Thirdeyemom

Haiti: Where life imitates art

A year ago I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Haiti as part of a program to view Macy’s Heart of Haiti products and meet the artisans behind the beautiful art. It was an incredible trip in many ways as it opened my heart and mind to a different side of Haiti that is often not discussed in the press. Instead of seeing tragedy, hardship and destruction I saw amazing resilience, hope and creativity through the arts. While many challenges remain for the people of Haiti – it still is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere – there also lies opportunity and beauty especially through its vibrant, dynamic arts.

Let me introduce you to a few of Haiti’s artists and some of the beautiful work they are creating to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.

Our first stop, Croix-des-Bouquet, is a unique artist community that has grown into one of the largest, sustainable metal art communities in Haiti. Over 60 years ago, Georges Liautaud began a movement in creating metal art from recycled products that became the thriving metal artisan community of Croix des Bouquets. Today, Croix-des-Bouquet has over 1,000 metal artisans making their fabulous metal art with over 60 different shops and studios creating social change and opportunity in this growing community in Port-au-Prince. Croix-des-Bouquet is where the most famous, accomplished metal artisans reside who have traveled the world with their art and have become instrumental within the community by creating apprenticeship opportunities for Haitians to learn their trade.

Here is a look at some of the extraordinary art we saw in Croix des Bouquets.

Our next stop was to visit Horn and Bone Artist Christelle Paul, founder and chief designer at her workshop “Atelier Calla in Port-au-Prince. Horn and Bone art began within the walls of Haiti’s prisons in the 1950s. To pass the time, the men in prison enjoyed playing games and they ingeniously discovered they could use old horns and bones to make pieces for card games. The art continued to evolve over the years being passed down from generation to generation.

The next day, we drove to the beautiful beachfront town of Jacmel, home to some of Haiti’s most famous papier-mâché artists and were amazed to see all the creative, colorful works of art. Papier-mâché is used as decoration and is especially important during Carnival.

I had only spent five days in Haiti yet I felt like I left a little piece of my soul there. There is so much culture for such a small little island and so much beauty to be seen. I sincerely hope to go back someday and explore more.

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Life Imitates Art. 

38 comments

  1. Truly an inspiration to see the pride and the talent of these artists that face challenges of any typical artist (which are numerous!) in addition to what must be inevitable challenges of doing art in a place with such levels of poverty. This post made my day, thank you.

  2. This is fabulous! I love the art, the post, and the fact that you got to go to Haiti, a place that (as you say) people don’t associate with such creativity. Its so close to Jamaica but I doubt I’ll get the chance to visit. Those insider trips are the best!

      • I’m sure the pricetag is as well (and rightly so). If money weren’t an object, regardless of how huge, I’d find a place for it. Even if it became my mailbox (somehow modified by the artist?) out in the front of the house – it just brings me joy looking at it!

      • I think overall that a lot of the art is fairly reasonable however some of the famous artists we met do have very wealthy clients fly in and buy up lots of stuff for thousands of dollars. I saw some amazing beadwork that I would have loved to my home if only I had the money! The good news is that all these artists work together and sales help the entire community!

  3. Pingback: Life Imitates Art (Remake 1) | Chris Breebaart Photography / What's (in) the picture?

  4. The creativity and ability to make artwork out of materials on hand is astounding! I remember being impressed by your original post about the horn and bone artists. The organization of the community of metal workers is also quite inspiring, and I’m glad they are able to sell their artwork around the world. People can move mountains if they’re given half a chance.

    • Yes Marilyn their work is so amazing! I wish I was half as creative as they are. I love how you say that “people can move mountains if they’re given half a chance”. I completely agree with this philosophy which is why I love to highlight all the amazing organizations around the world that are helping give people the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and change their lives. 🙂

  5. Another wonderfully uplifting post Nicole. The creative spirit comes shining through in all the photos and demonstrates so beautifully how art is such an important part of all of our lives wherever we may be in this troubled world of ours. Thanks so much for this, and Happy Valentine’s 🙂

    • Thanks Andrew! It is so true that art has such an amazing way of brining us joy and lifting us up. I feel this way when I look at your posts! 🙂 Thanks for the nice comment!

  6. What a great opportunity you’ve taken to showcase the human spirit. Given nothing they have created something beautiful and are filled with well-deserved pride and hope. Thank you for sharing the story Nicole.

    • Thanks Tina for the lovely comment! Yes it is so true that people are so incredibly resilient and if given half the chance or opportunity, they can make something out of their lives. We met with these women survivors of the earthquake who had come together in their plastic tents to make soap to sell. They had nothing but were able to piece back together a life for themselves. It was so incredibly touching.

  7. Terrific coverage for these creative artists! It’s amazing the resiliency of people. Love the ” horn and bone” art work and the papier mache creations. We were in Haiti after the quake to try to help with providing bamboo housing… Glad to see that artists are producing and hopefully selling too. Terrific post!

    • Thanks Peta! I bet your experience was difficult to be there right after the quake. The women I went with had been going ever since the quake and they pointed out so many things that had been repaired and improved since it hit. Their stories of devastation, heartbreak and hope were pretty amazing. I would love to go back to Haiti. It truly touched me.

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