Gagá: From Festivities to Rituals

About Gagá:

“Gagá” refers to a sub-genre of an original rhythm from the neighboring country of Haiti, where it’s called rara. Brought to the country by the Haitian migration in search for better job opportunities, establishing themselves in bateyes. These bateyes later on developed into small rural areas where its habitants brought their belief and respect for their ancestors. Deeply rooted in the Afro-Dominican Diaspora, Gagá has always been woefully misunderstood and its values put down. And yet, against all odds, the culture has endured.

It is a yearly held event where entire communities come together to celebrate and pay respect to their ancestors in the form of ceremonies, processions and musical festivities. Dominicans travel from around the world to be part of these ceremonies and festivities. Making it the most important celebration during the holy week, equally important to the catholic procession called “El Santo Cristo,” held on Good Friday in Santo Domingo, RD.

Celebrations are held differently in each community, depending upon spiritual commitments from the community’s higher-ranking member. Celebrations are dedicated to ancestors the spring season.

Starting on Ash Wednesday, Gagá groups from different rural areas of the Dominican Republic — in sugar cane areas called bateyes — make preparations for celebration. Early morning the communities come together to do what’s called the lifting of the chair. It consists on a procession with prayers and singings and at the end a chair is lifted in show of respect to their ancestors. — The lifting of the chair is repeated on a weekly basis until the Eastern week begins –.

About the Documentary

Gagá is an interactive documentary project, which focuses on one the biggest and richest cultural event celebrated during the Eastern times in the Dominican Republic. This documentary will combine personal stories, interactive data, maps, user-generated content developed and designed for a cross-platform delivery. It is designed to address several issues stemming from stereotyping and denial of Afro-Dominican/Dominican-Haitian ancestry.

Our goal is to educate and create consciousness to a wider audience of its true origin, nature and practice.

The filmmaking process will be to give community members a voice where they can tell their stories and, therefore, create a bridge to other cultures for a better understanding of their practice