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Haiti’s culture is primarily influenced by West African traditions but also has elements of native Taino Amerindians, French and Spanish.


Haitian National Anthem: La Dessalinienne
Lyrics: Justin Lherisson
Music: Nicolas Geffrard
Adopted: 1904

Kreyol Lyrics French Lyrics English Translation
Pou Ayiti peyi Zansèt yo
Se pou-n mache men nan lamen
Nan mitan-n pa fèt pou gen trèt
Nou fèt pou-n sèl mèt tèt nou
Annou mache men nan lamen
Pou Ayiti ka vin pi bèl
Annou, annou, met tèt ansanm
Pou Ayiti onon tout Zansèt yo.
Pou Ayiti onon Zansèt yo
Se pou-n sekle se pou-n plante
Se nan tè tout fòs nou chita
Se li-k ba nou manje
Ann bite tè, ann voye wou
Ak kè kontan, fòk tè a bay.

 Sekle,wouze, fanm kou gason
Pou-n rive viv ak sèl fòs ponyèt nou.
Pou Ayiti ak pou Zansèt yo
Fo nou kapab vanyan gason
Moun pa fèt pou ret avèk moun
Se sa-k fè tout Manman ak tout Papa
Dwe pou voye Timoun lekòl
Pou yo aprann, pou yo konnen
Sa Tousen, Desalin, Kristòf, Petyon
Te fè pou wet Ayisyen anba bòt blan.
 

Pou Ayiti onon Zansèt yo
Ann leve tèt nou gad anlè
Pou tout moun, mande Granmèt la
Pou-l ba nou pwoteksyon
Pou move zanj pa detounen-n
Pou-n ka mache nan bon chimen
Pou libète ka libète
Fòk lajistis blayi sou peyi a.

Nou gon drapo tankou tout Pèp.
Se pou-n renmen-l, mouri pou li.
Se pa kado, blan te fè nou
Se san Zansèt nou yo ki te koule
Pou nou kenbe drapo nou wo
Se pou-n travay met tèt ansanm.
Pou lòt, peyi, ka respekte-l
Drapo sila a se nanm tout Ayisyen.

Pour le Pays, Pour les ancêtres,
Marchons unis, Marchons unis.
Dans nos rangs point de traîtres!
Du sol soyons seuls maîtres.
Marchons unis, Marchons unis
Pour le Pays, Pour les ancêtres,
Marchons, marchons, marchons unis,
Pour le Pays, Pour les ancêtres.
 Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie
Bêchons joyeux, bêchons joyeux
Quand le champ fructifie
L’âme se fortifie
Bêchons joyeux, bêchons joyeux
Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie
Bêchons, bêchons, bêchons joyeux
Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie.
Pour le Pays et pour nos Pères
Formons des Fils, formons des Fils
Libres, forts et prospères
Toujours nous serons frères
Formons des Fils, formons des Fils
Pour le Pays et pour nos Pères
Formons, formons, formons des Fils
Pour le Pays et pour nos Pères.
Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie
O Dieu des Preux, O Dieu des Preux!
Sous ta garde infinie
Prends nos droits, notre vie
O Dieu des Preux, O Dieu des Preux!
Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie
O Dieu, O Dieu, O Dieu des Preux
Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie.

Pour le Drapeau, pour la Patrie
Mourir est beau, mourir est beau!
Notre passé nous crie:
Ayez l’âme aguerrie!
Mourir est beau, mourir est beau
Pour le Drapeau, pour la Patrie
Mourir, mourir, mourir est beau
Pour le Drapeau, pour la Patrie.

For our country,
For our forefathers,
United let us march.
Let there be no traitors in our ranks!
Let us be masters of our soil.
United let us march
For our country,
For our forefathers.
 For our forebears,
For our country
Let us toil joyfully.
May the fields be fertile
And our souls take courage.
Let us toil joyfully
For our forebears,
For our country.
For our country
And for our forefathers,
Let us train our sons.
Free, strong, and prosperous,
We shall always be as brothers.
Let us train our sons
For our country
And for our forefathers.
For our forebears,
For our country,
Oh God of the valiant!
Take our rights and our life
Under your infinite protection,
Oh God of the valiant!
For our forebears,
For our country.

 

For the flag,
For our country
To die is a fine thing!
Our past cries out to us
Have a strong soul!
To die is a fine thing,
For the flag,
For our country.

