Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Glimpse of Haiti . . . Looking Back . . .

For over a week now I've been watching the news with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know everyone is overdosed with this heartwrenching story as it unfolds, one desperate chapter after another. But I cannot turn away; I need to remember, to remember a Haiti that was kind to me for a short visit there some years ago. Very kind. So please bear with me . . . though I am far away, and only have the slimmest of slim connections with Haiti, this is the only way I can show solidarity with a people in the grips of a nightmare. Other than donating to relief efforts, which I did.
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The below portrait is of a gentleman named Maquel Jean-Baptiste. He was renting a room from the people we stayed with near Petionville, and plays, or did at the time anyway, guitar for a group called Boukman Eksperyans. Do check them out on YouTube, they are well known. Maquel, I know it's been a while, but I'm hoping you are ok. I will never forget the days we played guitars together. I remember how you laughed when I said I thought you might be the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix . . . and I meant it . . . I really hope you are alright, man.
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On the beach, in Jacmel . . .
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One of the most striking art forms practiced in Haiti is that of cut iron work, like the below piece, which I believe was done by a sculptor named Gabriel Bien-Aimé. On his truck he had painted "l' Ange Gabriel", or the angel Gabriel . . . We visited his studio, I will post some pictures of him and more of his art soon . . .
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This portrait is of Julian and his wife. Julian worked for the people we stayed with. One day I hiked three hours down a river valley with him, he wanted to show me where he lived, and introduce me to his wife.
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Julian and family. . . please be safe, please be well . . . I have not forgotten your home, how you put your chair out in front of your "case" for me to sit on after that long walk . . .
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And down in that river valley, people were washing clothes in basins, just as they are in the streets of Port au Prince today . . .
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The billboard at right here was proclaiming the creation of a childrens' rights agreement. In Haitian creole "Timoun" means children. I loved that word . . . Wi pou dwa timoun yo !
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27 comments:

Susan said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. Those travel memories stick with a person. Nice that you remember names so well. I hope they are all fine today.

Patricia said...

You have expressed your great love of Haiti before so I know that this time is difficult for you. Posting your images and impressions is a good thing for us all. You make it real.

Soon, too soon, people will begin to forget about the struggle of Haiti.

Thank you for all of your memories. The sculpture of the Angel Gabriel is hauntingly beautiful.

English Rider said...

It would be a callous soul who was not moved by the plight of those who had so little to begin with and now that has been ripped from them.

TechnoBabe said...

Did I tell you my hubby plays guitar? Yeah. And he is really good. So for sure we will check out the musicians on You Tube. You have such a kind heart for peoples misfortune and pain.

Steve said...

If only all our thoughts could put everything right again...

Adam said...

You help Owen by showing these people in a warm, friendly manner and not just as victims or criminals which is about all we ever get from the media.

Peter said...

Wonderful and touching reading; one feels what you feel!

The Sagittarian said...

"Where were you when I needed you, where were you when wanted you..." where is th help - full stop.
Amazing whenyout hink of the whole thing. Where has the whole world been for the pasy (I dunno) 15 years???

Roxana said...

my heart aches.

Elizabeth Seaver said...

Thanks for this beautiful reflection in words and pictures.

French Fancy said...

You do remember details about people very well. I watched a documentary this week about all the amputations that have taken place there without sufficient anaesthetic - I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing.

Roxana said...

a very important ethical question to ponder (a friend of mine wrote this on her blog):

http://acherata.blogspot.com/2010/01/ethics.html#comments

distracted by shiny objects said...

Love these photos. Thank you.

Buskitten said...

Hi Owen,
I stopped by for a catch-up and to wish you a Happy New Year. Your pictures are beautiful, and I do hope your friends are safe and well. This is a terrible thing to have happened; your photographs portray such kind and gentle people.
Thank you for the kind words of encouragement on my blog. Much Love xxx

Catherine said...

I have the tv screen on watching the news from Haiti...whilst looking at your tribute photos...what a terrible contrast...thanks for your beautiful shots..

Christine Robinson said...

I can relate, Owen. I felt similarly when Hurricane Katrina ravaged so many of the placed where i'd grown up. It was a relief to learn back then that the death toll wasn't greater than it was, but the suffering was extensive. On one hand I think this is no comparison to Haiti; so much loss of life. On the other, trauma is trauma and those left to deal with it are changed and damaged forever. How tragic and confusing to any philosophical mind. So much in life doesn't add up or make sense.

I'm sorry for the friends you made during your stay, and those you never met. And I'm sorry for the anguish you feel over all of this, Owen. Be well and at peace. Recovery happens as it should, though we cannot understand the process.

much love and support,
christine

Deborah said...

You are a tender witness, Owen. I hope you might some day find out if your friends are all right.

jeff said...

Merci de nous parler d'Haïti à travers tes voyages et tes souvenirs !...
Dire que des milliers de gens vivent la tragédie, là, maintenant, dans leur quotdien...
C'est quand même terrible, dur, inégal cette vie ! Non ?...

A bientôt l'ami...:)
Prend soin de toi !...

Laurie said...

Terrible times, Owen, Terrible times!

Laurie

K'line Bloom said...

Nous sommes peu de choses et seulement de passage sur cette terre.
Nous autres qui avons encore la chance de pouvoir vivre dans l'abondance, dans une certaine tranquillité et le confort, réjouissons-nous et profitons de chaque instant de bonheur. Et faisons quelque chose pour notre prochain.
Aujourd'hui Haïti, demain la désolation sonnera peut-être un peu plus près de notre porte...

Owen said...

Susan, I sure hope so...

