National Catholic Reporter
July 20, 2007 by Eileen Markey

Few Americans visit Haiti. Those who do come to document human rights abuses or volunteer in health clinics or bring donations to a partner parish. They are motivated by sympathy, or solidarity or outrage at the fate of Haiti’s people. But Didier Civil, who helped found the Centre de Formation Artistique de Jacmel, the cooperative my group visited, wants to rewrite that exchange. He’s proud of his country: proud of the blue-green Caribbean sea, proud of the formidable mountains, proud of the joyous music and most proud of the vibrant art. Don’t come to Haiti to deplore the poverty, come to Haiti to enjoy the cultural wealth, he said at a gallery showing of his work in Gloucester, Mass., in April.

“Haiti is known as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and with the most violence and also known for the most corruption, but through all that stigma you have to understand that it is the first independent black nation and that it helped Venezuela, Peru, Jamaica and Bolivia achieve their independence. And we are also a nation that has potential to be extremely rich artistically,” he said. He detailed the influence that Haitian musical styles and visual art, particularly papier-mache, have had throughout the Caribbean. “Therefore we can say the outside world is incorrect. Haiti has fantastic richness, richness of art to share.”

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