Lerebours, Philippe: "Haiti: Wonderland of the Art"

More than ever, Haitian painting proves to be an astonishing vitality and prognostics by Andre Breton in 1946 seem to materialize more so, day by day.

Its success was not due as believed, to snobbishness and “ après -guerre” psychology, but definitely to intrinsic qualities and particularly to a specific visualization of the world.

During almost 150 years, the Haitian people had lived in absolute seclusion from occidental customs , elaborating with great difficulty, but surely, the values of a civilization answering its needs and permitting it to fantasize with everyday problems.

We were wrong in believing that Haitian painting was a “fantasy” , passing phenomenon, super reality imposed upon its people for purely touristic means.

This nation has known for quite some time that it had something to say and it said it through intimation. Blinded by its prejudices, the world was not yet ready to listen…

What this nation had to say the truth weaved with its sufferance, anguish and also its pride, refusals and hopes, a truth impregnated with mysticism; because in order to accept its harsh reality, it had given it the contours or forms of a dream in which it placed its ancestral divinities, divinities that were sometimes harsh and hostile, but with whom it could carry on a familiar dialogue.

It is in this “optique” and only in this “optique” that we must see and understand Haitian painting, not from its high-interest colors or pretended atmosphere of candor and festivity, lack of “savoir-faire”, indisputable testimony of naivety.

We have to be able to read between the lines, decipher silences and discover behind the smiles, the deepness of the wounds.

A painting where you find everywhere the shadow of death could never be a joyous painting.

Fifty-five (55) years have passed since Dewitt Peters, André Breton, Jose Gomez Sicre discovered Haitian painting. Fifty-five (55) years have also passed since Haitian painting triumphed in Paris. Many artists have passed away, especially those of the first generation, but every day new ones are born who renew the language, enriching the vocabulary and let new horizons come to light. The “miracle” of Haitian art as the popular saying goes.

And since, the Haitian painting has not ceased to astonish the world despite all of Haiti’s socio-political problems!

Philippe Michel Lerebours