samedi 9 juillet 2016

Haiti's garbage has found its way into museums all over the world

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Amid a maze of car-repair shops in Haiti's gritty capital, Andre Eugene pitches a shredded tire he found atop a towering sculpture he built out of rusty engine parts, bed springs and other cast-off junk.
"This is what I do; I work with the garbage of the world," says Eugene, assessing the largest sculpture displayed at the entrance of his studio and open-air museum off a crumbling street cutting through some of Port-au-Prince's poorest neighborhoods.
The Haitian sculptor is a founding member of Atis Rezistans, a shifting collective of artists who recycle whatever useful scraps they can find to give a raw, physical shape to the spiritual world of Voodoo, or Vodou as the religion is known by Haitians, and weigh in on the country's chronic political and economic troubles.
Although Haiti's established galleries were slow to warm to the scrap sculptors of the capital's impoverished Grand Rue neighborhood, bustling with furniture-makers and other craftsmen, the artisans working with recycled materials have been embraced by a number of international art connoisseurs and academics.
During the last decade, the work of Atis Rezistans has been exhibited in cities such as London, Los Angeles and Paris. Sculptures are included in the permanent collections of museums, including the Frost Art Museum in Miami.
Haitian art has long had a reputation for imaginative richness, and wealthy international collectors including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and filmmaker Jonathan Demme sought out self-taught painters that colorfully evoke the everyday lives of Haitians or depict dreamlike scenes. And even though found-object creations have been part of the poor country's art for decades, experts say there has been nothing like the in-your-face works of Atis Resistant.
"Atis Rezistans takes an old practice in new directions, expanding the range of materials used and offering stunning new meanings for objects found in everyday life," said Marcus Rediker, a collector of Haitian art and a distinguished professor of Atlantic history at the University of Pittsburgh.
The materials that form the sharp-edged sculptures include automotive fragments, carved wood pieces, broken TVs, discarded toys and even human skulls collected at a cemetery of mausoleums where bones were scattered by grave robbers.
Many of their artworks are a nod to Baron Samedi, the Vodou god of the dead, and his rambunctious offspring, Gede. Others offer a kaleidoscope of jarring images out of a Mad Max movie: sculptures of faces with spikes; masked figures resembling shrouded corpses; broken baby dolls fused with computer motherboards.
But it's not all darkness. There's plenty of evidence of playfulness and irreverent theatricality, such as a skull-topped figure with a stethoscope, snake sculptures with scales of inlaid bottle caps, and much frank sexual imagery.
Perhaps their most acclaimed collaborative creation has been a mashup of high-art-meets-developing-world called the "Ghetto Biennale." Every two years, international artists come to the Grand Rue neighborhood in a kind of cross-cultural festival that leaves the door open for almost anything. The Ghetto Biennale takes a form developed for European art fairs and radically subverts it, according to Anthony Bogues, a professor at Brown University who co-curated a 2011 exhibition of Haitian art at the Providence, Rhode Island, school. "Art for them is not about the elite but rather recognizing that art is a language in which Haiti speaks to itself and the world," Bogues said of Atis Rezistans. Collaborations with overseas artists who come to Haiti have given younger members of the collective chances to tap into art networks across the globe, while international artists are stimulated by the Haitian group's creative process. "Their philosophy to turn trash into art, thus something seemingly worthless into something valuable, has inspired me," said Alice Smeets, a Belgian artist who collaborated with members of Atis Rezistans to create staged photographs in Haitian slums that depict figures from tarot cards. Eugene hopes that the praise gathered for the group he founded with Celeur Jean-Herard, who left the collective, can translate into enough earnings to upgrade his yard's musty museum and improve the lives of members and local youngsters, dubbed "children of the resistance," who sculpt and paint.
Although he has traveled the world with his art, Eugene still lives in a small concrete shack next to his Grand Rue workshop and "Musee d'Art," where many sculptures are caked with dust and swathed in cobwebs. Two turkeys and several cats were the only visitors one recent afternoon.
He calls Atis Rezistans a social "movement" that should expand opportunities for its artists.
"I don't want to be famous," Eugene said in his rain-slicked concrete yard, shortly after returning to Haiti from an exhibit of a major piece in Milan. "Step by step, I am looking to make money so we can improve our situation here."

