Sunday, January 31, 2010

From Cuba to Haiti

My search for Cuban art around the city of New Orleans brought me to the Contemporary Art Center.

Instead, I found art from Haiti on display. It was also for sale.

New Orleans and Haiti have close ties historically. No surprise, the support for the small island following the earthquake is overwhelming here. New Orleanians remember the flood brought by hurricane Katrina and have, at some level, shared experiences with the people of Haiti.

The art was mainly Folk Art with beaded flags, portraits of Saints for Voodoo celebrations, items like dolls, decorated bottles from different artists, among them Yves Telemac. These were filling a whole room at the CAC.

The works from Gabriel Bien-Aime were lining the wall at the entrance, under a Haitian flag. "Fer du coupe" is a well known technique in Haiti, a form of spontaneous art born from the recycling of steel oil-drums.

Photographs from the photojournalist Daniel Morel were on display. Related to celebrations in Haiti like Mardi Gras or Rara festivals they are moving. It was another time. The website of the photographer is suddenly filled with views of the disaster and horrific scenes.
One way of supporting the people of Haiti is to show their art.
In the case of Haitian art, it is a direct reflexion of the population, it is unique, lively, colorful. It tells everyday stories and gives us a glimpse into the mysterious activities related to Voodoo. Our own Catholic Saints take another dimension, like they had a hidden life!

A few years ago, by curiosity, I walked in a gallery in Paris, specialized in naive art and enquired about Haitian artists. The gallerist shook his head and stated that it was impossible to have a stable market with Haiti, too much upheaval. He could not trust the artists or the provenance of the art.

What about the present and future of Haitian art? I just cherish every piece, regardless of the artist, valuable or not, because of the story it tells about Haiti.

photographs by the author

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