Lakou Souvenance – Gonaives
Lakou Souvenance is one of the three of the grand Lakou’s of Gonaives [Lakou Soukri and Lakou Badjo]. All three were founded prior to the Haitian independence in 1804 and each one celebrates a different ‘nachon’ – Souvenance follows Daome [Dahomey] Badjo, Nago both of which fall under Rada rites whilst Soukri follows Kongo which falls under the Petro rites.
We arrived at Souvenance in the late coolness of the afternoon. It was surprisingly quiet and tranquil. Unfortunately we missed the Sèvitè and his deputy, an elderly woman was not the least interested in speaking with us beyond giving us permission to visit and go where we please. The most striking aspect of Souvenance are the trees, which spread like giants below and above ground reaching to the bowels below and stretched upwards as if reaching for the sky above. We began walking around like children in a wonderland of trees like free form sculptures open to the imagination of seeing and feeling. An elderly man came to greet us and after some brief words offered to take us to the Gwo mapou which lies some distance behind the main compound.
The Gwo Mapou of Souvenance stood on the edge of the Lakou backed by first the forest and the sillouette of the Artbonite mountain range. We know trees are living breathing beings but how often do we engage with them, listen to their heart beat, caress the rough and smoothness of their skin. Vodouisants believe the Loa rest on the branches of trees and the Mapou is the grandest and most sacred. It stands as the Poto Mitan, the central force around which serviettes gather, singing, dancing, drumming and calling on the spirits to join them in celebration.