U. S. to Haiti: Pay for your own elections

Suspension of elections aid is not a reduction of U.S. support
Haiti’s upcoming elections price tag is estimated at $55 million
The U.S. will not be financing Haiti’s Oct. 9 rerun presidential elections, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.
Kirby said Haitian officials were notified on July 1 that the U.S. government, which provided $33 million toward last year’s contested legislative and presidential elections, “has suspended its assistance toward the completion of the presidential electoral process.”
“We did not plan funding for two more electoral rounds in 2016 and 2017,” Kirby said.
He insisted during a news briefing that the suspension of electoral aid did not symbolize a “reduction in U.S. support for the development of Haiti” or its people.
The U.S., along with the European Union, which announced last month that it was pulling its elections observer mission from Haiti , has made no secret of its displeasure with the country’s decision to rerun the first round of the presidential race. The decision was taken by the Provisional Electoral Council on the recommendations of a five-member panel tasked with auditing the Oct. 25 vote.
Even before the U.S. announcement, a number of Haitians, including the elections council head Léopold Berlanger and interim President Jocelerme Privert argued that the country should find the estimated $55 million to finance the upcoming presidential rerun and contest for 10 Senate seats, and Jan. 8 runoff.
“We already made ourselves clear: Haiti will make all effort to find the $55 million to do the elections,” said presidential spokesman Serge Simon. “If no one comes to our assistance we will manage because the priority for us is the elections.”
The U.S. announcement comes as Haiti’s bickering parliament continues to stall over whether to prolong the term of Privert, whose 120-day mandate expired on June 14, and the head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations warns that the international community is losing patience with the ongoing political crisis.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article88338777.html#storylink=cpy Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article88338777.html#storylink=cpy

CAMH launches partnership to help Haitian voodoo healers New partnership looks to incorporate evidence-based therapy into popular traditional voodoo practice

By: Gilbert Ngabo Metro Published on Fri Jul 08 2016
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is entering the voodoo business.
Well, sort of. Through its Office of Transformative Global Health, CAMH is launching a partnership with Haitian voodoo healers, helping them serve the mental health needs of the local population.
Cases of depression and anxiety in Haiti have ballooned in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, but there’s a lack of trained mental health professionals, said the office’s program director Akwato Khenti.
In a country of over 10 million people, there are only 194 trained psychologists, 27 psychiatrists and three psychiatric nurses.
“People with even mild to moderate PTSD problems have no options to professional treatment unless they are wealthy,” Khenti said.
There are however some 60,000 voodoo priests, who use traditional methods such as storytelling and dance to treat various illnesses. CAMH is hoping to build on their popularity to increase Haitians’ access to mental health services.
“The voodoo community is often marginalized and dismissed as superstitious in Western societies, but it provides an important level of cultural comfort,” said Khenti, noting 40 per cent of mental health recovery is attributed to the relationship between the patient and the person providing care.
The partnership will aim to integrate evidence-based therapy into the traditional practice of voodoo, something Widner Dumay – who has practiced voodoo for over 25 years in Haiti – believes is “desperately needed.”
In particular, Dumay hopes incorporating contemporary techniques into voodoo will build trust with Haiti’s large Christian population, many of whom have been skeptical of the practice in the past.
He and a few other voodoo priests will be in Toronto later this month to support the Best of Both Worlds campaign raising funds to produce an interactive film for voodoo leaders in rural communities.
“We hope to learn new techniques and skills from professional therapists, because our work is already overwhelming,” said Dumay, who receives between 100 and 150 patients per week.