Languages

Haiti’s two languages are Haitian Kreyol (Creole in French) and French. Kreyol is a blend of African languages, native Taino language and French. It was officially recognized as an official language in 1987. While all Haitians speak Kreyol, only about 20% speak French, which carries high social and economic status. Haitians who don’t speak or read French have very limited opportunities in all social and economic sectors and this indeed is at the heart a Haiti’s class divide.

It is notable that official recognition of Haitian Kreyol dates back even to Haiti’s independence struggle, when some of the nascent country’s official literature and correspondence was in Kreyol. Modern Kreyol has undergone important linguistic transformations and developed an extensive literature, including the Haitian constitution and national anthem, as well as plays, novels, stories and fables. Since the heyday of its recognition 80s and 90s, however, Haitian Kreyol has steadily lost ground to French once again in the running of the country.

Common Kreyol Phrases

Bonjou! – Good morning!
Bonswa! – Good afternoon!/Evening! (used after 11 AM)
Komon ou ye? – How are you?
N’ap boule! (most common greeting and response) – Good!
Wi – Yes
yo – they, them
Non – No
Mesi – Thanks
Anmwe! – Help!
Non, mesi – No, thanks
Souple – Please
Merite – You’re welcome
Pa gen pwoblem – No problem
Oke – OK
Eskize mwen – Excuse me
Mwen regret sa – I’m sorry
Petit- child
Lekòl- school
Teacher – pwofesè
Plim – pen
Kreyon – pencil
Examens – exams
Etid (n) – study

Art

Haiti’s artisans specialize in painting, wrought iron work (Fè fòje), wooden carvings and embroidery. Paintings are bright, colourful and often depict food, the bustling market place, and various scenic views. Paintings often tell a story and use images and symbolism.

Fè fòje was originally made from pieces of iron and is currently often made of steel oil drums. The artist draws the pattern onto the metal and chisels with a large hammer to cut and mold the designs. The artist smoothes out the steel’s rough edges, and signs his name boldly with a small chisel.



Music

Dance and music are deeply intertwined as music is designed to engage listeners, encouraging them to dance and participate. Some Haitian music is even used it as a form of healing. Traditional Haitian dance forms are connected to sacred drumming and rhythmic patterns.
There is also, of course the indelible connection between music and Haitian Vodou, from which the specificity of different musical patterns mainly springs.

Haitian’s music encompass many forms and is heavily influenced by African migration through enslavement. It includes Kompa, Rara, Roots, Hip Hop and Jazz to name a few. Born in the 19th century Kompa (in Kreyol) or Compas (in French) is a modern Haitian Méringue, which has medium-to-fast tempo beats with an emphasis on electric guitars, synthesizers, saxophone, and a horn section the lyrics are primarily sung in Haitian Kreyol.

It became popularized in the mid-1950s by the sax and guitar player Nemours Jean Baptiste. Rara music is a Lenten processional music with strong ties to the Vodou religious tradition. Rara bands perform religious ceremonies to the ‘lwa’ or spirits between Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. Mizik Rasin, or “Roots Music” began in the late 1970’s as Haiti’s youth began to experiment with different lifestyles opposing the Duvalier dictatorship and embracing the Sanba Movement influenced by Bob Marley and the hippie movement and began embracing communal living -and dreadlock style hair which they referred to as cheve simbi (hair of the water spirits). Rara music is a blend of reggae, rock and funk with traditional spiritual music and some of the first bands were Sanba Yo and Boukman Eksperyans.

The Haitian hip hop movement is rising in popularity in Haiti and in Haitian communities abroad. It is becoming more and more popular with Haitian youth, often communicating social and political topics as well as materialism. The Mini Jazz movement started in the mid-1960s, small bands called mini-djaz played kompa featuring paired electric guitars, electric bass, drumset and other percussion, often with a saxophone.

In February Haiti’s streets come alive with music, dance and bright colourful costumes as the yearly Kanaval parades last for a fun-filled week that allows people to forget their worries for a short time.

Dance

Haitian music was created to be danced to some use it to release bad energy and purify the body. Other forms of dance are ballet with The Ballet Bacoulou d’Haiti is Haiti’s oldest surviving ballet company beginning in 1959 and surviving through Haiti’s many social and political changes over the years. Haitian ballet encompasses Vodou, traditional Haitian folk dances, African as well as European forms.



Religion

The main overtly practiced religion in Haiti is Christianity, with some 80% calling themselves Catholic and some 20% Protestant. However, a great many Haitians also practice and believe in Vodou or elements of it. Haitian Vodou evolved during enslavement when enslaved Africans were brought to Haiti and were not allowed to practice their native religions. It began to crystallize as uniform practice around the 18th century and played a key role in the organization and launch of the Haitian Revolution.

