Sep 20, 2020

Krik? Krak! : Haitian Storytelling

The warm winds of summer are on their way out as September brings in those chilly autumn breezes. For myself and many others, the crisp air calls to mind those end of summer gatherings with friends or family, huddled around a campfire for warmth, telling jokes and tall tales (or my personal favorite: riddles) while roasting marshmallows over an open flame.

In Haiti, they’re certainly no strangers to this universal tradition. In fact, this type of storytelling, or tire kont in Haitian Creole, is an extremely popular pastime of the island nation year-round.
When night falls in Haiti, many gather around a storyteller for an evening of krik-krak. The name krik-krak comes from a traditional call and response- the storyteller calls out “krik?” to signal his or her intent to share a tale and those who want to hear the tale call out “krak!” in unison.
Once the story, or oftentimes clever joke, begins there will often be calls for the audience to participate in some way. Krik-krak stories are more like charades than simple tales, theatrical and animated, they often seek to teach moral lessons, much like fables.
Krik-krak is also sometimes known by tim tim. Though krik-krak is more popular, likely because it is quicker to say, tim tim call and responses are still used when a storyteller is preparing to tell a riddle.”Tim tim?” is the call to ready the audience for a riddle and “Bwa sèch” is the response. Bwa sèch literally translates to “dry wood” and tim tim is said to be the onomatopoeia for the sound of wood being cracked or cut for a fireside gathering. “Ou bwa sèch?” is the phrase used by the riddle-teller to ask if the audience has given up.
Gatherings like these are as old as humanity itself. Telling stories and making each other laugh is how we bond and celebrate our shared history. In fact, I’m going to end this article by sharing one of my favorite Haitian riddles with you, dear reader.
Three very large men are sharing a very small umbrella, but none of them are getting wet. How can this be?
Ou bwè pwa a?
It’s not raining.

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