All photos © Leah Gordon 2010
Vice: Firstly, what inspired you to travel to Haiti? It’s not a popular holiday destination.
Not a typical approach to visiting a country. Aside from the carnival, what other issues have you covered in the country?
Lineaments of the Lwa
Getting down to the book: when and where are the images from?
The group is called “les diables”, which is best translated as “the diabolicals”. This is an ancient group, the most involved with Vodou ritual. They start off in the cemetery paying homage to the ancestors with fire. At the end, they pile up their horn headdresses and burn them while dancing and singing.
Traditionally, what does the carnival celebrate? What religious aspects are involved?
Compared with, say, more well-known carnivals like Notting Hill, these images, the outfits, and the overall appearance seem more eerie and less about peacock feathers and glitter. Why is that?
Are there different groups of costumes that refer to particular periods?
Have you been to Haiti since the earthquake?
is out on June 21 through Soul Jazz Publishing. See more of Leah’s work in her exhibition,
, held at Riflemaker, 79 Beak Street, Soho, London, from July 5 to September 10.
These are the Chaloska (Charles Oscar). They always wear military uniform and have a mouthful of false teeth made with bulls’ teeth. Charles Oscar was a particularly vicious military commandant in charge of the police in Jacmel. He died here in 1912. He was feared by all.
The main character is wrapped in a sheet and represents the phenomenon of zombification. He is led around town by a zombie master who has a whip in his hand and cracks it at every crossroads while the zombie mutters complaints.
A lone man in drag. In Kanaval_, Don Cosentino notes in one of his footnotes to his essay that there is a history of transvestitism. According to Ady Jean-Gardy’s “Carnaval Histoire”: “Male transvestitism goes on throughout the 18th century, mercilessly mocking the effete lords of French nobility.”_
Here we see a typical ghost. Many people dress as ghosts by imitating skeletons.
This is Yahweh. The guy is dressed in bull horns and a bull skin.
These are members of a tradition that always carry some kind of box—here, a cardboard coffin—that spectators can pay a small fee to peep inside.
Here they are again, looking slightly less menacing.