Carnival bands had their “ben démaré” on New Year’s Day

This Tuesday, January 1st, 2019, in the morning, several “skin groups”, like Nasyon a Nèg Mawon, Chenn-la, Klé la, Mas ka Klé et Moun Ki Moun, went to the sea to have the famous “ben démaré” of New Year’s Day to celebrate the Mas without any problem.

Carnaval Ben Démaré 14
Gina Gabon-Pioche, group “Nasyon a Nèg Mawon” (centre)

As every January 1st , from 8:00 am, the streets in the cities Pointe-à-Pitre and Les Abymes were overrun with drums, conches and “chacha”. Carnival bands – especially “skin groups” – left their premises in music to walk to Bas-du-Fort beach in Le Gosier, a neighbouring town, to have their famous “ben démaré”, a ritual which is supposed to purify them. This Tuesday in the morning, we met the groups Nasyon a Nèg Mawon, Chenn-la and Klé la which were going to cross the popular district called Carénage in Pointe-à-Pitre.

Around 8:30, Nasyon Nèg Mawon, whose headquarters are now in the Bergevin district of Pointe-à-Pitre, like last year, stopped at Darboussier bus station and we took advantage of this break to talk with the president of the group, Gina Gabon-Pioche. “This deboulé then this “ben démaré” mark the beginning of the Mas. Mas is the subject that we ridicule, the moment we metamorphose, we have fun (…) We are going to do this ritual to the sea so that all carnival as well as all the other events we will organize after the carnival period so throughout the year go without any problem. As soon as we arrive on the beach, we will make our offering to the sea, to the divinities. Unfortunately, this year, we do not have many fruits and vegetables and no flowers as this was the case last year”, she explained.

Carnaval Ben Démaré 6 B
Group “Klé la”

A “Ritual Commission” to take care of the Mas

The “Ritual commission” of the association is responsible for organizing this annual event. “This commission is responsible for the good health of the Mas. On the beach, the musicians start to play, members of the “Ritual commission” go into the sea to put the offerings 20 or 30 meters from the shore”, she continued. Nasyon a Nèg Mawon which was founded in 2003 has always honoured this “ben démaré” ritual. Gina Gabon-Pioche has been participating in carnival for thirty years and she has been the president of this group for two years. When we asked her the question : “did a “gadèd zafè” (a clairvoyant) ask you to make this annual offering to the deities ?”, she replied that this “ben démaré” ritual of the carnival groups comes from of the traditional “ben démaré” that many Guadeloupeans have on New Year’s Day to get rid of bad things and start a healthy new year. “Before, the families had this bath : we went to have a swim with eg a cod tail, a soup bouquet, we washed with that, and we came out with our backs to the sea, etc. The former skin groups had a “ben démaré” ritual which was different and longer and the members stood in a circle to pray, etc. All members of the group Nasyon a Nèg Mawon are not obliged to have this swim”, said Gina Gabon-Pioche. After about fifteen minutes, Nasyon Nèg Mawon headed quickly towards Bas-du-Fort beach…

It must be said that some groups just have a swim and make no ritual…

However, from Sunday, January 6 and until March 6 (Ash Wednesday), all groups will be in the streets of the island, every weekend.