[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] UNESCO announced that the Haitian-Dominican cultural movement Azueï—named after the lake that sits between the two countries—won the UNESCO Transcultura program call. As Haitian audiovisual producer Rachèle Magloire explains, “Through music, Visual art, graffiti, sculpture, literature, animation and other artistic expressions, Azueï aims to deconstruct the narrative of the conflict between the two countries and promote integration and peace.”
On 9 January 2021, a crowd of music lovers gathered at the Alliance Française de Jacmel. Jacmel is the cultural capital of Haiti and a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts. It is a vibrant urban space, so it was not unusual to see people enthusiastically awaiting Azueï’s performance, a group as exciting as the city itself.
Love, peace, unity
the place in harmony humanity
Love, we want peace, unity
One heart, one soul, one destiny
That’s what the crowd heard that night, and the lyrics, sung in English, Spanish and Creole, were like Azueï’s declaration of principles.
A cultural movement, for peace
Between Haiti and the Dominican Republic there is a lake named Azueï, where, in 2015, a movement of artists from both countries was born, seeking to do away with the narrative of conflict and hatred in political relations. The decision was no coincidence. They chose the name of the lake, of Taino origin, as a powerful symbol of common heritage, an indivisible body of water for which there is simply no border.
Azueï seeks to challenge the prevailing rhetoric and all sorts of prejudice, value the richness of the island’s heritage and the similarity that exists in the culture of both countries, while profiting from each other’s differences.
Music as a bridge-builder
As part of this movement, the music branch, created in May 2017, features the recording project ARTYBONITO, a volume that highlights the two countries’ traditional rhythms (Afro-Taíno) and explores a new style of music fusion with a Caribbean outreach.
As a result, Azueï was one of the 4 winning groups of the UNESCO Transcultura-WOMEX Call, launched in March 2021, which specifically aims to provide new opportunities for young Caribbean artists and music professionals to access the international market.
Thanks to this initiative, 58 applications from music professionals were funded by the Programme and the 4 winners have the opportunity to perform for producers, entrepreneurs and audiences, and exchange with artists from other parts of the world at WOMEX, the world’s largest international music fair, to be held in Porto, Portugal in October.
Azueï gladly welcomes this opportunity, in a context where the cultural sector has been hard hit by the effects of the pandemic, as UNESCO reports have shown.
UNESCO Transcultura, a programme implemented by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, funded by the European Union, and with the support of UNESCO offices in the region, seeks inter alia to create opportunities for young artists from 17 Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in order to enhance the role of culture in the sustainable development of their countries and boost their careers.