Haiti and Jamaica: Islands

Imago Mundi

contemporary Artists from Haiti and Jamaica

The sea doesn’t reach Haiti
In the Fifties, Anna Maria Ortese wrote The sea does not reach Naples, a collection of stories denouncing the conditions which, at the end of the war, her adopted city was forced to endure. Ortese described a desperate humanity, adrift, from which the sea rendered itself metaphorically inaccessible. Certain pages of the book seem to accurately describe contemporary Haiti, but in the case of Port-au-Prince, there is no need to call on a metaphor: the reality greatly exceeds the imagination and the sea is effectively inaccessible to the city. A strip of land, submerged in waste and ruins of varying height and width, absorbing what remains of the glorious twentieth century downtown, runs parallel to the sea blocking access along the whole city and beyond.

Vanessa Craan - Innocence (2016)

The earthquake that struck on the 12th January 2010, finished the systematic demolition work by the Western powers, United States in primis, of the first free and independent black republic of the modern world. That Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries is old news, but it is also “a terrible joke”, as Paul Clammer, the author of the only contemporary tourist guide to Haiti, says: “Who would ever want to go to place that everyone speaks badly of?” In actual fact Haiti is the manna of UN missions and of the many NGOs that operate across the world. It is estimated that in 2010 alone more than 200 million dollars have been collected for the reconstruction of the country.

Thierry Pascal Guenand - Tapestry weaver in Aubusson (2016)

Nancy Burke (Inansi) - Diva (2016)

The money mainly benefited the same managers of the international community or was used for debatable works of dubious usefulness, such as the urban facelift of the Jalousie shantytown for the opening of the Occidental Royal Oasis Hotel in Pétionville, a new five-star hotel whose rooms overlook the shantytown. Perched high above Port-au-Prince, Jalousie is a city of officially about 50,000 people (but there are those that say that the real figure is ten times higher), even if it was designed to house 20,000 people, and dominates the landscape like one of the “cities in the sky” portrayed in the paintings of Préfète Duffaut, one of the most celebrated Haitian artist, who died in 2012. Repainting the sides of the houses at a cost of about 6 million dollars was definitely not a priority, seeing as Jalousie has no running water nor electricity. At least the residents could choose the colours. At the end of 2014, the former US president, Bill Clinton, and the former Haitian prime minister, Jean Max Bellerive, co-president of the CIRH (Commission Intérimaire pour la Reconstruction d’Haïti), was asked to make public the reports on the management of the reconstruction funds. So far no report has been made available and the Haitian people, for whom the funds were obtained, are still hopelessly asking for explanations.

Rubens Corneille - Her and these islands (Man man) (2016)

Cecil Cooper - Untitled (2016)

But it’s not merely a case of corruption, rampant speculation and private interest in public affairs. In Haiti even greater horrors take place. Most foreign visitors like the country as it is: dirty, poor and dangerous. The apocalyptic scenario of Port-au-Prince is a niche attraction that fulfils the borderline desires of rich Westerners on the hunt for adrenaline-charged experiences. It was at the very same Oasis Hotel that a French journalist confessed to us that if Haiti had become a civilised country he wouldn’t want to visit it.

Jik-Reuben Pringle - Sun and Moon (Eclipse) (2016)

Michel Rouanez - Country life (2016)

Charl Baker - Flight of fancy (2016)

According to Evel Fanfan, lawyer and executive director of AUMOHD (Association des Universitaires Motivés pour une Haïti de Droits), the cholera epidemic that followed the earthquake and that has not yet been eradicated, was the result of the negligent and suspect management of the emergency and aid. Fanfan, interviewed by Fabrizio Lorusso and Romina Vinci for the book La fame di Haiti (Lit: Haiti’s hunger), claims that the cholera was introduced to Haiti by the UN MINUSTAH mission (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti), through the battalion from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, and whose excrements contaminated the waters of the Artibonite, Haiti’s longest river.

Garry Laurent - Emersion (2016)

Greg Bailey - The honourable menace-ter of (2016)

In October of this year, hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti, causing almost one thousand deaths and thousands of evacuees. In the Dominican Republic, on the same island, the same hurricane caused more than 20,000 evacuees but only four deaths.

Judith Salmon - I see my land... A Jamaica allegory (2016)

Phillip Mark Anthony Thomas - Jamaican regiment (2016)

Emile Louisius - Market scene (2016)

In this scenario is it legitimate or at least opportune to talk about art? But it is art that contains the embryos of resistance and organisation, which allow the Haitian people to reclaim their identity against all odds.

Taj Francis - A fine line (2016)

Michele Manuel - Water carriers (2016)

The École Nationale des Arts (ENARTS), the lakou of the Atis Rezistans and the Atelier de Délivrance in Port-au-Prince, the foyer Fosaj in Jacmel, the Saint-Soleil school in Soisson-la-Montagne or
the artist’s village Noailles in Croix-des-Bouquets are not only art schools and a refuge for artists, but they also carry out a fundamental public, economic and communicative role for the Haitian society. Art, music and performances are used to educate people on important aspects of social life, such as literacy, the relationship with the territory and its protection and waste recycling – just to mention a few – that otherwise would not be considered in a country where 80% of the population speaks almost exclusively Creole, whilst in schools the basic subjects are rigorously taught in French. In fact Haitian artists are often charged with teaching their own followers.

Matthew R.C. McCarthy - Just dont shoot (2016)

Rex Dixon - Red dot (2016)

Marc Lee Steed - Michou1995 (2016)

A tropical country has no need for disproportionate school structures; all that’s needed are sensible programs, good will and a teaching body that wants to be understood. If the reconstruction funds were to really be used for the population, the Haitians would be guaranteed for the next thirty years and I defy anyone to claim that they don’t deserve it.

Maria Laura Mascelloni
Art Curator

Miriam Hinds Smith - Mis-conception (2016)


Credits: Story

Art direction, photography and production
Project management
La Biennale di Malindi Ltd.
Piergiacomo Faoro
Maria Laura Mascelloni
Giorgia De Luca
Barbara Liverotti
Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan
Luciano Benetton
Maria Laura Mascelloni
Piergiacomo Faoro
Marianna Farag
Lloyd D’Aguilar
Ralph Allen - Internal light
Special thanks to
Fondazione Sarenco Oriano Mabellini Oksana Ignatush
Thierry Pascal Guenand
Jessie Gilbert
Philippe Dodard
Ralph Allen
Paul Jude Carmelo Sauveur Henry
Azzurra Lentini
Lloyd D’Aguilar
Marianna Farag
Miriam Hinds Smith
Oneika Russell
Teresa Villoria
Jonathan Greenland
Jasazil Mekenzie
Translation and editing
Robin Ambrosi (Service Scibbolet)
Emma Cole
Giorgia De Luca
Valentina Granzotto
Rémy Le Ny-Clarke (Service Scibbolet)
Marianna Matullo (Service Scibbolet)
Pietro Valdatta
Art direction
Namyoung An
Photography of artworks
Marco Zanin
Photography of artists
Maria Laura Mascelloni
Piergiacomo Faoro
Marco Pavan

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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