I swear, Spirit don't play with messages. My sis @asatahj had a vision and sent me a text this morning, asking if I ever thought about doing a piece to honor Cecile Fatiman, the Manbo who was instrumental in prayer, ritual and the sacrifice of the Black pig at Seremoni Bwa Kayiman. I choreographed a piece in honor of the ceremony in 2011. I wanted to re-enact this very scene, but was hesitant and scared to do so. I already had dancers in shackles, Vodou prayers and rituals, dancers with sticks and machete's swinging, whips cracking + an unedited version of Boukman's famous speech urging all to throw away the image of the white man's God.
I decided to play it safe without the sacrifice, but have The Manbo (@sunebear) dance with force and conviction, while ritually spraying the dancers with rum, to put them in a trance to call upon the Spirits. It was hot, and worked well, but I have always thought that something was "missing" when depicting her.
When I checked FB this evening, this photo was the FIRST image that appeared in my news feed. It spoke to me. The dancer who is portraying the Manbo is sacrificing a black pig. On stage. I am not a slave to my art, and will choreograph what I want, but truthfully, I was worried about making folks uncomfortable and left out a crucial piece of history. This image reminds me that it's okay to feel uncomfortable.That's what Art is about. Pushing the envelope, overstepping boundaries, revealing TRUTHS. This truth actually happened. Guess this means that when you see RTL's Freedom Rising choreography, the piece will be "new" and improved! BILOLO!
I choreographed 'Freedom Rising" in 2011, as a tribute to Bwa Kayiman. The beauty of choreographing pieces, is that they grow and evolve along with choreographer. For Dancing Spirits, I decided to add the sacrifice of the pig with Manbo Cecile Fatiman. 5 years later. Manbo Cecile's energy was still with me. RTL traveled to Montreal, Canada, August 2016 to perform Freedom Rising as part of TWA, a dance collaboration with Mapou Ginen and Sole Tradionelle Modern.
TWA's Mission: to commemorate Bwa Kayiman, but to also explore, through our creative process, the contribution of women to the Haitian Revolution. Specifically, the contributions of Cécile Fatiman.
1. What would it take for an ordinary woman to rise above her current circumstance and be a fundamental actor in a major turning point in Haitian history?
2. What would her personal and spiritual process look like?
3. What are the different ways the spirits that walk with her would accompany her, helping to fulfill her mission?
Her name is Cécile Fatima, and she played a major role in uniting the many different African nations together during the period before the final fight for their liberation in the old French colony. She is known for her participation in the Vodou gathering at Bwa Kay Iman, which is considered to be one of the starting points of the Revolution. Before the revolution had created the nation, on the night of August 14, 1791, the Africans started to gathered in many secret places to create plans to end their enslavement. One of the leaders who started that movement was Cécile Fatima. She was a mambo that had seen enough of her people suffering. Along with Dutty Boukman, they organized, what you would call, the first battle against the French authorities in Saint-Domingue and placed each generals and commanders who would fought in the revolution from that time till the end of the revolution into their positions.
Say her name:
"IMAMOU" - Through hard work, determination, faith, patience, blood, sweat and tears, RTL crossed the waters a year ago today, (August 20, 2014) from Oakland to Haiti to fulfill a DREAM. A MISSION. We strengthened and fortified historical legacies and established community ties that will bind us for life. The journey was real - 19 family members, 19 personalities! Not one, but two weeks. In Haiti. Life lessons were learned, personal strength and faith in relationships were tested. There were tears, frustration, anxiety, extreme fatigue, sickness, and a few REALLY?, WTF? moments, balanced with love, compassion, togetherness, sisterhood, brotherhood, communication, laughter, hugs, joy, excitement, ancestral visits, prayer, ceremony, ritual, and most importantly, personal truths and revelations. LIFE.
As I sit and reflect on the journey, I'm still in awe of the fact that WE actually did it! I am forever grateful to the members of RTL for always going above and beyond the call of duty and for taking on the responsibility of becoming an artistic vessel, medium, and educator of Haitian folkloric dance and musical traditions, to produce meaningful, spirited and thought provoking work. My love runs deep for each of you.
A sincere THANK YOU to our families, our wonderful Oakland/SF dance community and our supporters across the globe who believed in us. Lastly, I give thanks to God, my Ancestors, who continue to walk with me and keep me firmly planted. Ayibobo to the Lwa for your constant lessons, guidance and protection. Thank you for the dreams, messages and whispers in my ear. When in doubt, I felt the push and for sure, heard the call. Thank you for choosing me to do this important work.
"DREAM It, CREATE It. LIVE It... and WE DID THAT!"