Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kaleta Wa, Boussou Wa!

Kaleta wa boussou wa!

The annual “Festival Carnaval Kaleta” will take place in Ouidah on the 16th-19th of December. 7 years ago, our administrator Wilfrid, started organizing the festival and now it’s become one of the biggest yearly festivals in Ouidah.  The festival revolves around the Afro-Brazilian tradition of carnival mask-wearing. The legend says that slaves saw their owners celebrating Carnival in costumes and masks, and held their own carnivals. At these events the slaves would wears masks and costumes that mocked their owners, representing them with ugly masked images of wild animals.

When they were freed, many slaves returned to Ouidah, bringing back Portuguese names such as DeSouza and DaCosta. These families continue to thrive in Ouidah today, and many of their children are in our classes.

Because Wilfrid works with us, we decided to collaborate with the festival, which takes place at the former French Fort, Fort Français, close by the center.  We are reviving a tradition from early editions of the festival, wherein students will participate in mask-making workshops. In preparation for these workshops next week, we’re teaching the students about Kaleta this week. Each class begins with a short presentation of history by Wilfrid and is followed by a song that a local artist, Rodrigue, teaches them.

The students are excited for the festival! In every classroom, we ask them what festival happens in December, and most of the students can easily cite it. Now that several classes have learned the song, as we walk past the courtyard, approaching our building, we hear students clapping and singing the songs amongst themselves! Kaleta is coming!



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