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-Bouquet. 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-Bouquet.
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.