News from Haiti Vol. 3: Haiti’s Cultural Aspects part 1
Talking about Haitian Art
Haiti’s art culture is alive and thriving. Haitian art has its own definitive style, created by Haitians. There are
different types of styles and new up-and-coming artists continually create their own unique styles. These are grouped
under the generic term “Haitian Art” in English.
As I have talked about in previous volumes, the economic situation in Haiti is difficult and it can be a struggle to lead what one might consider an ordinary life. Thus one might suspect that it is not easy to be able to afford the time and finances needed to create not just art, but art of a certain quality.
Interestingly, and surprisingly, however, artwork is all over the country. Solid walls on city corners are full of brightly-colored paintings for sale, as well as plenty of art galleries selling artwork. This time I have asked for the co-operation of Gallery Nader in Pétion-Ville for this column.
Starting from the beginning of Haitian art to the present day, there are around 300 famous Haitian artists. These artists have their own style and techniques, rendering them a spot in Haitian art history.
In order to find out more about the origin of Haitian art, we need to look at the long period of Western influence on Haiti. It seems that painting was part of the culture brought from Europe, and it integrated naturally into Haitian lifestyle. Art schools were established fairly quickly after Haiti gained its independence in 1804, and well-known artists appeared sporadically throughout the times.
(Haitian art for sale on a city street）
In 1943 American water color artist Peter DeWitt came across paintings by Haitian artist Hector Hyppolite, and is said to have instantly fallen in love with his works. DeWitt opened an art gallery in Port-au-Prince the year after in 1944 called the “Centre d’Art”, claiming to be the first public gallery to display Haitian artwork no matter their origin. DeWitt’s gallery attracted artists from all of Haiti, where they exchanged opinions and ideas, and created a suitable environment for creating art. The Centre created and focused on one style of painting, called “naïve” or “primitive” style, and helped introduce this style mostly to the American and Canadian market. However, in 1950 artists who were once part of the Centre left because of the focus on the American market, differences in development of style, etc. left and made a new art and design center called “le Foyer des Arts Plastiques”. Following this split, an increasing number of artists who followed their own style while further developing their techniques appeared on the scene, eventually creating the group “l'école de la Beauté”, with artists such as Bernard Séjourné.
Looking at the Centre’s collection of “primitive” works, one can see there is already a definite style to many of the pieces. The simple lifestyle of people and nature are the main themes, with unique lines and color combinations. Paintings depicting Paradise and other imaginative motifs are abundant with different artistic expressions; they contain a certain limited depth, making them characteristically Haitian and popular among her fans.
(Modern Vodou artwork）
On a different theme are motifs from the Haitian religion Vodou. Loa are the spirits of Haitian Vodou, and are almost all connected with death. Baron Samedi, Siren, skeletons, exorcism, life, death, and sex are all themes in Vodou art. This is a genre that knows no taboos, and some pieces can be quite frightening, even grotesque, and may require a certain level of interest in the religion and art before viewing.
As Haiti developed and its art culture flourished, French novelist and Minister of Cultural Affairs André Malraux visited Haiti and was reportedly strongly impressed by the paintings of the “Saint Soleil” school.
Additionally, French wine Chateau Mouton Rothschild used artwork from Haitian artist Bernard Séjourné on their label in 1986, further boosting the value and reputation of Haitian paintings and work in the art world.
(Haitian art on a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine）
This month’s column gave an overview of Haitian art, in particular paintings; however, Haitian art also consists of wooden carvings, stonework and other sculptures. Haitian art is not only paintings and sculptures; it also includes media such as unique steel drum art and Vodou flags, all using interesting colors and imaginative motifs that continue to fascinate not only European and Americans, but has also reached international acclaim.
(＊All photos taken by the author)
(＊This column reflects the personal views of the author and not the opinions of their employer)
Back numbers are here
EVENTS "Minister of Education, Youth and Information Invitation Program"
EVENTS "MoU Signing Ceremony with Toyo University"
EVENTS "APIC has invited Principal of Cave Hill Campus of The University of West Indies"
EVENTS "The 337th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "The 336th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "Micronesia Photo Exhibition "Tropical Light" Opening Ceremony and Reception"
EVENTS "Lecture by Photographer / Writer Floyd Takeuchi"
EVENTS "The Reception Party Held for the Caribbean Leadership Program"
EVENTS "MoU Signing Ceremony with Tsuda Univesrity"
EVENTS "The 335th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "The Reception Party for the Pacific Young Leaders"
EVENTS "The Second the Pacific Youth Leaders program"
PROJECTS "Micronesia Photo Exhibition ～“Tropical Light” -- Photographs by Floyd K. Takeuchi～"
EVENTS "The 334th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
PROJECTS "APIC Short-term Internship Program"
EVENTS "The 333th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "The 2nd Pacific Islands and West Indies Students Invitation Program"
EVENTS "The 332th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "The 2nd Pacific Islands and West Indies Students Invitation Program"
EVENTS "The 331th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "The 330th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "6 journalists from the Pacific Islands and Caribbean visited Japan"
EVENTS "Environment Seminar in Caribbean"
EVENTS "Micronecia Students Exchange Program"
PROJECTS "Xavier High School Scholarship Students participate in Rotary October Festival"
EVENTS "The 329th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "Micronesia Intercultural Experience Tour"
EVENTS "Interview with CEO of Save the Children Japan (SCJ)"
EVENTS "Sophia Internship students interview Mr. Yamamoto, President of Aon Japan Ltd."
PROJECTS "The 3rd Xavier Exchange Student Attend the Entrance Ceremony"
EVENTS "The 328th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "Thank-you Letters from Students at Shotoku Gakuen Junior and Senior High School"
PROJECTS "Water Tank Support for the Isolated Islands of Micronesia"
EVENTS "The 327th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "A Dinner in Honor of Mr. Mitsuhiko Sakamoto"
EVENTS "The 326th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "The 8th APIC International Cooperation Discussion Gathering"
EVENTS "The 325th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "The 324th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
PROJECTS "Xavier High School Scholarship Students Deliver Appreciation Speech at the Regular Meeting of the Rotary Club of Tokyo South"
EVENTS "The 323th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "Pacific Islands Young Leadership Program"
EVENTS "Interview with the Representative of Asian Development Bank (ADB)"
EVENTS "Welcome Reception for the Pacific Islands Young Leaders"
EVENTS "The 322th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "Pacific and West Indies Student’s Presentation & Farewell Party"
EVENTS "The 321th Lecture Meeting Regarding Global Issues"
EVENTS "Kamakura tour for the “Pacific Islands and West Indies Students Invitation Program”"