works of the Tainos, that included dolls, drawings, and signs, and the colonial period with influnces from Africa and Europe.

Music

The Music of Haiti combines notes from the many people who influenced life in the island. Haitian music brings together French, African rhythms, Spanish beats and native Taino touches. The most popular music in Haiti is Compas, compa, conpa, or konpa – direk, created by Nemours Jean-Baptiste. Other music genres include rara, twoubadou, hip hop Kreyol, Haitian zouk, and most recently raboday.

Wyclef Jean is regarded as one of the most successful Haitian musicians; however, the island is not short of talented musicians.

Dance

The people of Haiti love to dance, whether it is dance that originated from their African ancestors or European ballroom dances.

To fully grasp the importance of dancing in the island, you need to immerse your- self in Haitian Carnival. Carnaval is part of the Haitian way of life. It is by far their favorite tradition. Carnival is a month-long (sometimes it lasts over two months) celebration that begins with pre-carnival festivities and ends with three days fueled with music, dance, food, and drinks. Carnival in Haiti is celebration of life, joy, cheerfulness fused with harmony bright colors and beautiful sounds.

Cuisine

Haitian cuisine is a melting pot of French, African, Spanish and Taino influences topped with other Creole cultures across the Caribbean. Haitian épice (spice), considered as the flavor base of Haitian cuisine serves as the foundation for many dishes. The épice is made of green onions, thyme, parsley, peppers, and garlic. Popular Haitian dishes include the national dish, riz collé aux pois (rice with kidney beans), mais moulin (grits), tassot et bananes pesées (fried goat with fried plantains), lalo (leaf stew) & Haitian légume (vegetable dish cooked with meat, spices, garlic, and tomatoes). Haitians enjoy many delightful snacks including pain patate (sweet potato bread).

Religion and Mythology

Like any other aspect of Haitian culture, religion is shaped by its colonial history and African heritage. About 90% of the people in Haiti are Christians, mainly Catholics and Protestants. Haitian people are strong believers and churches are widespread on the island. While most people in the country identify as Christians, the outside world knows Haiti for its famous Voodoo (Vodou). In Haiti, Vodou is both a symbol of pride and struggle because of the many stereotypes and myths surrounding the Vodou religion. No matter how the outside world views Vodou, Haitians understand and value its importance in the fight for independence against Napoléon Bonaparte.