After the quake, darkness for Haiti’s painters

Clement Sabourin, writing for Caribbean Net News, looks at the impact the January earthquake has had on Raymond Beauduy, a painter who lost everything in the January 12 quake. The article brings to life the plight of artists like Beauduy, while pointing to the possible impact the darker subjects addressed by Haitian paintings after the earthquake could have on sales. We are reproducing their post here, with a link to the full text below.

Unlike some of Haiti’s painters, it took Raymond Beauduy two months to return to work after January’s quake. He needed to time to think about what had happened, and he needed a roof over his head. Beauduy, who like many in Haiti’s art scene paints in the Naive style, using bright colors and seemingly simplistic representations, had in the past been inspired by his nation’s pastoral scenes. The countryside, largely unaffected by the January 12 quake, is still there, but his paintings now tackle the scenes left behind by the 7.0-magnitude tremblor in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. The 50-year-old’s canvases feature ruined homes and bodies strewn throughout the streets. They are executed in sad, gray tones.

And absent from his recent work is Simbi, the Voodoo watergoddess who Beauduy says he encountered on a beach near Jacmel when he was just 14. The goddess, with a questioning smile, used to be a common theme in his paintings. “The spirits were absent on the day” of the quake, said Beauduy, who sports a graying beard.

Like many here, Beauduy lost everything in the quake, which killed up to 300,000 people, according to the UN, and left 1.2 million homeless. One hundred days after the tragedy, he has a new workspace, lent to him by a friend, but he is still living in a tent, and the return to painting has not been easy. “It hurts, as a Haitian and as a painter… to try to explain all that has happened,” he said in a mixture of French and Haitian Creole. “It’s difficult to paint because you have to properly represent what everybody saw, all that the Haitian people have suffered, everything that has devastated us.”

“It has changed me completely,” he added, saying he had begun to think about things differently. “Everyone has to restart their lives, rebuild Haiti and we must keep hope alive.”

On roadsides and in galleries in Petionville, located in the hills overlooking much of Port-au-Prince, Haitian painters have begun to display their take on the devastation wrought by the Haitian quake. Some have continued to use the bright colors and unadorned techniques of the Naive style, but their subjects are different now. Their paintings depict the crumbled National Palace, which had been a symbol of the country’s independence; the distribution of sacks of rice by soldiers; the encampments of “igloo” tents, surrounded by wounded Haitians and amputees. Others have abandoned the artistic style most pervasive among Haiti’s painters, opening themselves to darker representations.

The first painting purchased by the Monnin Gallery in Petionville since the quake is wracked with anguish. From the green background of the canvas, thousands of eyes — those of horses, birds and humans — look out. In the center of the square painting, a forest of brown hands reach out from the darkness of ruins towards the sky. “Haiti will (be) reborn,” reads a sign tucked into one of the hands. “After the earthquake, all the painters came to see us,” said Gael Monnin, director of the gallery. “They said ‘We have lost everything, we’re counting on you.’ It was a real challenge.”

The gallery advanced artists money and gave them paint, and several thousands of dollars have been sent from abroad by Haitian art enthusiasts. That money will help open an “artists’ village,” providing both home and studio for some 60 painters to work at the gallery, Monnin said.

But other art sellers remain pessimistic, looking at the dark turn painters have taken since the tragedy. “They won’t sell,” Pierre-Jacques Cedoux said. “It’s so sad, full of dead people. Who wants to hang that in their house?”

For the original post go to http://www.caribbeannetnews.com/news-22801–2-2–.html

Images from a post on post-quake paintings we recommend at http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=54260

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