Below is a beautiful article (with similarly beautiful photos) taken by New York Times contributer Peter Kujawisnki. The author, who previously lived in Haiti, visited as a tourist recently and reflects on what has and has not changed. As with many of us who previously lived in Haiti, his memories are complicated and filters what he experiences now as a visitor. He sees signs of progress and the potential renewal of long dormant tourism in a country that remains much in need of livelihood opportunities. Visting Haiti, and experiecing what it has to offer, as he puts it is now neither brave nor unusual - just normal.
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:
Below is an article by Trenton Daniel (AP) concerning a beautification project, inspired by Haitian artist Prefete Duffaut, in the neighborhood of Jalousie. Plans are underway to include additional neighborhoods. The initiative is not without controversy - slums in Port au Prince have many other needs including water, security, and jobs. Still, Haiti is a colorful country with a vibrant artistic tradition that Jalousie increasingly reflects.
Below is an article by Trenton Daniel concerning the increasing use of Haitian Kreyol in schools - which is a good thing. In a hemisphere dominated by Spanish and English, French remains the language of the Haitian elite. While true that Haiti has produced artists of note who worked in French, countless children didn't have a chance at a good education because they were instructed in a language neither they nor their teachers were comfortable with. Learning multiple languages makes sense - but so does being tought in (and proud of) your first language.
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!
“Are you a Missionary? What is Your Religion?” Two common enough questions when Haitians are getting to know foreigners. Haiti is a religious country and even the smallest villages have multiple churches if not a library or a clinic. While every imaginable denomination has a presence in Haiti, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Vodoun form an uneasy trinity. Haitian Vodoun is a vibrant, fascinating religion. One need not be a Vodouisant to experience it, appreciate it, and learn from it.
You don't have to go to Haiti to start learning about Haitians. In many cities along the East Coast, there are ample opportunities to experience Haitian culture. The Tap Tap Restaurant in Miami is a great place to enjoy Haitian food, music, and art at the same time. If in Miami, it is well worth a visit.
Although one would not know it from most mass media coverage of Haiti, it is a beautiful, little country. For that reason, I was happy to read Amy Wilentz's excellent article in Conde Naste. She describes her own love affair with Haiti and then lists where a person can stay and play. As I read it, I thought of all the things I miss about Haiti - the sandy beaches, drinking rum punch, listening to racine music, going to vodoun ceremonies, napping on straw mats, talking on porches, as well as the countryside camraderie and never-ending jokes and pranks. For some, it is time to visit Haiti for the first time. For many of us, it is time to go back.