Mimi “Manze” Beaubrun, singer and co-founder of Haiti’s roots band Boukman Eksperyans will perform at the opening benefit concert of Haiti Cultural Exchange’s Selebrasyon! at Shapeshifter Lab on May 17.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Time to mark your calendar! From mid-May through June, Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX) is presenting its third biennial edition of a veritable feast-of-arts festival: Selebrasyon! Ayiti Angaje (Celebration! Haiti Engages).

This deluge of music, visual arts, dance, film and contemporary photography fills six weeks of programming, interspersed with a good dose of conversation.

Get out your dancing shoes May 17 for the opening benefit concert at Shape Shifter Lab showcasing Haiti’s renown roots band Boukman Eksperyans, whose artistic practice is rooted in social justice. They will be joined by “son of (founders and lead singers) Boukman” Paul Beaubrun who now calls New York home.

“We continue to reach out as much as possible to attract diverse audiences — Haitians and non-Haitians,” said the organization’s executive director and festival curator Regine Roumain.

Partnerships help expand the scope, as well as the venues of the festival including five community gardens throughout Brooklyn (second year with Brooklyn Queens Land Trust) and Hudson Guild in Manhattan. “They are vital to our success,” Roumain acknowledges.

Storytelling takes place May 6 at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, and following the blast-off May 17 launch, a plethora of events include a presentation of the HCX community engagement model at Queens Museum Theatre on May 17, Haitian Flag Day on May 18 at BKLYN Commons, as well as a Café Conversation — Ann Pale at Westbrook Memorial Garden on Pacific, a painting exhibition and artist conversation at Five Myles Gallery, and a contemporary photography exhibition and conversation at the garden on Veronica Place. That’s just May!

Then, from June 1-June 14, Selebrasyon! participates with Hudson Guild’s Cultural Kaleidoscope Festival in the heart of Chelsea, in Manhattan. Through collaboration with Sans Limites Dance, HCX will present six dance concerts that feature choreographic works exploring themes of immigration and diasporic experiences.

Each performance will feature one choreographer of Haitian descent, along with additional companies representing cultures from around the globe. Featured groups include Dance Caribbean Collective, Kriyol Dance! Collective, and Renegade Performance Group.

A seventh dance performance, an evening-length work by Haiti-based Compagnie de Danse Jean-René Delsoin will bring the richness of cultural expression and dances in Haiti to the world. Delsoin will also lead a master class June 10 at Mark Morris Dance Center.

“As we mature our emphasis includes bringing more Haiti-based artists to New York through our new initiative — Haiti X NY,” says Roumain.

Visual artist Maksaens Denis’s with his art installation, emerging vocalist Jehyna Sahyeir, performing in the Haiti Flag Day event, as well as Josué Azor featured at the May 31 opening of the work of seven exhibiting Haitian photographers are among the Haiti-based artists participating in Selebrasyon!

HCX is also partnering with the Caribbean Film Academy (Kafou, June 5, BAM) and The Luminal Theater (June 12-23, Hudson Guild) to present five film screenings that present diverse narratives.

At home base FiveMyles Gallery on June 29, an evening of live music and food tasting closes the festival. The program:

Paul Beaubrun will join his father Lolo and the rest of Boukman Eksperyans at ShapeShifter Lab for the May 17 concert.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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