Friday, 3 March 2017

Corentin Fohlen | Haiti's Karnaval

Photo © Corentin Fohlen | All Rights Reserved

Every year in the small port of Jacmel, in the south of Haiti, the most important festival is held with residents wearing incredibly colorful and fantastical costumes. The festival is called Karnaval and for more than 100 years, it has been held in various cities around the island to showcase the island's unique creole culture.

Corentin Fohlen began to photograph Haitians by creating a makeshift studio on a city sidewalk near the Karnaval celebrations, where he could create portraits of each unique costume. 

The Karnaval festivities were traditionally considered sinful to Protestant Haitians, and participation was discouraged by their churches.  The festivities were criticized for condoning sexually-suggestive dancing, profanity-filled plays, music lyrics mocking authority, and vodou music rhythms.

As with other Mardis Gras carnivals, the festivities in Haiti enabled its people to enjoy the pleasures of life before the beginning of the Catholic Lent season, a period of 40 days and nights of fasting and penance leading up to Easter. The tradition was imported to Haiti and elsewhere in the Americas during European settlement. 

I am always fascinated at how Haitian Creole has absorbed French words, and morphed them into its own language. For example, here is a phrase used during the Karneval:

mete menn' anlè which in French is 'mets les mains en l'air' ('put your hands in the air').

Corentin Fohlen is a French photographer, whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Monde magazine, Paris Match, Libération, Stern, Polka Magazine, Le Monde, le Figaro, 6 Mois, Le Point, l’Obs, le JDD, l’Express, Marianne, Le Temps, L’Hebdo, Die Zeit, la Vie, les Inrockuptibles, Jeune Afrique, Afrique Magazine, le Pèlerin, Causette, La Croix, Le Parisien Magazine, Wondereur. He has also worked for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Handicap International, le Haut Commissariat aux Réfugiés (UNHCR), ASMAE-association Soeur Emmanuelle.

Since 2012, he has been involved in long term projects in Haïti. He is endeavoring to show a different view of the island nation. As a consequence of his 19 stays in Haïti,  he produced the book HAÏTI, published in January 2017.