My name is Didier Civil. I was born in Haiti, in a town called Jacmel. It is there that I grew up and received a classical education.
Jacmel is a small town located in the southeast of Haiti. It is a beautiful little town where many foreigners come to enjoy its hospitality. The town is known as the Culture and Art Capital of Haiti and has even been declared Carnival City of Haiti.
I work as an artist and more specifically in the domain of paper mache.. I was ten years old when I started discovering my interest and ability to make art. At that time I would reproduce the drawings I found in every book I could lay my hands on. I must say that I had the good fortune to grow up in a neighborhood where masks were made. This neighborhood was located below the hospital and was at the time called Beauvais Street and Sainte Anne Street, an area which now constitutes the artisanal district in Jacmel.
I was also lucky enough to see Lyonel Simonis at work. He was among the very first people in Haiti to make paper mache masks. That is how I first began to try to make masks. Little by little I came to realize that I too could create them.
Between 1989 and 1990, I founded a masquerade group called La Paix (Peace). That group is still active today and participates annually in carnival. Working for the group gave me an opportunity to practice making many masks, which is how I managed to perfect and hone my skill. I’m always very proud whenever I see one of the masks I’ve created win a prize at Carnival, in a masquerade ball or in an exhibition. I also gain a lot of satisfaction from seeing people that I’ve trained at mask-making start their own masquerade group and win their own prizes. This proves to me that knowledge can and has been transmitted.
I used to have a training center that I started with some other people in the hopes of sharing our knowledge with young people who would want to learn from us.
I have a dream that one day I will be able to re-open an art school in Jacmel that will allow us to share our skills and foster cultural exchanges with artists from other countries.