In Haiti, most people travel around in tap-taps - pick up trucks that cram people, both sitting and standing, into the back. It can be crowded and uncomfortable but talking, telling stories, and sharing jokes makes the time go by. I thought about this when Lonely Planet posted a story about Lakou Mizik being on a flight that was delayed six hours. The band jumped up and gave an impromptu concert.
For me, Haiti will always conjure up sounds of rara music. Rara is Haitian street music, often celebrated during Catholic and Vodoun holidays, with a rhythm that is almost hypnotic. Rara can be both celebration and resistance. NPR recently reviewed RAM - a Haitian band that has long combined elements of rock and rara. Listen to the review here or read the transcript below. Better yet, go see them perform at the Hotel Oloffson in Port au Prince.
Below is a New York Times article by David Gonzales concerning a photo exhibit and book by Paolo Woods entitled “State” – the idea of it vs. the reality, how/if it is a part of everyday life, and how society is organized when the capacity of the state to govern is minimal. Based out of Les Cayes, Woods explored these questions through his journalism and photography. Haiti has often been a victim of lazy journalism and sensational photography that over-emphasizes the bad without seeking the good. Woods consistenly sees the good, the positive, and the hopeful, making his exhibit and book worth a look.
Haiti has long had a population of Arab descent, many of whom have played an important role in Haiti’s private sector and artistic community. A visit to the Nader Gallery, founded by the son of Lebanese immigrants, was required for anyone with an interest in Haitian art. The gallery and irreplaceable pieces of art were destroyed in the earthquake although the Smithsonian succeeded in salvaging some. Below is a well-written article (which I am just now seeing) about the Nader Family written by Nancy Beth Jackson and Maggie Steber. More information can also be found at the Nader Haitian Art, Gary Nader Art, and the Haitian Art Society websites.
The Art Museum of the Americas (operated by the Organization of American States) is hosting an exhibit entitled “On Common Ground: The Dominican Republic and Haiti.” The most interesting aspect of the exhibition is actually the commentary by the Dominican and Haitian artists. It is refreshing to hear Dominicans and Haitians elevate what they have in common, including a love of art and music. Each country would benefit from cultural exchanges with its neighbor. More from the artists follows:
Jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis kicks off Haiti's week-long 2013 International Jazz Festival today. The festival features two dozen perfomers around the world and workshops for aspiring Haitian musicians. The full Miami Herald article follows and a schedule of performances can be found on the Festival Website. Let us know if you were able to attend this year!
Today is Halloween, a day when zombies abound. Zombies have their roots in Haiti, specifically in the pain and suffering of slavery. Amy Wilentz reminds us zombies exist throughout the year. As she puts it, “The zombie is devoid of consciousness and unable to critique the system that has entrapped him. He’s labor without grievance. He works free and never goes on strike. You don’t have to feed him much. He’s a Foxconn worker in China; a maquiladora seamstress in Guatemala; a citizen of North Korea…” In zombies, one hears echoes of oppression, in Haiti and elsewhere around the world. Her full article follows.
The Pulitzer Center and Population Services International (PSI) will hold “Voices of Haiti”, a performance concerning the ongoing consequences of the earthquake, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art on July 25th and 26th. It will feature a documentary, poetry, music, photography, and reporting from a variety of sources. Voices of Haiti has previously been screened in Port-au-Prince and Miami. More information follows below.
Below is a New York Times Photo-Blog (Lens) about photographer Maggie Steber. Steber has been involved with Haiti since 1986, and her photographs capture both turmoil and beauty. Her photos, along with commentary about them, can be found on her website "The Audacity of Beauty". Steber knows Haiti intimately and has never given up on it. Her photos and experiences can help others better understand Haiti as well.