48.000 x 36.000 x 1.000 inches
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Bwa Kayiman Haiti 1791
Painting - Oil On Canvas
Bwa Kayiman derives his name from the French "Bois Caiman". Others suggest a Creole derived name, "Bois Kay Iman" or "Woods by the House of Iman". Bwa Kayiman is a revolt against Racial Slavery.
Before narrating this very important part of the Haitian History, I will first identify and describe the historical characters performing the ceremony of Bois Caiman in the painting:
1. Boukman-He is on the left of the painting; he is the only one with a shirt and long pants; unlike the field slaves who wore only the bare minimum to cover their bodies. He is the one holding the book in his left hand. His name is Dutty Boukman, for English, Dirty Bookman. He is a national Hero, a giant man, very powerful, fierce and fearsome, with an imposing appearance. He exercised an inexplicable influence on the maroons; he was an important, inspiring leader. Boukman was brought from Africa to the island of Jamaica; he was a self educated slave. After attempting to teach other Jamaican slaves to read, Boukman was sold by his British master in Jamaica to a French plantation owner in Haiti. Boukman was never a field slave; instead he supervised other slaves as the headman for his owner. He escaped to the mountains and became a maroon( neg mawon, a fugitive slave)
2. Mambo Marinette- She is in the center of the painting. She is the old, dark skin, white hair woman, with reddish eyes. She is a mambo or Voodoo priestess. She was the one who presided over the ceremony with Boukman. She was the one who sacrificed the black Creole pig. She was later captured by the French and burned alive.
3. Cecile Fatima- She is on the right of the painting. She is the woman singing behind the three drummers. She was a revolutionary leader. She was a green eyes woman with black hair. She was of mixed European and African heritage. She was the daughter of a Corsican and an African woman, (Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea located west of Italy and southwest of France).She was sold into slavery with her mother and two brothers whom she never saw again. According to the historian Etienne Charlier, Cecile Fatima later became the wife of the Haitian President, Louis Michel Pierrot (1761-1857). He became President on April 16, 1845. Cecile Fatima lived in Cap-Haitian until the age of 112.
4. Finally, on the middle lower portion of the painting, I have the conch shell blower maroon who helped assemble the 300 maroons for the ceremony. Those 300 maroons or fugitive slaves represent TWENTY-ONE displayed African Nations who vowed to revolt against the powers that had unleashed against their people such a relentless campaign of terror; a genocide that was expertly conceived and implemented, state sponsored and finally justified with numerous literary works and blessed by the most powerful and influential religious institution of the day. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V invited the Christians to attack an enslave non-Christians. To the year of 1791, 25millions of human beings had already been kidnapped, terrorized, thrown to sharks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
I will render the Historical Voodoo version, involving drumming, and spirit dancing, not the legendary version promoted by the Fundamentalist Christian Missionaries, involving 200 years pact with Satan; because there was no black magic ritual. The same God that Christians pray to is the same God that the maroons believed in and prayed to. The devil does not exist in most African Religions. Most of the adults at Bois Caiman had been born in Africa, not in Saint Domingue (Haiti). They came with many different ethnic groups and religious traditions. They use what they are accustomed to, what we called today: "Voodoo". According to the official "HISTORY of HAITI and the HAITIAN REVOLUTION", the following event occurred 219+ years ago with our forefathers:
Bois Caiman is the site of a Voodoo ceremony which occurred in the mountains on the North of the small Caribbean island of Haiti, near Morne-Rouge, Southwest of Cap-Haitian. This Voodoo ceremony and the pact concluded were of a secret nature because of planned pending uprisings. On the evening of August 14, 1791, Boukman conducted the ceremony. He assembled about 300 maroons (fugitive slaves). They gathered in the mountain under a very large Mapou tree. It was a rainy night, raging with clouds and thunderstorms. Torn branches were flying everywhere. During that meeting, the slaves acknowledged their resentment for the inhuman conditions in the plantations, in which they have been flogged and driven to exhaustion by working from sun up until sun down or death, 10-18 hours a day. Boukman declared to the participants: "Your God is a good God. He is against slavery!" The drums were beating. A woman named Cecile Fatima was singing. Another old, dark skin, white hair woman with red eyes, named Mambo Marinette, got up and dance. She was possessed by the spirit, loa, Ezili Danto. Everyone was transfixed, spellbind. The woman was jumping and turning with a long knife overhead. She cut the throat of the black Creole pig and a blood mixture was distributed to all the participants who swore to kill all the whites on the island..."Be Free or Die!"
In the African Dahomey culture, there is a well tested tradition of such a "blood oath". They drink "Vodun" which is a mixture of blood, water, and other ingredients to secure their loyalty. This practice was known from Dahomey to Kenya. Many slaves assembled there would have been familiar with it. The blood oath would have encourage solidarity, spiritual strength, and acted as an oath of fidelity to Boukman and to the greater cause of liberty.
On August 22, 1791, Toussaint Louverture leads a black army against the French of the North, killing all the whites they met and set the plantations on fire.
Although Boukman was eventually captured by the French and beheaded, this ceremony of Bois Caiman started the Haitian Revolution which later gave birth to a new Nation, Haiti, on January 1, 1804, 13 years later under the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte who was ruling France at that time. He became Emperor Napoleon I, in 1804; not "Napoleon III" as wrongly mentioned by Pat Robertson, the televangelist, on January 13, 2010, after Haiti's earthquake of January 12, 2010. Napoleon III was a French ruler from 1848 to 1870. Haiti occupied the western 1/3 of the island, not "1/2" as wrongly mentioned the televangelist, Pat Robertson. The Haitians freed themselves from slavery, not "because they were under the heels of the French" as Pat Robertson mentioned on January 13, 2010. The Africans of Haiti fought not only against the "armies of France", but also against the army of Britain, and Spain which they eventually defeated thanks to the military savvy of the maroons, and the leadership of generals: Toussaint Louverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Petion and Henry Christophe. Haitians freed themselves from enslavement because they believe that God created all of us equal. The 1791 uprising to uproot racial slavery was taken in Haiti by regular men and women.
References: Antoine Dalmas:" History of the Saint Domingue Revolution, 1814"
Jean Fouchard :" Les Marrons de la Liberte' " Jean Saint-Vil :" Bwa Kay Iman uprising against slavery" August 11, 2009
October 15th, 2011
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