My experience in Haiti was a pivotal moment for me. It was the first time I had visited a country beyond anything first world. I was, at once, filled with compassion, anger and frustration at what looked like a community of people who were forced to live in conditions that I took for granted. Basic tasks like the ability to read at night were a struggle. When I first came upon groups of kids gathered under street lamps at 9pm I was confused. “Why are they choosing to study by the side of the road?” I later came to understand that their homes did not have electricity.
I was in Haiti filming a documentary on Haitian artists. My eight days began in Port Au Prance and I traveled exclusively in the back of a large pickup truck. These covered trucks were utilized as taxi’s in Haiti and included two benches on either side with the rest used as standing room, including the bumpers outside the cab. My host had secured this private taxi to shepard me throughout the myriad of dirt roads, impossible hills, alleys, rock strewn roadways to get to the various interviews I was to record. Along the way, amidst the incomparable clouds of dust that would leave a thick film on my skin and gear, I watched, breathed, and burned in my mind, images of Haiti and its people through the thin slits in the side rails of this taxi. Every so often someone would catch my eyes through these narrow slats and our eyes would lock. Others, mostly children, would tug on their mothers skirt and yell “Blanche”. It was all surreal. I traveled in the back of this cab for 8 days and this became the lens through which I experienced Haiti.
Part of my journey included a trip to Cap-Haïtien to visit The Citadelle Laferrière, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not knowing what to expect, the Citadelle Laferrière became the paradox. This majestic, inconceivable monument to engineering prowess, persistence and resilience was a beacon for the Haitian desire for freedom. The contrast of that experience, and my journey in the taxi, needed documenting. The people, the culture and their history, were at once contradictory. Haitians are a proud people with a rich history. There current conditions do not represent this history and time is necessary to understand the nuance of the people and the circumstance that has brought the country to where it is.
My hope is that this exhibition will shine a light on that history and inspire people to delve further into the Haitian diaspora. With understanding, compassion and desire we can celebrate Haitians for having created among the greatest artistic achievements in the world.