Thursday, September 23, 2010

Haiti Inspirations

One of the lessons we learned after the earthquake 
is that reconstruction is necessary, but it's not in buildings.
It's not in facilities. The most important aspect 
of reconstruction is in humans. . . .
~ Jacky Lumarque, Rector, Quisqueya University, Haiti 

Our morning newspapers no longer feature daily front-page news of Haiti, devastated in the January 12, 2010, earthquake. Behind the scenes, however, Haitians continue to write their stories of recovery and healing and others still travel to the island to document their narratives. Below are a few of the good deeds in and for Haiti that I've learned about and want to share.

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In July, the PBS NewsHour reporter Ray Suarez filed a story about the estimated 4,000 Haitians who  underwent emergency amputations to free them from rubble or otherwise save their lives. His special report, "In Haiti, Amputees Face Different Kind of Healing", included interviews with representatives of aid organizations providing prosthetics and, movingly, a brief profile of a professional competitive dancer, George Exantus, who lost one of his legs. 

Exantus is a Haiti success story, as the video in this September follow-up story, "Update: Haitian Amputee Gets New Leg, New Reason  to Dance", details. Exantus dances once more, and with every turn on his new prosthesis shows the result of generosity and determination and hope.

* * * * *

The earthquake exacted an enormous toll in lives lost, infrastructure wrecked, homes lost, and art and other cultural artifacts destroyed. Art- and craft-making continue as rebuilding gets underway.

After the quake, the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, based in Miami, Florida, created the Haitian Art Relief Fund to support Haitian artists and assist in the recovery and restoration of Haitian art. Through the non-profit's efforts, many gifted artists have been able to continue making art. And now, with the assistance of the Alliance, an exhibit of more than 60 major works is on view, through March 2011, at Miami International Airport. Included in the show, titled "Hands of Haiti",  are cut-metal work, woven sequined flags, beaded leather, sculptures, carnival masks, pottery, and photography. Below is one of the featured artworks.

Woven Sequined Flag in Hands of Haiti Exhibit
© Hands of Haiti

The airport's fine arts and cultural affairs director, Yolanda Sanchez, points out that the exhibition not only promotes continued interest in Haitian art but is "a testament to the Haitian spirit, [Haitians'] optimism and their love of life."

Also featured in the show, thanks to the Green Family Foundation, are musical recordings and archival video produced by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax during his travels to Haiti in the 1930s.

The foundation recently collaborated with PBS to offer as part of the latter's Need to Know news magazine a program titled "Haiti's Lost Music", which features remasterings of the Lomax recordings. The efforts of Lomax's daughter, Anna Lomax Wood, to bring the Lomax recordings to attention are featured in the informative video below.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Information about the Alan Lomax archive can be found at the Association of Cultural Equity. In addition, an Alan Lomax Archive channel is on YouTube.

An MP3 download of Musical Selections from Alan Lomax in Haiti is available through Amazon; 100 percent of proceeds from sales of the album go to The Albert Schweitzer Hospital, Doctors Without Borders, and Partners in Health.

See Jacky Lumarque's essay "For Haiti to Move Forward, We Must Return to Our Culture".

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Other Haiti inspirations:

    ✭ Groundbreaking on September 10 for the Mireblais Hospital, an hour-and-a-half from Port-au-Prince. Construction, expected to take 18 months, is overseen by Partners in Health. See "Rising Haiti Hospital a Symbol of Future".

    ✭ Kylti, a nonprofit Haitian arts and culture organization, sponsored on August 29, 2010, Fly a Haitian Kite Day to "celebrate a new Haiti rising".  For information on how to support Kylti's initiatives in Haiti, go here.

    ✭ Women in Travel, a membership organization that recognizes the contributions of women to the travel retail industry, is supporting during its  October annual meeting a fundraiser for Hand in Hand for Haiti.

    ✭ The Haitian Cultural Foundation is planning a traveling exhibition of Haitian art for 2012. A curator for the exhibition, Carine Fabius, discusses it in her post  "Art That's as Hot as Haiti".

    ✭ A sale of Haitian art was part of a fundraiser, "H'Art and Soul of Haiti", held in Pittsburgh in mid-September. The social event benefited Friends of Hopital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. The Friends of HAS also receives donations through online sales of Haitian paintings, metal work, and craft; go here to see the artwork and consider a purchase.

    ✭ Haitian paintings, sculpture, and works on paper will be exhibited at Affirmation Arts in New York City from October 1 to November 24. Artists whose work will be featured in the exhibition, "Saving Grace: A Celebration of Haitian Art", include Hector Hyppolite, Celestin Faustin, Wilson Bigaud, Prefete Duffaut, and Salnave Philippe-Auguste. Affirmation Arts describes the show as "one of the first historical exhibitions of its kind in the United States" and notes that many pieces have not been seen outside Haiti. The curator is art historian, critic, and author Gerald Alexis. (For a full list of the artists who will be represented, go to the gallery's site and click on Exhibitions. Alexis is the author of Peintres haitiens, published by Cercle d'Art, Paris.)

    ✭ One hundred percent of proceeds from sales of donated paintings in this Haitian Earthquake Relief Art Sale go to Fokal and Art Creation Foundation for Children.



M.L. Gallagher said...

this is brilliant Maureen -- and so true for all of us. It's not about rebuilding of facilities -- it's about people and culture and their roots.

Thank you!

Kathleen Overby said...

I admire these movers and shakers. Don't you wish our
magazines and newspapers and TV programs were FULL of these heroes and their stories? Thank you.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Totally full of enthusiasm and positive energy.

Linda said...

This is inspirational Maureen. It is amazing what can happen in the face of devastation.
We get reports from Samaritan's Purse too, about the on-going work they are doing in Haiti.
I often think that these are our brothers and sisters. Thank you for this beautiful reminder.

L.L. Barkat said...

That art piece is beautiful. I am always quieted by the way beauty finds little cracks to grow in and through devastation.