jeudi 12 janvier 2012

Surtout pas se taire...Remembering 01.12.10 through Art

When I was in Port-au-Prince to spend Christmas with my parents last month, my husband and I did our requisite shopping for gifts to bring back to the US.  As I strolled around Place Saint Pierre choosing different tableaux and chatting with the artists and vendors (a slower process than usual considering our two toddler boys were also in tow) I was particularly drawn to the pieces of art depicting the earthquake.  Some featured bright colors and seemed to capture the atmosphere at exactly 4:53 pm when the earth began to move and shake.  Some showed buildings only swaying slightly, you would have to look closely to realize they were off kilter.  Others showed houses crumbling over people with blood coming out of them.  Still others focused primarily on brightly painted rubble.  I decided to purchase one, against my mother’s better judgment.  My mom—whose story about how she ran from outside of the house in Musseau to be met by my father telling her that it was an earthquake and pulling them both to cover under the doorpost where they shouted prayers for protection, comfort and in desperation, I know still haunts her—did not think earthquake art would make a very good present.  "Why would you get that, it is so sad... " she said.  But it is history I  thought, sensitive to the incomparable difference in how we experienced the earthquake.  She and my father in Port-au-Prince trying to survive, then going out to help those around them while my sisters in me in Boston, like so many in the diaspora, waiting to hear from them, watching news coverage, wondering about their safety. 
On the anniversary of the earthquake of all the different stories, emotions and thoughts that come to mind, for Tande I want to focus on what cultural production means or can do for us in the face of catastrophe.   One of the most powerful examples of post-earthquake writing is the collection Haiti parmi les vivants made up of testimonies, essays, and poetry by writers who lived through that day.  In one of the early pieces Lyonel Trouillot asks, quite appropriately:  “Poésie, roman, littérature jeunesse, lyrisme, réalisme, que peut la littérature devant les grands malheurs?  Rien.  Mais surtout pas se taire…” (54).  The role of literature, Trouillot reminds us is to never be silent.  The same, I think, can be said of all forms of art.  In addition to the huge undertaking of rebuilding that encompasses the fields of development, economic, structural, agricultural, cultural production in the form of literature, music, and visual art has a role to play in the aftermath of the earthquake.  Besides being a significant documentation of history and an expression of culture, art is a powerful tool for healing whether it is created by or experienced by people suffering from trauma.  From collective music projects like Sak pase Ayiti a veritable konbit of contemporary Haitian musicians, to the tableaux of artists featuring earthquake scenes like the one I decided to purchase, January 12th, 2010 is being re-produced and re-imagined through multiple creative lenses that only enrich an already profound and majestic artistic tradition.
This is not the first time we have considered this question at Tande, in fact if you peruse the site you will see that the role of culture in society is one of our recurring themes (not surprising for two trained literary scholars of course!).  For example in the Nou la! post Nadève asks, “How does Haitian culture move forward after January 12th 2010?” For the one-year anniversary last year we posted some poems about that day, today I want to point out some other creative and intellectual commemorations.
Visual Art
 The Repeating Islands has a post here about the traveling art exhibit, “Global Caribbean III: Haiti Kingdom of This World” now showing in Miami that focus on post-earthquake themes.  The exhibit features artists such as Edouard Duval-Carrié, and sculptor Guyodo.

You can visit our reviews section for a post about Haiti parmi les vivants.  Danny Laferrière's Tout bouge autour de moi represents his account of the earthquake, Edwidge Danticat's Eight Days is a children's book describing the events, and Ayiti mwen renmen ou!  is a collection of poetry published in Canada.

Previously on Tande Nadève wrote a piece about Sak pase Ayiti when they had an event in Port-au-Prince.  T-Vice’s album "Welcome to Haiti” takes a different approach to thinking about post earthquake business investments with songs like “Vinn Investi” in which they quote the “we are open for business” line that has been repeated without end since it was first uttered by President Martelly. 

Okay so not exactly cultural production, but I could not resist pointing you to two recently published academic texts.  Laurent Dubois' Haiti:  The Aftershocks of History promises to bring a rigorous historical perspective to the Haitian present and is scrupulously attentive to Haitian intellectual history in doing soI am also really looking forward to the publication of Tectonic Shifts:  Haiti Since the Earthquake which will be out later this month and features essays by Haitian and Haitianist scholars, journalists, activists who have been working on the ground in Haiti on a number of different issues.  This book is edited by Mark Schuller a scholar at CUNY whose documentary Poto Mitan is essential viewing for those working on gender and class in Haiti.

This list is meant to be a starting point, at best I urge you to please add to it in your comments!  


2 commentaires:

  1. A few of our members have mentioned having problems leaving comments, so this is just a test!

  2. RMJC,

    I was particularly happy to read this post because the major news organizations devoted very little time to this aspect of the reconstruction. In my opinion, the artistic sector enjoyed the greatest rate of success since the earthquake: both financially and administratively.

    It is, as you pointed out, a coping mechanism for a population without healthcare that is forced to live with PTSD, following what some experts called a psychological shock. Beyond the therapy function however, the industry as a whole receive a lot of attention and grew considerably. I cannot say the same for many other sector of the national life. Most notably, Haiti's cultural productions found an international stage and brought the Haitian experience to the world's living rooms, stages and galleries, rather than the unforgiving news media's tales. A story is better told through the eyes of protagonists who experience and understand the reality and bear the scars of history.

    Administratively, there were attempts at structuring the arts and crafts industry. Securing contracts with macys and other organizations not only ensured constant demands, keeping people employed, but also made the local companies marketable and encouraged Haitian creativity. In addition, providing loans to artisans with low interest rates was a major boots to the industry. Interests paid on those loans are used to provide more loans for other small businesses will ensure sustainability. They also organized the industry that was informal and underrepresented. The steel artisanal industry experienced similar progress.

    Visual art found made its way to various places around the globe, namely Miami, NY, California and France:

    Miami: More Mia coverage

    Miami: MIA in the 305

    DC: Washington DC

    France: Le Louvre

    I would add Kreyol la, Belo and Mikaben to your list of musicians or groups. The last two embraked on several international tours after the earthquake. I found that really great.

    You're right the body of literature speaks for itself. It is rich in substance and qualitatively speaking.

    No to forget these Haitian filmmakers that focused on various aspects of the post-quake era: Haitian filmmakers

    Side note: I understand how your mom feels. Many people find it too painful to revisit and try to park it somewhere. However, your title says it all. This must be a teachable moment.

    Thank you for taking the time. You ladies don't disappoint. Until next post?