Our Mission, Our Dream
La Troupe Makandal evokes the power of traditional Afro-Haitian music and dance to represent the history and culture of Haiti and New York’s Haitian community in theaters and educational establishments, and to archive these cultural treasures for posterity. Much of the company’s repertory derives from the sacred music and dance of Vodou, widely misunderstood in the United States as “voodoo.” The Troupe’s workshops, classes, performances, and online resources challenge ingrained stereotypes, but they keep Haitian magic alive while educating, entertaining, and healing racial and cultural divisions.
Four Decades Keeping the Dream Alive
In 1973 a group of young artists from Port-au-Prince formed La Troupe Makandal, naming it after an eighteenth-century revolutionary and mystic. They created a repertory that drew from Haiti’s revolutionary legacy. The company left Haiti in 1981 and regrouped in New York City, where it attracted new artists, both Haitians and friends of Haiti who are inspired by the company’s dedication to black history and culture. Under the direction of Master Drummer Frisner Augustin, an NEA Heritage Fellow (1999), the company produced performances and educational programs that preserve and develop the remarkable music and dance traditions of Haiti and the Haitian community of New York City. Since Maestro Augustin’s passing in 2012, Makandal has endeavored to keep the spirit of his legacy alive in ongoing educational, performance, and documentary services.
La Troupe Makandal, Inc., incorporated in the State of New York in 1984. It won its 501(c)(3) status a year later. The organization puts contributions and donations toward the fulfillment of its mission, specifically, to defray to costs of performance, educational, and archival services.
The video, Dancing with Gede in Brooklyn, captures a Carnival procession of Makandal in the legendary Greenwood Cemetery on November 20, 2010. Makandal performed in conjunction with a Vodou bottle exhibit by artist Kesler Pierre in the cemetery’s chapel. The company played for the audience and for Gede, spirit of the cemetery, portrayed here by dancer Smith Destin. Master Drummer Frisner Augustin lead the musicians with his timbale drum. Special thanks to City Lore for permission to use this footage.
Featured image: Makandal at South Oxford Space, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in a performance for the series Rising Sun: A Vodou Drama of Death and Rebirth, January 10, 2004. Detail from photo by Tom Pich.