Re-Imagining Haiti

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haiti people with chainsCoinciding with the U.N.-declared International Year for People of African Descent, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) are co-presenting through May 8 a two-part, multimedia exhibition under the theme “Re-Imagining Haiti.” The exhibition, which comprises “Standing with Papa Legba,” on view at CCCADI, and Le Projet Nouveau, on view at MoCADA, opened in January in time for the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti that leveled the capital and left more than 300,000 people dead and more than one million homeless.

Featuring works in painting, photography, film, video, installation, illustration and mixed media, as well as an interactive component, the exhibition is designed “to add to the conversation regarding Haiti” in the aftermath of the earthquake, says Shanté Cozier, MoCADA’s special events coordinator and co-curator of the exhibition with Shantrelle P. Lewis, director of public programming for CCCADI. 

“I really want visitors to recognize that, as a cultural institution, MoCADA is fostering the culture of the African Diaspora and looking at Haiti is pivotal in doing so,” Cozier told The Network Journal. “I really want them to use this space as their own voice in regards to re-imagining Haiti post-earthquake, not simply as a space artists came together with and defined something. I want them to interact, so their voices can also be heard.”

Le Projet Nouveau (The New Project) features 18 contemporary artists who draw upon political, cultural, architectural and socioeconomic themes to propose what can be offered toward the re-shaping of the world’s first Black republic that has been plagued by turbulence since it gained independence from France in 1804. The artists visualize Haiti’s future through its people, its culture, the African Diaspora and its artistic legacy. The 18 artists whose works are showcased are Trevor Brown, Nelson Caban, Rebekah A. Frimpong, Erick Girault, Tosha Grantham, Aaqil Ka, J’Renee, M. Scott Johnson with M.S. 57, Stephanie Keith, Rodney Leon & the Soft House
Group, Kokahvah Zauditu-Selassie, Ph.D., Edouard Steinhauer, Michele Stephenson, Wahala Temi, Noelle Theard, Adrienne E. Wheeler, Nathan Williams and Tracee Worley.

For “Standing with Papa Legba,” 12 artists were asked to explore the dynamics of ancient African powers in serving as a catalyst for the Haitian Revolution, and the post-earthquake desecration of these sacred traditions by evangelical zealots. In Haitian Vodou, Papa Legba is the intermediary between the loa (spirits) and humanity. His origins are with the Fon people of Benin.

Artists featured are Elizabeth Colomba, Thom Corn, Ja’Tovia Gary, Vidho Lorville, Phillip Nerestan, Numa Perrier, Jacques Rony, Jeffery Salter, Phoenix Savage, Kantara Souffrant, Val-Inc and Jean Volcy.

The project’s 30 artists were chosen from an open call in which visual, performing and literary talent were invited to submit work  “We did one general curatorial job for both institutions. Only the work of Jacques Rony, a metal artist who resides in Haiti, appears in both institutions,” Cozier says.

The collaboration between MoCADA and CCCADI is the beginning of a continuing partnership, says Marta Moreno Vega, Ph.D., founder and president of CCADDI. “The aesthetic perspective, cultural mission and social justice African Diaspora work of MoCADA and CCCADI make us natural collaborators in reaching the global diversity of African descendants and the broader community … from Africa, the Caribbean, Latin and North Americas.