Dutty Boukman - Samba Boukman

News & SocietyPolitics

  • Author Edrys Erisnor
  • Published March 12, 2008
  • Word count 1,025

Throughout the history of the human race, even up till the present moment, one of the most potent forces which men use to rally oppressed peoples together, in their drive towards freedom and emancipation from their oppressors, is religion. Men who have successfully led their enslaved peoples from bondage and servitude to freedom; have at one point or the other, mobilized their people with a rallying cry and an appeal to a deity, which had its origins in the subconscious of their people; for deliverance from slavery, servitude and oppression.

Human history is replete with examples of this recourse to supernatural intervention, by oppressed and disenfranchised people. Some of the most famous narrations of such recourse to theosophical interventions are found in the Jewish Pentateuch and the Christian Bible. In these narrations, Moses, the divinely appointed leader of the children of Israel, rallied his compatriots; who were then being enslaved by Egyptians, with a call to keep a divine appointment with Yahweh, in the desert of Sinai at Mount Horeb. His efforts paid off. Israel was led from slavery to freedom by Moses with the guidance of God.

Dutty Boukman at Bois Caïman

In the same vein, the historical deliverance of Black African slaves of Haiti from French colonial servitude was in no small measure aided by an appeal for help to the well known African deities particularly Shango, god of thunder and Ogun, god of iron and war. To prod Shango and Ogun to action, a ceremony of covenant with the Almighty Voodun was held by the African slaves of Haiti in Bois Caïman in April 1791. The leader of the Maroons at this religious dedication ceremony to the ancient African deities and spirits, which marked the beginning of the rebellion of Haitian slaves in 1791, was a priest of Voodun. He was variously called Dutty Boukman, Samba Boukman.

Dutty Boukman was said to have been born somewhere on the West African coast, probably old Dahomey. He was captured, enslaved and shipped off to the West Indies as a young man already versed in the esoteric knowledge and nuances of his religion, the worship of Voodun. A man of imposing stature and granite features; Boukman was tall and huge. He was first sold into slavery on the sugar plantations of Jamaica, but later found his way to Hispaniola, where he joined the bands of Maroons.

In Egun dialect of Yoruba language, Voodun can be translated as Almighty God, the Overall Supreme Deity. Ogun, the god of iron and war, is regarded as man’s ultimate mediator with Voodun in times of civil conflict and war. Therefore, Boukman’s appeal to Voodun through Ogun to come to the aid of the African slaves in their time of distress was very appropriate. The dedication of all those present at the ceremony to the god of war was also timely; because the beginning of the slave rebellion in August 1791 coincided with the annual festival of worship of this fearsome deity. It was at the beginning of the season of heavy rains. As thunder rumbled and lightening tore through the skies, as if in affirmation of the presence of Shango, men and women danced convulsively to the scintillating sounds of ‘bata’ drums and chanting of sacred songs.

Boukman’s Invocation

To climax the ceremony, Dutty Boukman rendered his famous Invocation to Voodun.

"The god, who created the earth, who created the sun that gives us light.

The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar.

Our god who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds;

who watches us from where you are. You see all that the whites have made us suffer. The white man's god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It's He who will direct our arms and bring us to victory. It's He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men's god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that speaks in all our hearts."

The worship of Ogun normally involves blood sacrifice. The sacrificial animal’s throat is slit, and the blood is poured out. All those attending the ceremony then made a covenant with Ogun and other African deities, by dipping their hands into the sacrificial blood and took an oath to serve the deities for the rest of their lives. At the end of the ceremony on that fateful day in Bois Caïman in August 1791, erstwhile timid men and women went forth, emboldened by the assurance that Voodun through his messenger Ogun, would lead them to victory over their oppressors. The oath of vengeance taken by these oppressed men and women would later translate to massive destruction of lives and properties of their slave masters.

Dutty Boukman’s Place in Haitian History

Dutty Boukman therefore deserves the honor as the first leader of the African slave rebellion which eventually led to freedom for the oppressed peoples of Saint Domingue, and the birth of Haiti as the first autonomous Black Republic in the World. Those who took over the mantle of leadership of the African slaves of Saint Domingue from Boukman Dutty, after he was captured and beheaded by the French colonists, were all present at the now unforgettable and landmark dedication ceremony to Ogun at Bois Caïman on August 14, 1791. The roll call: Cecile Fatiman, Georges Biassou, Jeannot Bullet and Jean François Papillon. They all became leaders of the early stanza of Haitian Revolution.

In Present day Haiti, the memory of Dutty Boukman is venerated and highly regarded, as the first leader of the Haitian Revolution. Bois Caïman is now a Haitian national heritage site where all devotees of the ancient African religion, now corrupted as voudou, gather to pay homage to Ogun, and the memory of Dutty Boukman. It is now widely accepted that the religious ceremony to the African deity of war, Ogun, at Bois Caïman on August 14, 1791, was the starting point for the Haitian Revolution.

Haitianite.com Magazine – Working Together To Uplift A Nation. For other articles related to History and Politics, please visit Haitianite.com

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