Day Two: The Artists of the Grand Rue

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Have you ever had a day so incredible that you can’t believe it actually happened? This describes Day Two of the cultural immersion trip perfectly. Early this morning the group met Phillipe, one of the most amazing and influential artists in Haiti. He designed the entire architecture of the Karibe Hotel. His stunning work is shown in the stain glass mural in the main lobby and the mosaic tiling outside that welcomes guests to the hotel. Phillipe also designed iron work for the windows which displays beautiful images of tropical flowers and hummingbirds. We also met Regine, the cultural affairs ambassador for the US Embassy. She explained how the media has portrayed Haiti as such a negative country, with violence and poverty. As a result, other countries opinions are swayed. I have definitely seen this "fear": many of my friends and family expressed their concerns for my trip before I left. During our conversation, Regime made a very good point: Do people stop traveling to New York City because violence and poverty exists? No. Yes, there is violence and poverty in Haiti, but a person will encounter violence and poverty in any country. I’m glad that our group is here to change this perspective and bring a positive light to Haiti. 

Our next stop was a visit to the National Pantheon Museum, the Museum of Haitian Art. I was fascinated to see the different artifacts that were included in the museum, such as the anchor from The Santa Maria and a 200 year old gold crown from one of Haiti’s kings. The blue stone featured in the king’s crown is only seen in two countries in the entire world. While looking at artifacts and artwork, I noticed all of the inscriptions are in French, since the land was once owned by France. Phillip accompanied us and gave us a tour of the modern Haitian artwork featured in the museum as well.

After this, we ate lunch with Phillipe at Hotel Olofson, a Haitian gingerbread house that was converted into a hotel in 1987. To improve the hotel business, owner Richard A. Morse hired a dance troupe that become the band, RAM. Morse became the songwriter and lead vocalist of the band. (The band name is made up of his initials.) RAM still plays every Thursday night. While at the hotel, we saw the RAM dance floor. The dance floor walls showcase an incredible work of Haitian art. Vibrant colors and swirling designs cover every inch of the walls.

Next stop was a visit to the Grand Rue district, a poverty stricken slum where the art of the Grand Rue Artists prevail. Phillipe brought us to this area in Port-au-Prince. The Grand Rue style of art consists of artwork made from recycled materials and trash. It was incredible to see what the artists could create with their imagination and trash from the streets; relics made out of tires and paintings with actual Haitian skulls are just some examples. As we walked along the slums, I saw many Haitians without shoes and dirt caking their feet. However, they all seemed to have smiles on their faces. Even though they live in poor conditions, they do the best that they can to prevail. After all, the Grand Rue Artist movement was created to showcase the strength in the Haitian art community. The Grand Rue Artists bring a new perspective to poverty.

During the day, we saw a Kalabash tree, which is a tree that grows poisonous fruit. However, the green shell of the fruit can be used to make bowls and artwork. At the Grand Rue district, we saw art made out of the Kalabash trees. I love how the Haitians use their environment as resources for their art.

Dinner at La Lorraine concluded the evening. This modern style restaurant just opened a month ago, but the business is booming. (The owner is actually a relative of Regine’s.) To gain a cultural experience, the group has been trying a new type of food every night. Tonight we ate duck, goat, and fish. Once we returned to the hotel, we bumped into the CEO and founder of CS Mining, a mining company that has business in Haiti. Ironically, I did a presentation on Haitian mining and deforestation especially for this trip, and I actually included CS Mining in my presentation. You never know who you may meet in Haiti!




Posted by BCRC Admin on 01/04 at 12:22 AM
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