the newest chapter of Lakou Ayiti
In Haitian Kreyol the word “Lakou” carries multiple meanings: It is the backyard, the land passed down through generations, the gathering place for shared meals, for dancing, singing, worship or passionate debate. “Lakou” can also mean home, or the idea of home, the place that calls us back not just to sacred ground, but to a sense of belonging without which we are not whole.
The forces that drive Haiti’s reality – of neighboring countries in conflict, of sprouting tent cities and uprooted diasporas, of enforced borders and unforgiving natural disaster – echo and ricochet around the world. Across the European and African continents, along Turkish waters and stretches of Mexican desert, we are bearing witness to the experience to the loss of “lakou,” and treacherous journeys in which many are swallowed, and those who slip through face not only economic survival but a psychic void that is both collective and deeply personal.
VWAYAJ is an interdisciplinary production that meditates on the “lakou” and its loss in the Haitian imagination in a way that also speaks to a universal condition. Where can we find belonging? Where is home? Does it exist in the rhythms of Rara music and the undulating arms of Yanvalou?
The lead artists in VWAYAJ worked with MacArthur Genius Fellow and award-winning Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat as a collaborator and advisor to create the narrative that underpins and drives the production. Danticat worked with the artists to knit together stories of migration, immigration and home as recordings that are a part of the production’s soundscape created by electronic music artist Val Jeanty. An important touchstone in the production’s narrative is Jean Appolon’s own immigration story, as well as those of Haitian immigrants living in Boston. VWAYAJ’s development included a community outreach component with Boston social service organizations serving Haitian immigrants. These community members participated in master classes and conversations with Jean Appolon, and were invited to production rehearsals and performances.