Haitian Vodou is rooted in West African spirituality. However, both during the pre-independence period of enslavement and later, during its post-independence recurrent persecution, Haitian Vodou had to resort to using Christian images to camouflage its practice. Haitian Vodou worships God (Bondye in Kreyol). Unlike in Christianity, however, in Vodou Bondye does not deal directly in human affairs and so spirits (Lwa) are served in honour of Bondye. Each Lwa represents a specific element of life such as ‘love’ Erzuile Freda and ‘the spirit of agriculture’ Kouzin Zaka to name a few. In order to get the Lwa to intercede on your behalf, one must call on them often and make frequent offerings to them in the form of food, distinct music and ritual.

European Missionaries brought Catholicism to Haiti in 1511 (as part and parcel of enslavement) and it remained in varying capacities until 1794 when the Haitian Revolution ended this wave. In 1800 Touissant L’Ouverture restored the rights of the Catholic Church. However, four years later in 1804, following Haiti’s independence the majority of catholic clergy left Haiti with some returning in 1806. In 1860 the Haitian government and the Catholic Church signed an agreement giving the church governmental protection. Today, Haiti’s national patron saint is Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Notre Dame du Perpetuel Secours).

Folklore

Folklore is a rich element of Haiti’s culture and many elements come from Vodou traditions. It includes artifact; elements of traditional dress; music and oral tradition. There is a distinct west African feel to Haitian floklore, as this is its greatest influence. Storytelling is one way folklore is tramsmitted down the generations. Before he begins, the storyteller will call out “Krik!” and those keen to hear the story will respond “Krak!”. One of the most popular folktale traditions is that of Ti Malis and Bouki.

Singing, poetry and riddles are often also used in sharing folktales. The ancestors who’ve passed down these stories and were keepers of Haitian history are very much revered. They are officially celebrated on Ancestor’s Day on the 2nd of January, one day after Independence Day.

Proverbs are also used widely in everyday speech to express knowledge and share wisdom with the younger generation. Some examples of proverbs are:

Dye mòn, gen mòn
Beyond the mountains are other mountains
(A proverb of both patience and the recognition of how difficult life in Haiti is.)

Kreyòl pale, kreyòl konprann
Speak plainly, don’t try to deceive

Piti, piti, zwazo fè nich li.
Little by little the bird builds its nest

Cuisine

Haitian cuisine is influenced by the varied ethnic groups who have inhabited the island; African, French and Taino. Haitian cuisine uses lots of vegetables, rice and meats with lots of seasonings such as sweet peppers, onions, scotch bonnet peppers and pikliz (spicy coleslaw). Traditional grain dishes include rice and beans (diri kole ak pwa), mushroom rice (diri ak djon djon) and cornmeal porridge (mayi moulen). Meats are stewed or fried and include chicken (poul), goat (kabrit), beef (bef) and fried pork (griyo). Vegetables are often served as a stew called Legim and can be done with or without meat. Pumpkin soup (Soup Joumou) is traditionally served every New Year’s day and can be done with or without meat. Sweet potatoes (Patat) are heavily used as well as plantain (banann). Fish is widely used and is steamed or fried or served as fish patties (pate).

Haiti’s national beer Prestige is a mild sweet lager which is widely enjoyed. Haiti’s world-renowned, widely exported Rhum Barbancourt is a favourite and uniquely made with sugar cane juice as opposed to molasses. A popular dessert drink is Kremas (closely resembles Bailey’s) made of coconut, rum and condensed milk with added spices.

​Fresh fruit juices such as guava, passion fruit and mango are very refreshing on hot summer days and many of these fruits grow in local Haitian’s gardens. Popular desserts include Sweet potato pudding (Pen Patat) and sugarcane (Kan).​

Recreation

Storytelling is a key element of recreation, although sports such as football are very popular and there are many local leagues throughout Haiti and in schools. Dominoes and cards are often played by men and cockfighting is enjoyed in some rural areas. Children will play hopscotch, marbles and hide-and-seek.

Resources

http://www.everythinghaitian.com/ehaitiancuisine/griot
http://www.everyculture.com/wc/Germany-to-Jamaica/Haitians.html
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/sanba_zakafest.html
http://www.haititradecenter.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_Haiti
http://www.balletbacoulouhaiti.com/history.html
http://www.itscactus.com/catalog/Haitian_Metal_Art-1-1.html
http://www2.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti/literature/folktale.htm
http://www.travelinghaiti.com/haitian_kreyol.asp