Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 26th 2015 Contents B5
Thursday, November 26, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
In our swiftly fragmenting world where the homo-
geneity of hegemony is sliced and shattered daily,
we are all prospective refugees. Monoliths we have
lived with for centuries unaccountably shift, like
Mount Everest did a few months back, or Paris only
days ago. Cities slip beneath the waves, like Port
Royal, Jamaica did in 1692, or are buried beneath
rubble, like Port-au-Prince in 2010. Could that con-
temporary Haitian prophet, the prolific
artist/writer/actor Frankétienne, be right when he
states that the only order there is, is to be found in
Mwen pa sav (dunno)---but this certainly seems to
be the case in our cozy little republic, which, just as
it did with the Ebola pandemic, is now going tizik
over Isis. Rest assured citizens, just as we were fully
prepared for Ebola, so we are ready for the returning
jihadists. Security arrangements at last week s football
match against America were so tight that several
hundred fans were able to push their way into the
fully locked-down national stadium. Who knows if
they had tickets? Who cares? Christmas is coming
and after that is Carnival and as we all know Chinimad
As the lives of millions are devastated or simply
terminated, so far at least at the kind of long distance
which means these losses do not radically impinge
on our consciousness, we still good to go. But our
present good fortune is merely paper thin and as our
beloved cynic, VS Nightfall pointed out some while
back---the world is what it is: chaos or the kind of
order inflicted with an AK47, if you re lucky, or old
school sword if you re not.
However chaotic the world scene appears right
now, there s no need to reach for the gramoxone.
We ve just celebrated one of festival of lights and
another is merely shopping weeks away. Not all
destruction is permanent and while many will question
the efficacy of art and the arts in general to realign
our axis, a regional event begins tomorrow which
demonstrates humanity s phoenix-like capabilities.
From November 27 through to December 15, the
fourth Ghetto Biennale will take place in the Port-
au-Prince downtown slum of Grand Rue in Haiti.
Inaugurated in December 2009 shortly before the
devastating earthquake of the following January, the
Ghetto Biennale was conceptualised by Haitian artist
Andre Eugene and British photographer/curator/artist
Leah Gordon, after a conversation about the problems
Haitian artists encountered when applying for travel
visas to attend those global biennales where the crème
de la crème of the art world disports itself, amid
glamour, glitz and luxury.
Their thinking went: "If the art and artists could
not be taken out of the slums, then other art and
artists would be taken into the slums, and networks
established regardless of visa politics." The Grand
Rue district is home to Atis Rezistans, a collective of
Haitian sculptors who have become famous for creating
art from the detritus surrounding them.
The Ghetto Biennale brings two very different
worlds and their expectations together and by working
alongside one another, the event challenges many
preconceptions about art, poverty, privilege and access.
For most Haitian (and definitely Grand Rue) artists,
their art is about survival and selling what they make
is crucial. They would love to be able to attend and
participate in the same biennales which consolidate
global art power. Visiting artists have to get their
heads around the "ghetto" with its associations of
poverty, inequality and crime---not the usual location
for an art exhibition. Visiting artists fund themselves
and commit to creating from the surrounding envi-
ronment, bringing no materials with them.
The fourth Ghetto Biennale will highlight three
aspects of Haitian culture central to the
Revolution/War of Independence 1791-1804: Vodou
religion, Kreyol language and the lakou system of
land ownership, all of which constitute a counter-
narrative to the plantation system the revolution
helped deconstruct. Atis Rezistans and the Ghetto
Biennale are potent reminders that man-made or
natural destruction is not final; that our deeply divided
world (economic, political or religious) is not beyond
salvaging and that "ars longa vita brevis"---art is
enduring while life is short.
Dreaming to live
Yo pati pou chache lavi
Men yo pimpe yo tounen sou po ze.
Akwak sa, yo kontinye pran kanntè
pou yo akoste kò yo.
Yo vwayaje sou kannòt ki kole ak
yo pran vòl sou zel èg
e gen kèk ki kache anndan vant labalèn
pou chape mak dan bèt fewòs.
(They came in search of hope / But
were sent back on egg shells. / Yet,
they kept coming / to anchor their
They navigate on paper boats, / they
fly on eagles wings / and some hide
inside bellies of whales / to escape
teeth marks of archaic beasts.
---Refugee: Patrick Sylvain)
Links Archive November 25th 2015 November 27th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page