The Apocalyptic Creole, from Dessalines to the Chimères


In this article, I explore the idea of the hybrid, creolized subject in Haiti as a kind of living phantom. To do so, I refer initially to the notion of the “Creole Dessalines,” the idea that Haiti’s first leader was island-born and culturally creole. I then move forward in time 200 years, to just before the bicentenary, a time that seemed to usher back into Haitian society figures that appear to echo in many ways the creole Dessalines in their ambiguous, contradictory values, actions, and relations to broader Haitian society. These figures are the so-called Chimères, the term used to refer to the gangs from the shantytowns of Port-au-Prince who were used in the service of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government and who developed a reputation for extreme violence, used against the antigovernment popular movement. Beginning with a discussion of the origins of the Chimères, I will then focus on three works in which the Chimères figure prominently: the documentary films Ghosts of Cité Soleil and Haïti, la fin des chimères, and Lyonel Trouillot’s Bicentenaire. In all but Trouillot’s work, the prominent Chimères brothers known as Billy and Tupac are featured, which allows one to move from the general conceptions of the Chimères into the particular realities of these individual lives.