Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Black & White, Film, Haiti, History

When machetes dance

On a recent trip to Jacmel I visited the lakou of Alfred Avril who is featured in the award winning documentary “Papa Machete.” The film documents the life of professor Avril, an aging farmer from the hills outside Jacmel, who is a master of the esoteric martial art of Haitian machete fencing.  Sadly in December 2014 Professor Avril died from chikungunya fever at his home in Cap Rouge

Haitian machete fencing is practiced across Haiti including Jacmel in the south and in the Artibonite region in the north. I was told there are a few women who practice the art, and many more who would like to, but are prevented from participating due to gendered family and household responsibilities leaving them with little time to practice.

Watching machete fencing one can feel the movement of synchronized bodies that dance and compliment each other.  The fencing couple are like mirrors, as the left moves to the right and the right to the left in harmony.  This is the language of bodies in motion, speaking at the same time as opposites and as mirrors of the self.

In the photos are Avril’s children who are following in their father’s footsteps in becoming masters in the art of machete fencing.

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Papa Machete trailer