Haitian Arts and Historical Influences

Discover the multifaceted history of Haiti

The Taino and Clash of Two Worlds (2022-01-18) by Frantz Voltaire CIDIHCAHaiti Film Institute

The Taino and Clash of Two Worlds

 A clash of two worlds explores the beginnings of the island of Ayiti with the Taino Indians and the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The Taino lived in harmony with nature. They had a strong agriculture base and were talented in sculpture, ceramics, music, dance and poetry.

Image 3, From the collection of: Haiti Film Institute
Zemi Sculpture, Taino Zemi, 1498, From the collection of: Haiti Film Institute
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The Taino Indians were the first inhabitants of the island known as Ayiti. Stone Zemi sculptures are found on the island. A Zemi in the Taino language refers to a spiritual and vital force sculpted with a deity or ancestral spirit within a sculptural object. They are often made of stone or wood.

The Arrival of Slaves and the Triangular Trade (2022-01-18) by Frantz Voltaire CIDIHCAHaiti Film Institute

The Arrival of Slaves and the Triangular Slave Trade

The two world powers at that time, Spanish and the French, inhabit the island. After the extinction of the Taino Indians they bring African slaves to Ayiti to cultivate sugar, coffee and gold to send to Europe. The island is now called Saint-Domingue.

The Macabre Procession (1977) by Mr, Gérard FombrunHaiti Film Institute

The Trans-Atlantic slave trade which imported black slaves to the Americas was a replacement to the Taino Indians that were decimated. The Spanish now called the Island Hispaniola. Later, the French colonizers would call it Saint-Domingue.  During the period of Spanish and French rule the island was considered one of the wealthiest colonies in the world.

Wood Figures Slave Chariot (1977) by Carole DevillersHaiti Film Institute

The Macabre Procession

Slave Life & Slave Revolt (2022-01-22) by Frantz Voltaire CIDIHCAHaiti Film Institute

Slave Life & Slave Revolt

The life of the slaves on the island were torturous.  They needed to be free and assembled via word of mouth at the urging of two slaves Boukman and Cecile to a ceremony that would mark the beginning of the slave insurrection and revolt.

Bois Caïman Ceremony (1960) by Maxo BlaiseHaiti Film Institute

In the French colony of Saint-Dominque, Africans wanted freedom. Enslaved blacks in Saint-Dominque in 1791 led by Dutty Boukman and Cecile Fatiman presided over a Vodoo ceremony at Bois Caiman to liberate themselves from slavery. This is the ceremony that led to insurrection. 

Drums in Vodou (1967) by Xavier AmiamaHaiti Film Institute

  The drum or "tambour" is an important instrument in Haitian culture. It was used as an important means of communication between the slaves during the colonial period speaking liberty. It continues to be a central instrument in religious ceremonies and in Haitian music.

A New Country (2022-01-18) by Frantz Voltaire CIDIHCAHaiti Film Institute

A New Country

The final battle led by slaves of the indigenous army overcame the French, Spanish and British forces to establish for the first time in history a country free from slavery. In 1804 this newly independent country was now called The Republic of Haiti. 

The Ball at King Christopher's Court (1970) by Saint Louis BlaiseHaiti Film Institute

The Ball at King Christopher's Court is a depiction of a royal ball under the reign of King Henri Christophe at his Sans Souci palace in the north of Haiti.  The palace's name Sans Souci is French for "carefree". Depictions of royal celebrations are an important theme.

Historical Ball (1980) by D PluvioseHaiti Film Institute

Antenor FirminHaiti Film Institute

The Races are Equal

Haiti continued after independence to pursue universal human rights for all.  Haitian anthropologist, author, politician, Joseph Auguste Antenor Firmin argues in a world shaking publication that "all men are endowed with the same qualities and the same faults without distinction... the races are equal."

The Equality of Human Races (1885) by Antenor FirminHaiti Film Institute

On the Equality of Human Races

The 1885 book of Joseph Auguste Antenor Firmin was a rebuttal to French writer Count Arthur de Gobineau's book, "Essay on the Inequality of Human Races". Firmin elegantly and confidently challenged the dominant racist writings which prevailed at that time. 

Frederick Douglass (1893) by CIDIHCAHaiti Film Institute

Frederick Douglass and Haiti

 Frederick Douglass prominent American writer and abolitionist spent 1889-1891 in the Republic of Haiti serving the Benjamin Harrison administration as United States minister and general consul. The president of Haiti, Florvil Hyppolite told Douglass how all of Haiti had followed his career and that Douglass represented "the moral and intellectual development of the men of the African race by personal effort and mental culture."

Frederick Douglass in Haiti (1889/1891) by CIDIHCAHaiti Film Institute

Douglass's personal account revealed he faced many difficulties during his tenure in Haiti shaping U.S. "diplomatic relations" with the hemisphere's first independent Black nation. Douglass's hopeful and positive tone concerning the political prospects of the republic were in contradiction to U.S. maritime interests in the Caribbean and Haiti's desire for economic and political independence. 

Haiti at the Worlds Fair in Chicago (1900) by Official photograph of the Haiti Pavillion.Haiti Film Institute

Frederick Douglass pronounced a speech at the Chicago Worlds' Fair in 1893, where he discussed the history of Haiti, its evolution from slave colony to free republic, its relevance to people of color and the debt owed to Haiti for the freedoms enjoyed throughout the world. 

Haiti, a speech by Frederick Douglass (1893-01-20) by Frederick Douglass speech interpreted by Ossie DavisHaiti Film Institute

The Legacy Continues....

Follow the drumbeat to #ILoveHaitianArts and #LuvHaitianArts

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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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