Monthly Archives: May 2010

Florida Filmmakers Visit Haiti

In its May newsletter, the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas, also known as FAVACA, reports that a team from Florida State University’s College of Motion Pictures went to Haiti from April 25 to May 1 of this year. The team was on a mission to make a short documentary. Interviewed for the film were the minister of tourism, the minister of culture and communications, the head of the bureau of civil protection, the Village of Vision in Lamardelle, and the Haiti Hotel Association. FAVACA, based in Tallahassee, Florida, exists to help promote social and economic development throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. Let’s hope the film turns up at a civic film festival near you.

–Candice Russell

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How Will Earthquake Affect Haitian Art?

Can a devastating natural event impact the direction of Haitian art? The question takes shape in the minds of Haitian art collectors. It is also partially answered in a recent Wall Street Journal article by Miriam Jordan with the headline “The New Realities of Haitian Painting.” With a byline of Jacmel, Haiti, the writer interviews Onel Bazelais, a Haitian painter who cannot help but turn his attention to the crumbled buildings and desperate people he saw in the aftermath of the January 12th earthquake. The painting he holds in a photograph that accompanies the story shows houses without their roofs and people abject in the streets, wondering what to do. The earthquake is inspiring Bazelais.

Other artists are following suit. My friend Eric Jean Louis, an artist who lives in Miami, Florida, says that Michel Monnin, a gallery dealer in Haiti, is paying the artists he knows to document the destruction and survival stories post-earthquake in paintings. While documenting the life around them has always driven Haitian artists, one cannot help but wonder if collectors want to hang paintings of the disaster on their walls. It takes a very special collector to want to own a visual documentation of such enormous horror. Certainly such imagery is not for the majority of Haitian art collectors, though it may be important to historians and museums.

Political coups and military overthrows have been the subject of Haitian paintings in the past twenty years. So have other natural disasters. I own a painting by the late Jean Baptiste Jean that pictures what happens after a flood, with people and debris in a watery mess. While I haven’t tried to sell the painting (because I like it too much), I doubt that many people would be interested in it.

With Haitian art commonly associated with joy and the transcendence of harsh realities, it is anyone’s guess where the artists of now will take their paintings in six or twelve months from now.

–Candice Russell

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Haitian Children View Their World

In a unique photographic exhibition titled “Haiti Unmasked,” twelve children from Foyer Maurice Sixto, a center in Haiti for child domestic laborers, took pictures of their world with Holga cameras. They attended weekly workshops, went on field trips and profited from the guidance provided by people from the non-profit organization Kids with Cameras, which teaches the art of photography to marginalized children around the world. The results are on view at the MIA Galleries, which is located at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida in Concessions Hall/South Terminal, between Concourses H and J. The exhibition is free and open to the public, on view now through this August.

–Candice Russell

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Life for Haiti’s Orphans

A superb one-hour documentary with Soledad O’Brien was produced by and televised on the Cable News Network (CNN) this weekend. “Rescued” spotlights what life is like for orphans in Haiti, both pre and post-earthquake. With footage from several years ago of the boys and girls at the Lighthouse Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, also known as La Maison des Lumieres, the program focused specifically on Cendy, a girl of age six when the earthquake struck last January 12, and a young man named Mackenson, now age eighteen who spent a few formative years at the orphanage after being sold by his family to become an in-house slave or restavec in Haiti.

Days after the earthquake, the already quiet Cendy becomes even more withdrawn. She was given up by her parents, who visit her once for an uncomfortable few minutes, then never return to the orphanage. Mackenson, whose sister was adopted by a family in the United States, only wants to help his home country and works tending the garden at the orphanage. The American couple who run the orphanage take in as many more children as capacity and resources will allow, including a young woman and her newborn baby whose own home collapsed in the earthquake. A triage unit is set up in the courtyard and amputations are performed on suffering adults under the stars. The images are heartbreaking.

