Art and Craftsmanship: Port-au-Prince Day 2


The facade of a shop at the oil drum artists, collective at Noialles, Croix-des-Bouquets.


This will likely not be my last post about art and artistry in Haiti. Art, of both the high and low varieties abounds, and surrounds you even along the dusty, ruined streets that must have once had sidewalks. Artists display their originals, or original copies, on everything from clothes lines to fences. The ubiquitous “Loto” stands, beauty parlors, and barber shops all have multicolored hand-painted and hand lettered signs. For the beauty purveyors, also throw in elaborately rendered portraits of idealized clients groomed to the last follicle, and you get the picture (check some out here). Unlike in the States, I’ve yet to see laminated glossies of the latest hair styles or the seemingly de riguer 50 Barber Styles for Men chart pasted to a store window. My mother, the daughter of a carpenter, consistently marvels at workmanship of the beds, cabinets, and bureaus lined up for sale in the literally open market. What happens when it rains? I wonder aloud. She doesn’t have an answer. Then of course, there are the post-psychedelic tap-taps and remarkably, even a few painted portraits, either commissioned or inspired by, the latest flock of presidential candidates.

In terms of craftsmanship, Barbancourt Rhum, a company that pretty much defines Haiti, is as good is it gets. Haitian kids like me grow up looking at that distinctive gold-capped brown bottle with the beige label long before we’re allowed to drink. It shows  up in cases as part of everyone’s souvenir loot from home; it, along with fried pork griot, is the centerpiece of any party; and at year’s end, it’s incorporated into the thick, sweet Christmas cremas, which itself is poured back into the recycled bottle. So getting a chance to visit the Barbancourt distillery yesterday, capped off with a “rum buffet” at high noon, was a singular treat.

From there, we headed to the Musée Canne à Sucre in Tabarre, a restored sugar plantation, whose indoor dining room pays tribute to another of Haiti’s passions, music. The walls are lined with portraits of all the greats, while outside, a live band played traditional folk songs. Finally, because things like this happen in Haiti, we were all asked to listen to and judge, American Idol style, a young singer looking for a job.  She, of course, was wonderful.

Our last stop was the recycled metal drum artists’ collective in Noailles, Croix des Bouquets. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

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