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Art of the diaspora

Many Haitians have left their homeland to build new lives in distant lands. Among them are the artists whose special vision is the subject of the exhibit Vive Haïti! : Contemporary Art of the Haitian Diaspora, presented by the IDB’s Cultural Center in recognition of Haiti’s bicentennial anniversary.

“Because I was displaced, I’ll never be an unconscious Haitian,” said Edouard Duval-Carrié, one of the artists represented in the exhibition. “I am very bewildered by Haiti. I’m very in love with it, and I am trying to understand it.”

The exhibit reflects the emotional and intellectual bond of Haitian artists who have made their home in France, Canada and the United States. It also includes the work of several artists who, while living in Haiti, depend on overseas galleries and collectors for economic livelihood and professional recognition. The 11 contemporary artists are Pierrot Barra, Mireille Délice, Jeannot Jean-Philippe, and Yves Telemak in Port-au-Prince; Edouard Duval-Carrié and Adler Guerrier in Miami; Marie-Hélène Cauvin and Marie-Denise Douyon in Montreal; Barbara Prézeau in Montreal and Port-au-Prince; Elodie Barthélemy in Saintines (France); and Maxence Denis in Paris.

The works derive inspiration from the past, and at the same time celebrate the country’s capacity for change and diversity. They explore national symbols, such as General Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian Liberator. They synthesize inherited traditions, such as Vodou.

“They are an implicit critique of Haitian culture conceived and lived as though it were suspended in mythic timelessness and entrenched stereotypes, as an unchanging cultural monolith,” says Francine Farr, former director of Haiti’s Art Museum in Port-au-Prince, in the exhibition catalog.

According to Farr, the contemporary art of the Haitian diaspora belies any assumption that art produced by these immigrants could be a mere expression of “retrograde provincialism and romantic, bourgeois traditions.” If anything, she says, the experience of the diaspora “frees the Haitian artist, the art, and its public audience from fatalistic, ethnocentric, deterministic thought and action.”

Artists of the Haitian diaspora are conscious of the burden of history and the prospects for the future of Haiti, according to IDB Cultural Center Curator Felix Angel. Many of the artists represented in this exhibition expressed the desire to return to live, work, and contribute to the country’s stability and growth. “They understand that they are a cornerstone of Haiti’s spiritual strength,” he says, “and a real fulfillment of unfathomed potentiality at home and abroad.”

Additional information

The exhibition is organized by the IDB Cultural Center and will be open until August 6, 2004. For additional information about the IDB Cultural Center and its programs, please call (202) 623-3774 or go to A free full-color catalog is available to the public. For photographs, please call (202) 623-1213.

The IDB Cultural Center art gallery is located at 1300 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. and is open five days a week, Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., free of charge. The nearest Metro station is Metro Center.


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