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Hi Patricia, although I hope not, I fear you may be right, that people will begin to forget. Attention spans are short these days, people are busy. That's why I wanted to come back to this again, and no doubt will again in coming weeks, months. I'm glad you enjoyed the cut iron from Gabriel Bien-Aimé, he's wonderful...

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Dear English, indeed, indeed, what you said brought to mind the title of an album I saw an article about recently, done by an American hobo musician : "I Started Out With Nothing, and Still Have Most of it Left"...

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TechnoB., sure hope you and your husband enjoyed a little Haitian music, it's a change from other styles of music more widely known in the US and Europe... I love the rhythms...

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Hi Steve, for sure... I've been thinking real hard in that sense... the equivalent I guess of what some folks might call "praying"... but there's no way to tell if it's helping.

Owen said...

Hi Adam, anything that can be done to present a positive image of Haiti is worthwhile I think, you are so right, it is a country and a people that have gotten alot of bad press over the years, but there are alot of good things and good people there too, the sculpture carved into the large rock in the last photo testifies to their art...

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Peter, thanks... I'm happy if this has touched you...

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Dear Saj, good question, although there have been some aid and relief efforts, imho what had been accomplished prior to the earthquake over the past decades has been far too little. They've been pretty much left to fend for themselves, apart from the diaspora of emmigrants who send money back from other countries. I hope there will be a flood of international aid that will be able to accomplish some good there...

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Ah Roxana, a balm then for the heart is needed... but I'm not sure what is the best remedy for an aching heart... I'm suffering those symptoms also...

And thanks so much for the link to your friend's blog, I did go and read... very compelling discussion there... And at least the gesture was made, no matter the amount. Better than not giving at all I think...

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Elizabeth... you are very welcome...

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Dear FF, no end of horror stories in sight, the size of the calamity is beyond comprehension...

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Distracted by... you are welcome, it is the least I can do to hold out a hand... from afar...

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Liz, Thanks so much for this kind message, and I can't wait to see what happens with your book ! That's thrilling... I'll be among the first customers when it comes out ! (and if anyone reading this by chance has not been over to Liz Buskitten's blog yet, just click on the link Buskitten above here, and go say hi to Tiddles and the Stepford Rabbits... and to Liz !)

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Catherine, you are so very welcome, and it is good to be able to see some other facets of Haiti I think than only what has been in the news of late. I would so love to go back there one day...

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Hi Christine, Many thanks for these wise words. There have been so many stories of late with epic proportions, it is getting hard to assimilate each new trauma causing disaster. Especially hard when it hits close to home in one way or another, affecting people we know...

Owen said...

Hi Deborah, I don't know how possible it will be, but I'd love to go back someday when all this calms down a bit and try to find some of them... I hope time will heal these wounds...

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Salut Jeff...

Oui, plus que dur, totalement inégal ce bas monde, plein de choses qui clochent... et souvent les plus démunis qui trinquent.

Merci pour ce petit mot... j'essaie de prendre soin de moi, mais ce n'est pas facile sous cette pluie froid et gris qui dure depuis des jours maintenant... vivement le printemps... mais bon, au moins, on a un toit, un lit, un repas, et un sol qui ne tremble pas tous les jours... même les réplique sont terrifiantes...

A très bientôt...

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Hey Laurie, good to see you out and about ! Totally terrible times... I just hope people will soon at least have food and water and some sort of shelter... stability is going to be a long time returning...

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Chère K'line,
Merci bcp pour ce petit mot, plein de sagesse et compassion... oui, on ne sait jamais quand la calamité pourrait frapper... donc, soyons contents de ce que nous avons, et qui nous avons autour de nous... on a de la chance...
Bonne soirée K'line !

la Bell's said...

Julien, Maquel, Bien Aimé et les autres, merci de les faire revenir chez nous... que de souvenirs révéillés par tes photos. Sont-ils toujours de ce monde ? on ne le saura jamais, je pense aussi à Frantz Ewald, le peintre qui habitait à la Boule 10. Te souviens-tu ? As-tu une photo de lui ? et aussi à Dominique, enfant de la rue qui a appris à lire en quelques semaines et avait pu rentrer à l'école pour la 1ère fois à 11 ans...
Anpil mesi et kembe fem (merci bcp et tient bon)

Owen said...

Bonjour la Bell's...
Et oui, que de bon souvenirs... je crains de ne pas avoir une photo de Frantz, ni de Dominique. J'étais encore à mon vieux appareil reflex, pellicule noir et blanc... si j'avais eu le numérique que j'ai maintenant, j'aurais fais des milliers de photos là bas, c'est trop bête... va falloir y retourner, c'est tout... mais peut-être pas toute de suite... la Grenouille t'a dit que nous allons partir un peu là?

J'espère que tout va bien au Liban, et oui, à toi aussi, anpil mesi, un grand pil mesi, et kembe fem, kembe fem, pou dwa timoun, yo ! Ca fait plaisir quand tu passes !

Nadege said...

What great photos and beautiful people. There was a photo in the LA Times of people pushing a "bwett" with scrap metal in it. I thought it was the Haitian pronounciation for "brouette". Timoun might be short for "p'tit mome" (little kid). What a fascinating place. I don't know if you will be able to open this http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01222010/watch3.html but it is worth watching. There is a beautiful poem read at the end.

ALeks said...

Hi Owen,thank you again on these wonderful,personal and humane visuals and writings,I find you actually a brilliant journalist (and hope you work as one) at least I would love to see more journalists today doing their job as you do,but you are one great artist with unique talent thats for sure!Have a beautiful day,peace and love to all!
Aleksandra