Through personal contacts, producer/director Osaliki Sepúlveda has been honored with the responsibility of filming one the biggest and richest cultural traditions celebrated during Eastern (March 25, 2013 to March 31, 2013) in the Dominican Republic (San Luis, Sabana Grande de Boya, Boca Chica, La Romana). This documentary (working title Gagá) will combine personal stories, interactive data, maps, user-generated content developed and designed for traditional and cross-platform delivery. It is designed to address several issues stemming from stereotyping and denial of Afro-Dominican/Dominican-Haitian ancestry.

The project will focus on a variety of sensitive issues such as how are its community members perceived at a national level, and how do they perceive themselves as well. How do kids growing up in these traditions coup with the society around them? Where do these traditions take place, when were they first brought to the country, who brought it up, how did it become the cultural phenomena that it is today, and why is Gagá still being practiced ‘till theses days and how have these cultural traditions affected the people who keep them.

With a combination of interviews, recorded audio, rhythms, rituals, processions, ceremonies and festivities the filmmaker will bring to light, through the lenses, Gagá’s true origin and nature. It will serve as a catching point to bring clarity to its meaning and essence. It will provide these communities with a chance to voice their cultural and ritual practices by addressing an issue that’s universal across the country. This is not an interpretation of what Gagá is but instead is a project intended to bring forward a clear understanding to a broader community.

This contrast flow of different audios, images and footages depicting Gagá’s true nature, meaning and origin will be a voice of these communities and will empower them to continue passing on its traditions through generations.of

What is Gagá?

Gagá is a cultural tradition where entire communities come together to celebrate and pay respect to their ancestors in the form of ceremonies, processions and musical festivities.

People travel from around the world to be part of this experience. Making it the most important celebration during the Easter time, equally important to the holy week’s 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 and belief from each Gagá owner within the community. Celebrations are dedicated to our Dominican-Haitian ancestors.

Starting on Ash Wednesday, community groups, especially from sugar cane areas called bateyes —make preparation to celebrate. Early morning Gagá members conduct a ceremony called the lifting of the chair, in reference to the late Gagá members. It consists in a procession with prayers and singings at the sound of drums, catas and fututos and at the end a chair is lifted in show of respect to their ancestors.  This ceremony is repeated on the first ceremony during Easter time on late Thursday.

The term “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.  With time, these bateyes 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.

Project Outcome Goals:

  • Gagá will communicate along historical, cultural and economic significance of these communities through user-generated content, interactive data and interviews with community members of all ages.
  •  Its purpose is to bring a more clear understanding of a historical culture and practice by bringing community members’ stories and lifestyles to a more global community.
  •  It will also build an online community opened to audiences of any ethnic background and language barriers for global understanding