“Not long ago surfing was completely alien to Kabic Beach. Ken Pierce, a doctor from Hawaii, first traveled to Haiti a few weeks after the 2010 earthquake as a disaster response physician. He later served as director at an orphanage in Cyvadier, near Jacmel. When he came to the coast, Pierce, who has surfed since his teens and had brought a board with him from his home in Kauai, asked around and nobody could recall seeing anyone surfing the local breaks. ‘The first time I paddled out at a spot near Kabic—now known as Pierce Point—the rocks were lined with kids and adults who were enthusiastically cheering for me,’ he says. ‘When I paddled in, I asked if they would like to learn how to surf. The response was unanimous.’ The next time Pierce went home, he brought back several boards and started teaching local kids.”
“PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — In 2011, for the second Ghetto Biennale, artist Jason Metcalf hired a Haitian translator to translate the chapter on creolization from Nicholas Bourriaud’s The Radicant into Creole and distributed it throughout Port-au-Prince, the location of the biennale. When I read about that, after the fact, I became interested in visiting. Then I read that Bill Drummond, of 1980s avant-garde pop group The KLF, was involved in the Ghetto Biennales of 2009 and 2011, and I knew I was definitely going in 2013.”
The Christmas before last, I went back to see the place where I was born: Jacmel, Haiti. I left Haiti when I was three years old. By then, Haiti was entangled in a full-fledged coup d’etat. I have spent the majority of my life in the United States, as an immigrant, as a member of the Haitian diaspora, as a Haitian-American, as a not-quite American. In the visits I have made back to Haiti since, to my grandparents’ home in Les Cayes, I have felt happy to be back, but also have felt just as much like an immigrant in Haiti and I do in the States. However, when I finally visited Jacmel for the first time since my birth, I felt like I’d truthfully returned home.
In many ways, Jacmel is the art-center of Haiti. There are artists in the streets, artists in the buildings, artists everywhere. Within ten minutes of our arrival, a group of papier-mache artists invited us into their studio to see their work and process. I mentioned a little bit about my own art practice, too, though I felt intimidated! We visited an art school and spoke with the founder of the school about the program. We also met another man named Badio who invited us into his gallery and showed us some of his beautiful assemblage pieces. I felt more at home in Jacmel than I had anywhere else in Haiti.
This is why I was incredibly excited to learn about Jakmel Ekspresyon, a community art center in Jacmel. Though I didn’t get to visit JE when I was in Jacmel, it makes total sense to me that this kind of effort at communal art-making would exist there. Their mission statement reads, “The Jakmel Ekspresyon Arts Center is an organization that provides local artists with space and facilities to create and explore different mediums of artistic expression. The Center offers membership to local artists and workshops to the public. The workshops are lead by local and international artists.”
I was able to connect with Susan Frame, the co-director of JE, about the project:
1. How did this Jakmel Ekspresyon start?
Susan also spoke to me about the difficulty of raising rent, seeing as Jakmel Ekspresyon is able to run only as a result of helpful personal donations. Please take a brief moment to donate to this wonderful project!