The title comes from the traditional Haitian Kreyol call and response greeting. “Onè!" calls the greeter, meaning "honor!" The response is "Respè!" - "respect". The exchange captures the essence of Haitian culture.
In twenty-six years of exhibiting Haitian art in Philadelphia we have often featured what is unusual or even exotic in its art and culture. Previous shows have drawn attention to the visionary, the imaginative, and the spiritual - particularly relating to the vodou religion. Since the 2010 earthquake much of the coverage of Haiti, including ours, has stressed the suffering, the survival and above all the resilience of the Haitian people. Those remain valid facets of the Haitian culture and experience. But they are incomplete. They omit the values of honor and respect that are essential to Haitian culture.
On a recent visit to Haiti I was struck by both the damage wrought by the earthquake, much of which is still readily visible, but also by the extent to which the country is up and running, and moving on. We met artists who were happy to see visitors – our group of twenty-five museum curators, gallerists and Haitian art devotees. The ministry of tourism told us that ours was the first “non-humanitarian” group to visit Haiti since the earthquake – four years ago! It was clear that the artists were like artists everywhere - intent on doing their work, showing it and gaining the respect which is their due.
The work in this exhibit reflects a selection of the work being created in Haiti today, whether in painting, sculpture, textile arts as well as some work that falls in between. These include sculptures and mixed media paintings constructed from aluminum pots and pans, steel drum metal, wire, plastic dolls and other found materials by Jacques Eugene, Aristilde Michelet and Davidson and Kesnard Thermidor. From the warren of shacks and alleys behind the collapsed buildings of the Grand Rue, Port-au-Prince’s old shopping street, come the intense, obsessive ball-point pen drawings by Guyodo, and the fanciful, mixed-media paintings by the young artists of the Timoun Rezistans and Timoun Klere collectives. Recent drapo vodou (beaded “voodoo flags”) include intricately beaded tapestries by Roudy Azor, Jean-Baptiste Jean Joseph and Mireille Delice, as well as more traditional flags by Maxon Scylla, Yves Telemak and Georges Valris.
Current painters include Reynald Joseph, Magda Magloire, Richard Nesly, Onel, Payas as well as the venerable Gerard Fortuné. The exhibit also includes work by Haitian masters of the last fifty years, such as painters Montas Antoine, Wilmino Domond, G. E. Ducasse, Alexandre Gregoire, Gabriel Leveque, Stivenson Magloire, Dieuseul Paul, Prospere Pierre-Louis, Louisiane St. Fleurant and Pierre-Joseph Valcin.
Even as Haiti is no longer in the headlines on a daily basis its needs persist. There are many organizations doing excellent work in Haiti, working towards sustainable development as well as disaster relief. Three groups which we support whenever possible are Fonkoze, Partners in Health, and the Art Creation Foundation for Children.
For the full selection of our Haitian Art go to our Haitian Art Gallery Page.