Carnaval in Jacmel, Haiti- bright festive and amazing


24/02/2011 by etiennefish

So last Sunday, we checked out some of the carnaval festivities. We didn’t really see things as they got too far into full swing, as things can get a bit out of control as the day progresses, but we did get to see everyone getting ready and the start of the parades. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch, and nothing at all like what I’ve seen in Brazil or New Orleans. In Haiti, paper mâché is one of the national arts, and in Jacmel, surrounded by artists, it is no exception. And it’s amazing. The creations run from the literal to the abstract, fantastical to satirical to political. People of all ages participate, and its sort of hilarious to see all these macho guys absolutely strutting around in these costumes that one normally wouldn’t think they’d strut around in. Basically, I loved all of it. So I took a lot of photos. Like far too many. Which I will share below. I should also add that this was only a build up to better things to come. Or so I was promised. This Sunday should be bigger, and next should be outrageous. I’m sure I’ll do my best to capture that as well. So prepare for some carnaval overload….

So first, before the festivities begin, people line up their masks on the street. People have organised themselves into groups or sections so, you know, all the dragon creatures go together, all the monster fruit are together, some devils are over there in the corner… you get the picture. There are plenty of onlookers here. People from nearby houses line the street, many selling water, food, alcohol, and anything else you can think of, while chatting to those who walk by. Many others are trying to put finishing touches on their designs, in preparation for the big reveal. Other still, work on getting drunk. We were told by various marchers that this was really the only way to get into the carnaval spirit.

Huge faces lining the street


I loved this tiny little mask. Hanging out all by its lonesome

These dragons were a fav of mine

I love how vibrant everything is

Not gonna lie, this guy was pretty creepy

Sometimes I was unsure of what the creation was meant to be

A pretty poignant shot. These creatures pay hommage to the victims of the January 12th earthquake

On the left, you see the mask of a woman missing her hand. Another tribute to the victims of the earthquake. Jacmel was one of the worst cities hit, and many people lost their entire families.

These reminded me of Indian deities

I loved this little map one

You know, just dancin along in front of some monster fruit. It was a pretty typical day really.

A particularly dark image


Getting things set up

Mobilising the crickets!

These masks are cool, but I mostly took this shot because of the image behind the masks

Milling around, checking out everyone's work

Getting everything lined up and ready

Drum masks

A lot of people were getting their faces painted as well.


Costumes bright enough for the masks

I was particularly in love with the blue bow tie woman

scary scary devils


one devil takes a short break

These weird tree/haystack/banana leaf creations were pretty awesome

Hanging out

He needed to make a call

I like this photo a lot. It was funny, when these guys originally came out, one fo them fell over, and just couldn't get up. He lay there for like 5 minutes, until people could finally hoist him to his feet.

grr grr meow.

More fruits! For tiny childrens to wear.

These zebras were pretty awesome

This poor guy was painting until the very last second, trying to get this multi-person serpant finished in time. I can't even imagine how much work must go into these things

Frog masks wearing masks. We noticed this theme fairly regularly. A lot of the masks were dressing up for the occasion with their own masks

Making friend with this little girl who kept staring shyly at me

Almost ready to begin

All lined up and ready to go

More people are lining the streets, getting ready to cheer them on

I loved these little girls

The devils don their mask as they receive a pep talk from their leader

And... they're off!


This reminds me of my landlord. If he were a gypsy.


These guys were so cute!




I love how serious these guys are


I love that he's munching on a leaf


It's the attack of the grasshoppers!!!!


That boy looks a little bit worried about all those teeths!

I loved these guys. They were dancing all over the place!

I found these guys slightly creepy


Curious little seahorse


These guys were totally amazing. I was told that they were playing the part of some beloved past Haitian political leader. Who apparently had big teeth.

Yeah, they were fun.

on the sidelines

That kid looks dubious of the whole carnaval thing

The DJs

The snake finally gets finished in time

I enjoyed that the big heads carried flowers

Enjoying the sights, the people, and the sun

This guy just makes me smile. And giggle a little bit.

After the main parade went by, all the extra revellers and stragglers came to join in the fun


These painted groups are everywhere during carnaval. They run around singing, dancing, and generally being crazy. And then they ask you for money. It's pretty fun. I loved that they stopped a truck full of nuns.

looking a little lost

Yay, carnaval people against cholera! I had to include it. Their sign says: We will fight against cholera. Cholera is the devil. We can all do it. Let's celebrate life.

This cute little guy was coyly posing for the camera.

These guys came by the hotel where we always hang out after we finished with our carnaval tour. Um, a donkey wearing clothes and talking on a giant mobile? UH-MAY-ZING. They definitely got money out of us.

One last little shot

So that was officially more than enough photos! Clearly I am slightly obsessed, as this was only a small portion of them. Hopefully, though, I will soon be posting even more from the bigger events this weekend! Let’s just hope I can get back into town (I’m in Port au Prince for some meetings at the time of this posting), as they said the roads might get blocked this weekend. It would be sad. Fact. So keep your fingers crossed.

2 thoughts on “Carnaval in Jacmel, Haiti- bright festive and amazing

  1. MiMi Atkins says:

    I am considering teaching in Haiti and have been in touch with the principal of Union School. Your pictures allowed me to see what many have told me about Haiti – despite abject poverty, the citizens remain in good spirits, smiles, and love. Thanks for capturing the vibrancy that is Haiti’s culture. I live near New Orleans but Haitians party just as well.

    • etiennefish says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos! Thanks for the comment. If you do make it here, the south-east is a great place to visit. I’ve met a lot of friendly and welcoming people so far, and the country really is gorgeous. It’s definitely an interesting and vibrant country, despite all the many hardships that it’s population has faced. And if you happen to make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, send a little wave my way. I miss it!

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February 2011
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