But there is hope. This isn’t an orphanage involved in shipping as many kids out of Haiti as possible. The Lighthouse is all about raising Haitian children with education and Christian faith within Haiti. Though many of these children aren’t officially orphans since they have parents, they are officially abandoned. No one in their families wants them. The alternative to being there is working and living on the streets for pennies got from begging because the government has no means to take care of these children. The Lighthouse appears to be doing good work, according to the documentary, by saving lives and putting Haiti first in the hearts of these children, who deserve so much.

–Candice Russell


May Matters

Did you know that the month of May is devoted to Haitian heritage? The event is of special interest to anyone living in a city with a large Haitian expatriate population, like Miami, Florida or New York City. On May 18, Haitians celebrate flag day. Just two days later on May 20 is the birthday of Toussaint Louverture, a hero of the Haitian national independence movement. But culture encompasses more than patriotism and history. It’s about art, music, dance, storytelling and getting in touch with the creative roots of a most remarkable culture.

Here is a rundown of what South Floridians can look forward to, along with visitors to the area in a Haitian frame of mind. Today (Friday, May 7th) there will be an exhibition of Haitian art opening tonight from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Regions Bank, 2800 Ponce de Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables. The curator of the show, which runs through June 4th, is well-known Haitian art dealer Michele Frisch, who owns Galerie Marassa in Petionville, Haiti. Admission is free. For more information, telephone 1-786/290-9718.

Another free exhibition is “Contemporary Haitian Memory in Motion, From the Rubble We Rise Once Again” at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 N.E. 59th Terrace in Miami. Curated by Babacar Mbow, the show features master contemporary artists from Port-au-Prince. Hours of the center are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The art is on display through June 30th. For more information, telephone 1-305/960-2969.

Traditional Haitian storytelling with Lilianne Nerette takes place on May 15th from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the North Miami Public Library located at 835 N.E. 132nd Street in North Miami. Admission is free. For more information, telephone 1-305/892-0843.

A Haitian Flag Day Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Central Broward Regional Park at 3700 N.W. 11th Place in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $20 with children under twelve free. Look for Sweet Micky, Alan Cave, Misty Jean, Eddy Francois and others to perform. For more information, telephone 1/954-290-3995.

The Twelfth Annual Compas Festival is set from 12 noon to midnight on May 15th at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami. This is the big music festival featuring Barikad Crew, Zekle, T-Vice, Carimi and Kreyol La. Tickets are $35 in advance. For more information, telephone 1/305-945-8814.

A Haitian Flag Day Celebration featuring narrative storytelling, dance and music will take place on the plaza at the Museum of Contemporary Art at 770 N.E. 125th Street in North Miami. Admission for the event, from 6 to 8 p.m. on May 18th, is free. For more information, telephone 1/305/893-6211. In the same location, the North Miami Haiti Relief Fundraiser featuring the Laissez Faire Dance Group will take place on May 21st from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $40. For more information, telephone 1/305/895-9815 or 1/305/895-9818. It’s time to celebrate this vibrant culture.

–Candice Russell

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Video Inspires Hope for Haiti

Well worth seeing and contemplating is the eight-minute video posted on You Tube titled “Haiti — Get Back Up” or “Ayiti Leve Kanpe.” With music provided by the Deominiscan Republic Symphonic Orchestra, the story is told in moving images before and after the awful January earthquake that changed this island nation forever.

The scene is set with idealized images of a peaceful, pretty place — beaches, waterfalls, schoolchildren walking to work in their clean uniforms, marchands balancing baskets of fruits on their heads before setting up on the street for a day of commerce. Haiti, pre-earthquake, is only this pristine in someone’s fantasy of the place. But this is the moviemaker’s perspective, not mine.

After the earthquake, which is partially shown in progress, the National Palace crumbles, funerals are held, bodies lie forgotten in the street. The images are appalling but not nearly as bad as some shown on the Cable News Network Television or in newspapers. One building bears graffiti that reads “help me” in French. There are little rowboats going out to sea in desperation to flee the devastation. But there is also hope in the form of drummers, smiling toddlers, and a boy flying a kite. The Haitians will survive.

–Candice Russell

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