Tab dyab la or Agwe’s Dance
I was in a small town in the south of Haiti on a moto taxi to somewhere when I saw a huge rock reaching out into the sea. The driver didn’t want to stop saying, it was ‘tab dyab la’ [the devils table] and not a good place to be. He told me Vodou ceremonies were held on and below the rocks and if I was to swim nearby there was a danger I would be sucked into an abyss. This seemed perfectly reasonable as there might well have been rip tides waiting to pulverize any tempted swimmer against the rocks. I ignored his hesitation as I wanted to be alone, though I noticed he followed me so he couldn’t have been too afraid, if at all.
I wondered about the ceremonies as the surface of the rock was full of jagged edges which pierced my thin flip flops. Maybe this was why it was called ‘tab dyab la’. But to me this was a place of intense beauty and it was easy in the moment to imagine Met Agwe and La Sirene’s * presence. Even the sea took on Agwe’s colour of a cool green. If you enlarge the image and look closely towards the center of the rock you will see paintings on the side in greenish blue and yellow.
I wanted to return at dawn and and again at dusk. Already I had the photos shooting in my head but unfortunately I had to leave later that afternoon. Another time.
Master Agwe, where are you?
Don’t you see that I am having difficulty?
Agwe Woyo, where are you?
Don’t you see that I am at sea?
The paddles are in my hands.
I cannot turn back,
I’m already out to sea
I cannot turn back [Song for Agwe, translation by Benjamin Hebblethwaite]
Met Agwe, a Rada lwa and considered the patron of fisher men and women. La Sirene, a mermaid or water spirit, queen of the sea