Why you should care
Because our longing for transcendence always remains.
In Haiti, the hottest season is festival season, and one of the most renowned of the fêtes takes place in a tiny town north of the capital, Port-au-Prince: The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Haitians call it the “Fête de Saut d’Eau,” which translates literally to “Feast of Jumping Water.” The godly attractions are varied — Vodou ceremonies, Catholic Masses, the feeding of mendicants who hold out calabash bowls for alms — but the highlight of the pilgrimage is bathing in the steep waterfall nearby. Men and women of all ages strip down to their underwear and walk carefully on rocks, some of which are sharp on the soles and others of which are scarily slippery, and when they reach the cascades, they lather up with medicinal herbs and leaves.
I did not bathe when I visited the Fête de Saut d’Eau in 2008; I just watched. I came with a couple of photographer friends who were keen to shoot the textures of spray and splash on skin, the light filtered through trees and refracted through droplets, the forms of bodies yearning for heaven. Much has changed in Haiti since then, of course, but these photographs taken by Lexey Swall at the Fête, captured five months after the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake, remind me that our longing for transcendence will always remain.
— Pooja Bhatia