Highlighting outstanding Haitian talent

In its ongoing commitment in sharing Haitian culture to both the Diaspora and a broader audience, Brooklyn-based Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX) has been extraordinarily busy. Last week, they collaborated in three different presentations; HCX partnered with the CUNY Graduate Center in an evening of contemporary Haitian theatre; at El Museo del Barrio, it held its monthly An n’ Pale (We speak) series in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibition; and, for the Haitian Studies Association, they introduced an up-and-coming jazz talent.

Haitian writer Gary Victor was featured in a theatrical evening at CUNY’s Martin E. Segal Theatre. “This is the first time that Victor’s work has been presented in English,” said Lehman College Professor of French Thomas C. Spear acknowledging the “labor of love”, translating French to English, by Lucy Swanson.

Local actors Macc Plaise and Michele Marcelin read “Blood and the Sea”, an excerpt of Victor’s stage adaptation from a novel by the same name. Master percussionist Tiga accompanied the reading. Maduka Steady then performed an excerpt from the play “The 12th Floor.”

Following the readings, Professor Spear led a discussion with Victor; the plays’ director Phyllis Roome translated.

Audience member Elle Philippe was delighted in being exposed to Victor’s work. “It was fascinating,” she gushed, “and I love the fact that this author has a writing program now in Haiti working with young teens.” Philippe brought her 12-year-old daughter who was completely engaged with the evening of theatre and talk. “I look forward to reading his books,” Philippe commented.

Prolific Victor has 15 novels, 10 short story collections, plays, children’s books, radio, screenplays, and a regular satirical column in the Haitian daily, “Le Nouvelliste” in his credits.

Two days later, El Museo del Barrio hosted with HCX an evening of conversation with Miami-based Haitian artist Edouard Duval Carrie whose evocative paintings–one in each venue– are part of “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World” exhibit still at Queens Museum and El Museo, closing Jan. 6.

Assistant Professor of American Studies at Dickinson College Jerry Philogene discussed with the artist his personal experiences, the influence on him of Haiti’s Centre d’Art, and how his choice of subject matter–vodou gods, African iconography, contemporary events–work their way into his paintings.

Duval Carrie’s stirring paintings use evocative imagery, painted frames completely integrated into the work and a vibrant palette. The artist also creates alter pieces, sculptures and installations and most recently has begun to curate exhibitions at Miami’s The Little Haiti Cultural Center, a stone’s throw from his studio.

Haiti Cultural Exchange also helped organize the cultural evening for the Haitian Studies Association conference at York College, which featured Brooklyn-based jazz musician Melanie Charles (who recently returned from 6 months in Japan, followed by a European tour) and her group. “They loved it,” said HCX director Regine Roumain, relishing in how she was able to share this immensely talented and versatile young Haitian-American woman musician with members of an international audience who might not have had the opportunity to become familiar (yet) with Charles’ artistry.

Topping off HCX’s busy week, the cultural organization just moved into its very first office at Five Myles Gallery, 558 St. John’s Place in Crown Heights. Following over 10 collaborative events during the past two years, the two non-profit organizations are sharing resources to benefit the Brooklyn community. Having a home is a great step for this active organization.