By Régine M. Roumain, Executive Director of Haiti Cultural Exchange
From January 16th through the 25th, I traveled to Haiti with an intimate group, including Haiti Cultural Exchange staff members Jessica Tong and Erika Pettersen. All of my fellow travelers were discovering the country for the first time. It was quite an experience! Our home base was The Park Hotel, a family run hotel located on the Champ de Mars in Port-au-Prince; and our journeys throughout Haiti were made possible by our driver Belizaire, who indefatigably took us on our daily adventures.
With numerous opportunities to discover Haiti through the arts and culture, the HCX staff was able to build direct relationships with organizations, presenters and working artists.
On our very first day, we headed to the Oloffson Hotel where we met with photographer Daniel Morel. Daniel was gracious enough to personally bring us to visit his stirring photo exhibit of the earthquake, SONJE, and introduce us to artist André Eugène.
The Kreyòl Jazz movement was well-represented during the PAP Jazz Festival, with fantastic performances by artists such as Chardavoine, Ti SAX, Rutshelle Guillaume, and Thurgot Theodat. It was delightful to hear traditional tunes, such as Latibonit, taking on a new life in the hands of these musicians. The festival’s after hours jam session at Press Café served as a great meeting place for a conversation with Princesse Eud and BeLO which inspired some interesting new program ideas for Mizik Ayiti 2015.
I was also pleased to host our second An n’ Pale in collaboration with Fokal. Our featured guest Allenby Augustin shared his work at Akoustik Prod, an organization that works to preserve Haiti’s traditional arts via public programming.
An overnight trip to Jacmel provided me with the wonderful opportunity to speak with students from the Audio Institute, who had great insights and questions about arts presentation and community building. Also while in Jacmel, Prince Luc and Dieufel Lamisere of FOSAJ and HAITIDANSCO gave us a grand tour of their space and allowed us to sit in on a dance class.
What stood out for me during these meetings and discussions is that Haitians have a strong desire to participate in the cultural development of their country. Artists, students, festival organizers, and cultural organizations are working to ensure that Haiti’s dynamic and evolving culture endures. This work needs our engagement and support. The next time you are in Haiti, plan a visit to some of these wonderful, art-filled places!
All in all, it was a wonderful (and slightly exhausting!) trip. Take a look at more highlights below and stay tuned for new programming in 2015!