Musicians from around the world performed at the eleventh annual International Jazz Festival in Port au Prince. This is a festival that has faced a great deal of adversity but gets better every year. Art, music, and history are key to both increasing tourism and showcasing all that is good about Haitian culture. Think about participating next year. Mark Sullivan (All About Jazz) provides a read-out of the festival below.
Port Au Prince
Haiti can be a rewarding but challenging tourism destination. Having an organization to help with logistics and orientation during the first visit can be helpful. The Kiskeya Guest House in Leogane, in addition to offering a nice place to stay outside of Port au Prince, now offers tours that celebrate Haiti's cultural traditions with an emphasis on Port au Prince, Jacmel and Cap Haitien. Haitian anthropologist Jean-Yves Blot an Professor Erold Saint-Louis will lead the various trips and Haitian Creole immersion programs. The agenda for their "Cultural and Mystical Haiti" tour follows. Note: The Kiskeya Guest House is associated with Kiskeya Aqua Ferme, a community initiative devoted to raising tilapia and growing cassava, hot peppers, and sweet potatos.
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.
Solutions to displacement take time, coordination and resources. According to a recent update by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the total number of households living in camps has decreased by 92 percent compared to four and a half years ago. The government-led rental subsidy program, supported by IOM and donors, has been instrumental in helping households transition. For more information, view the full report.
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.
Amy Wilentz understands Haitian culture, history, and language as few other foreigners do. This, combined with candor about her own biases and emotions, makes her a compelling writer about a country where nothing is black and white. Like many of us, she seeks redemption of a sort through Haiti. Throughout her most recent book, "Farewell, Fred Vodoo", she emphasizes that Haitian perspectives are the best ways to understand the reality of post-earthquake Haiti. Below is a review by Hector Tobar of the LA Times. More information about the book and upcoming readings are available on Amy Wilentz's website.
Below is a review, from Reason, of Jonathan Katz's book on the shortcomings of the international community's efforts to "save" Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. While no response to the aftermath earthquake, no matter how well-organized or well-resourced would have been sufficient, he emphasizes that the subsequent reconstruction effort was hobbled by a top-down approach that excluded governmental institution, weak as they may have been, local firms, and community groups. To read an excerpt or purchase the book, take a look at Amazon.
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!
According to Trenton Daniel and Martha Mendoza, a ten year $2.2 billion dollar plan to eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic will be released shortly. The plan will be government-led with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the WHO/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). It is yet to be determined who will fund the plan and to what extent although the World Bank has indicated it will contribute. Although it will take years, eliminating cholera is neccesary both for protecting public health and promoting investment.
Below is a guest blog by Raynald Leconte, Chairman of the Haitian Cultural Foundation (HCF). HCF has produced a documentary about Haitian art entitled "In The Eye of the Spiral" with commentary by some of Haiti’s most important living artists. Haitian art is so expansive that it can be difficult to describe adequately. To paraphrase the artists: “Chaos is the reality of life…there are few places in the world with as much chaos and artistic devotion as Haiti… creativity is our wealth”. Check out the documentary and HCF as well. Thanks!