When British artist/curator Leah Gordon reached out to Haitian-born painter and sculptor Edouard Duval-Carrié a few years ago for help curating an exhibit focused on the city of Port-au-Prince, Gordon left a lot to the imagination.
But she also knew what she wanted.
“The concept she outlined was to organize a very ambitious presentation of the city of Port-au-Prince and identify within its confines, poles of cultural production focusing on the visual arts,” said Duval-Carrié, recalling their conversation.
Duval-Carrié, who was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, knew exactly where to go to help Gordon bring her vision to life: Grand Rue, the capital’s grand street where junk, scraps and automobile parts are transformed daily into expressions of everyday life in Haiti, and where Haitian art has undergone a rebirth.
“The apocalyptic vision they present to us in their powerful sculptures is a far cry from the production that has characterized Haitian art production in the decades prior,“ Duval-Carrié said about Grand Rue’s homespun artists.
That vision is part of the large-scale exhibition, “PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince,” being featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami. Envisioned by Gordon, who has known many of the artists along Grand Rue for years, the exhibit brings together the works of 20 Haitian artists.
The exhibit features sculptures, photographs, films and a recreated Port-au-Prince barbershop, all highlighting the capital’s street life and religious heritage. Together they provide a portrait of a historical city in flux, and Haiti’s chaotic intersections of history, art, religion, politics scene and cultural shifts.
“For me, the thinking behind the show was it’s very hard for majority class artists to escape this idea of being self-taught, outsider, primitive, naive,” said Gordon, who has curated several shows in England and in Los Angeles around Haitian art. “So we were very determined to show them as contemporary art producers from the majority class in Haiti, and look at Port-au-Prince as different zones of collective culture.”
Noting that this is her first time working with contemporary art, and living artists, Gordon said, the works were selected from informal collectives of majority class artists, and they are bound together by shared cultural and material practices.
The exhibit, she added, “is envisioning Haitian contemporary art production through the lens of the city of Port-au-Prince.”
During an opening reception last week, visitors were treated to life-size sculptures made from old shoes, rusty car parts and even bicycle tires. Many of the pieces paid homage to the Vodou culture. They also were got a chance to see films including the six-minute experimental film, “Plezi Gedi,” by Romel Jean Pierre. The film fuses performance art and Vodou practices.
“With “Pleze Gedi,” it was a way for me to say ‘We give the spirit the city again,” Jean Pierre. “When you see the film you see a [a spirit] walking in the street of Port-au-Prince performing rituals and being relaxed in his environment. With the growing trend of evangelism in Haiti, it’s something that you see less and less of.”
Duval-Carrié said the artists being exhibited “are responding to the spiraling collapse of the Haitian economy and ... the expanding divide between North and South.
“We hope that not only the general public but in particular the Haitian expatriates living in Miami may realize that artists such as the Grand Rue collective are engaged in discussions that situates them at the core of the North-South dilemma and that their production illustrates very forcefully the disparities that are creating a most untenable situation worldwide,” he said.
The exhibit will run until Aug. 11. The cost of viewing the exhibit at MOCA is free for members and $10 for non-members. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.
The exhibit is one of many displays of Haitian art and culture that will be available next month when South Florida celebrates Haitian Heritage month.
Haitian Heritage Month Events
May 2, 5-9 p.m.: Dance to the rhythms of Little Haiti Rara Lakay, and DJ Gardy’s blend of konpa, rara with electronic and house beats during Community Night at Pérez Art Museum “Route 1804: The Evolution of the Flag” and the Beat. Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Free.
May 4, 7 p.m.-1 a.m.: Santa La Haitian Neighborhood Center holds its 2019 fundraiser at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens. Cost is $150 per person. For tickets contact firstname.lastname@example.org
May 5, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.: Miami Book Fair and Miami Dade College present the Little Haiti Book Fair at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, 212 NE 59th St., Miami. Free.
May 5, 3-6 p.m.: A free cultural Conversation at the Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr. Miami Beach. Join several prominent members of the South Florida community as they discuss life as a “hyphenated” American of Caribbean descent.
May 5, 7 p.m: Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam and the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce host “Ayiti Celebrates” featuring musicians Joel & Mushy Widmaiër with special guest appearance by Beatrice Kebreau at the Miramar Center for the Performing Arts, 2400 Civic Center, Miramar. Tickets are $60-$85, and be purchased in person at the Miramar Cultural Center Box Office or at miramarculturalcenter.org or call 954-602-4500.
May 10, 7 p.m.: Enjoy a curated experience with “Route 1804: The Evolution of the Flag” at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, 212 NE 59th Terr., Miami. Free.
May 11, 12 p.m.: Taste of Haiti is back this year and it’s happening in North Miami at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Plaza Courtyard, 770 NE 125th St. Hosted by North Miami Councilman Alix Desulme, the free culinary event features Haitian food, cultural activities and fun for the entire family.
May 16, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.: Miami Haitian Compas Festival Welcome to Miami Hang Out Thursday party, featuring Enposib, Magik Kenny, Dj Bullet, Valmix, DJ FMA, Ted Bounce. Cafe iguana Pines, 8358 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. Cost is $30 in advance, more at the door. For tickets go to eventbrite.
May 16, 8-midnight: The Citadel food hall at 8300 NE Second Ave., Miami will host konpa on the rooftop with Haitian musician, MikaBen and local DJs. The free event will also feature food and conversation.
May 17, 6-11 p.m.: Sounds of Little Haiti at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, 212 NE 54th St., featuring System Band. The free outdoor concert will also celebrate Haitian Flag Day, May 18.
May 17, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.: Miami Haitian Compas Festival, Black Party featuring Djakout #1, Zenglen, Kai, Roody Roodboy. Cafe Iguana Pines, 8358 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. Cost is $40 in advance. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.
May 17, 10 p.m.-5 a.m:, Miami Haitian Compas Festival, Black Party featuring Harmonik, Vayb, Nu Look, Kreyol La. Wynwood Factory, 55 NE 24th St., Miami. Cost is $40 in advance. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.
May 18, 9 a.m.: K-12 educators are invited to register for a free professional development workshop exporting Haitian heritage and culture through the Frost Art Collection at Florida International University’s south campus. Presentations on Haitian culture, history and tradition will be led by university faculty at Frost Art Museum, 10975 SW 7th St. To register, call 305-348-2890.
May 18, 4 p.m-6 a.m: The 21st annual Haitian Compas Festival returns to Mana Wynwood, Midtown Miami, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami. The event features the top bands in Haitian konpa music. Cost is $50 in advance for general admission, $100 VIP. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite or call 305-945-8814.
May 18, 10 pm.-4 a.m.: Haitian Compas Festival after party featuring Kai, Enposib at Club Reign, 9940 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. Cost is $40 in advance. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.
May 19, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.: Haitian Compas Festival All White Affair featuring Vayb, Nu Look, Harmonik, Tony Mixx and DJ Heavy at Cafe Iguana Pines, 8358 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. Cost is $40 in advance. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.
May 20, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.: Haitian Compas Festival GoodBye Miami party featuring Zenglen, T-Vice and Gabel at at Cafe Iguana Pines, 8358 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. Cost is $30 in advance. Tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.
May 25, 7 p.m.: Haitian American Leadership Organization (HALO) 14th annual HALO Cultural Night celebrating Haitian women in the history of Haiti and featuring konpa band, T-Vice. Cost is $175 for general admission and $225 for VIP, JW Marriott Ballroom, 1109 Brickell Ave., Miami. Tickets can be purchased at www.halohaiti.org/tickets/