Haitians today marked Fèt Gede, the Festival of the Dead, at the National Cemetery in Port-au-Prince.
Fèt Gede is an annual tradition when practitioners of voodoo parade and believe they are possessed by the spirits of the dead. Fête Gede which is also Festival of the Ancestors, is one of the most important celebrations in the Voodoo religious calendar. It is a time when Vodouisants celebrate the ancestral dead which is equivalent to the Mexican Day of the Dead and Halloween, all in one.
People dress up, take to the streets, dance their communion with the ancestors, and walk in processions to the graveyards where they feed their ancestral dead with the gifts of their own table. In this way, spirits are honored, and their protection is gained for the coming year. The festival shares calendar space and ideology with the Roman Catholic Day of the Dead, or All Souls Day but Fet Gede can be more accurately said to derive from African traditions preserved largely unchanged through the centuries.
Vodouists come in a spiritual pilgrimage to the cemetery to pay their respect to the dead, but first, permission of passage has to be obtained. The grave of the Papa Gede, the first man who ever died. Papa Gede is a psychopomp who waits at the crossroads to take departed souls into the afterlife, although he does not take a life before its time.
Ancestral services are held at this ‘crossroad’, considered to be the bridge between life and death. Kwa Baron is the Lwa guardian of the cemetery and head of the Gedes. Believers converge on the Haitian capital’s main cemetery to honor the Gede and the father of them all, Baron Samedi. They lay out gifts such as homemade beeswax candles, flowers, food and, to warm the Gede’s bones, bottles of rum stuffed with chilli peppers.
The festival comes amid gang warfare and police killings in Haiti that has left a journalist and an opposition party leader dead in recent days.
Haiti’s National Police says it’s been ordered to launch an investigation into the death of journalist Romelson Vilsaint, who witnesses say was struck in the head by a police tear gas canister.
The Association of Haitian Journalists also accused police of beating up several journalists and confiscating their equipment and other belongings, condemning what it called “anti-democratic acts of repression.”
“The safety of media and free movement of journalists are essential for the full and complete enjoyment of freedom of the press, freedom of thought, freedom of expression and the right to information that make up democracy,” it said.
Haiti has been grappling with myriad crises that have escalated across the nation over the last month. Widespread gasoline and diesel shortages have emerged after armed gangs blocked the nation’s main fuel terminal, and these gangs have also severed access to clean water, food and other essentials as Haiti also deals with a deadly cholera outbreak.
The “triple threat” of cholera, malnutrition, and violence, which affects more than a million children in Haiti, has prompted the UN Committee on the Rights of Children to call on the international community to take “immediate action.” Since the start of the academic year in Haiti on October 3rd of last year, the committee claims that the increase in insecurity in the Caribbean nation has prevented the majority of children from attending school.
According to reports, the nation is currently dealing with a cholera outbreak that threatens “the health, well-being, and lives of 1.2 million children living in the affected areas,” despite the fact that there had not been one for the previous three years. In terms of hunger, UNICEF estimates that nearly 100,000 Haitian children under the age of five are severely acutely malnourished. This issue has recently gotten worse as a result of the country’s unrest and economic issues. It has also urged the Haitian government to uphold its responsibilities under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which include preventing children from being exposed to pornography, human trafficking, or any other form of involvement in armed conflict.