Haitian Art Galleries Rush to Save What’s Left
Haiti Painting (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times / January 23, 2009).
The recent earthquake in Haiti hit near the Art Center of Pétionville where as of 2008 over 30 galleries were clustered. Most of these, including Gallery Bourbon Lally and Gallery Art Nader sustained severe damage. Although the Nader gallery in Pétionville survives and their family is safe, their Museum in Depres, home to many of Haiti’s seminal artists, collapsed, burying much of the collection.
Gallerie Nader in Depres.
The famous murals at the Holy Trinity Cathedral featuring African epiphanies have crumbled into fragments.
Murals. Interior of Holy Trinity Anglican cathedral in Port au Prince Haiti, destroyed by earthquake, Jan. 12, 2010 Vianney (Sam) Carriere
Detail of interior of Holy Trinity Anglican cathedral in Port au Prince Haiti, destroyed by earthquake,via Wikipedia.
The Art Community Responds
It’s been two weeks since the earthquake struck, time for compassion fatigue to set in and international donations to drop off. But Haitians continue to heal their homeland. Axelle Liautaud, a local art dealer, is working with UNESCO to try to salvage chunks of the Cathedral mural from the rubble. Pierre Vilaire, a sculptor is working to save historic artifacts from private homes destroyed in the earthquake. Haitian gallerists are working together to locate artists and ensure their safety.
The Arts will need to play a significant role in the rebuilding process. Speaking practically, the Haitian Art market is one of the most stable sources of income to the island. Money collected from international shows has been used to fund schools and other social services.
More deeply, Haitian Art expresses the longest standing free African culture in the Western Hemisphere. As Barbara Prézeau-Stephenson says “contemporary Haitian art has been subject to a double-edged ostracism. Feared from the inside because it renders obsolete an aesthetic system based on Indigenism and its ethnicist corollaries, it resists the Siren song of official art.”
An aesthetic tradition that has been able to resist incorporation for so long, for so strongly, will be an essential source of strength for the journey to recovery. But what can we do to help preserve it?
You could start with the UNESCO site – but I have to admit it’s pretty lame. (I mean who puts out a request for donations with no instructions on how to donate?) The National chapter of the Haitian Art Society has started a Haitian Relief Fund, but the fine print on their donation request states that the funds simply go to “established U.S.-based human relief organizations providing direct emergency aid in Haiti.” So you might as well cut a check to the Red Cross – at least they’ll let you txt it in. For now I’d say keep on donating to Partners in Health and UNICEF but also check the Haitian gallery sites, ask around at the Notre Dame D’Haiti, or your local botanica. This is our neighborhood Miami, and an essential part of our cultural heritage. Ask your neighbors, post your comments, let’s see how we can help.
Related story in today’s Herald here.
This post was contributed by Lori Kelly.