BOHEMIAN HAITI

Bohemian Haiti - ORIGIN Magazine

We explored the Caribbean country through its history, cultural values, architectural treasures and modern art to paint a picture of the way Haitian treasures connect to the land

Words: Emily Georgieva

Photography: Chutter Snap

26 June 2019

Haiti is not a widely popular tourist destination, but because of its location and past, it truly is a magnificent place to see. Discovered by Christopher Columbus alongside the Dominican Republic and the islands of Hispaniola in 1942, its future hasn't been deprived from difficulties. From its independence to the nature disasters that have happened upon the land, the Caribbean country stands strong and proud despite all the obstacles that it had to overcome in the past and some that it is still fighting with. There are solid reasons for the locals to be proud of their land.

Haiti became the very first independent black republic in the world when it freed itself from the slavery of the French rule in 1804. This has been a struggle and a long-waited revolution that has forever marked the country in a cultural as well as historical aspect. The independence gave people a lot of confidence. Although very different now, Haiti wasn't always a quiet place.

Back in the 50's and 60's artists, bohemians, music and art lovers - everybody found a way to go to Haiti. It was a vivid place and attracted through its creativity. Art is very important as a reflection of the Caribbean country and it is still very important element of the Haitian culture. It is portrayed everywhere. From the walls on the streets covered in paint and patterns, following up to the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien - their national museum where historical artefacts are displayed for the public, creativity is Haiti's second nature.

Visual arts are represented on the streets and because they are liked so much, there is now a scene for this to be expanded. If you head to Grand Rue, you will see religiously inspired sculptures being created. It is described by some as a 'junkyard' in the very backyard of the Caribbean where art and imagination collide. Using metal, wood, plastic and other materials, trained sculptors would sometimes combine their efforts with some of the local children to create art. Those are projects, organised by organisations, but the sculptors often work alone to express their understanding of the Haitian culture and values. Some of the sculptures celebrate Iwa, in other words known as the Vodou spirits. Apart from spiritual aspects, the sculptures represent iconic visual illustration of political views, expression of sexuality and understandings of the reality. 

The painted public transport can take you to the markets - magical places of wanderlust. They are the heart and soul of Haiti. A lot of goods can be bought from the street stands and the market tents. From mangoes and other fruits, to herbs and vegetables, people even sell vodou objects, holding spiritual significance.

The architecture is another very melancholic thing about Haiti. It has previously been compared to New Orleans. This is understandable because of the French influence over the country. The houses are beautiful, build with arch doors, spacious balconies and high roofs. Space was valued and used in the architecture and this can be sensed when entering a Haitian house. Craftsmen fled to New Orleans back in the day when it was still heavily influenced by the French and very much controlled by them as well. This is where they gathered their knowledge and got inspired to build Haiti's architectural appearance. 

The French colonial architecture is not the only European aspect in Haiti. The culture represents a mixture of African and European influence. The French colonisation of Saint-Dominique added a French touch to the land and Haiti has evolved with it in its core.

A centre of art and cultural satisfaction, Haiti is complicated in its pure and unprecedented beauty, to which only very few pay attention. It is bohemian in the most revolutionary and sacred sense of the word. The land is tropical, reflecting the charm of the Caribbean loud and proudly.

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