A graduate project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
For the degree of Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphasis in Cinema,
Television and Arts and Pan African Studies
Jack Constant
August 2014
The graduate project of Jack Constant is approved.
Professor Alexis Krasilovsky
Dr. Anthony Ratcliff
Professor Michael Hoggan, Chair
California State University, Northridge
Table of Contents
Jack Constant
Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphasis in Cinema, Television, Arts and
Pan African Studies
In January 2010, Port Au Prince, Haiti was stuck by an 8.0 magnitude earthquake that
killed over 200,000 people. This tragic event devastated Haiti but also highlighted the
resilience and strength of its people. Although much was lost for many in the earthquake,
artists utilized available resources to create art that was uplifting.
Haitian art is perceived to be naïve and primitive in the art world. The basis of my short
documentary project is to challenge such negative ideals and showcase the vast artistic
talents that Haiti has to offer. Over the past four years, I conducted video interviews of
Haitian artists, gallery owners, and academics both in Haiti and across the United States
and discovered the untold history and diversity of Haitian art. Through this short video
art documentary I will show the humanity of the Haitian culture and how the Haitian
Diaspora is using art to uplift their country and themselves.
The documentary Haiti Is A Nation of Artists portrays the humanity and rich culture of
Haiti. I shot the documentary from a subjective perspective interviewing gallery owners
in Petion-ville, and Haitian artists in the diaspora. The documentary displays how art can
transform chaos after the earthquake on January 12, 2010 that killed 200,000 people.
I am a Haitian-American filmmaker raised in California and I will portray Haiti from an
authentic point of view. The media portrays Haiti from an ethnographic perspective that
shows the negative image of Haiti being an impoverished nation. My intention as a
Haitian-American filmmaker is to display the resilience of Haitian artists coping with the
earthquake by creating art through the lens of re-imagining Haiti as a prosperous nation
rich in culture. The theme of the documentary is how art allows the artists a refuge to
escape the harsh realities of their society. Contemporary Haitian art is about an historical
awareness of black culture, and African culture transformation in the Americas that has
inspired generations of artist. Haitians create from an Afrocentric perspective in which
emphasis is placed on oral transmission of cultural, historical, and contemporary
information. In Haiti today, the atmosphere is filled with art, from the Haitian taxi called
a tap-tap where you see paintings drawn on the side of their cars to display favorite artists
like Jay Z or a painting of Jesus Christ.
I interviewed six artists describing their art and their contribution to an emerging art
scene in Haiti. The first artist I interviewed was Jean Claude, a brilliant Haitian painter in
the city of Port au Prince in the Downtown area at the Art Super Marché (Art
Supermarket). Jean Claude is a sixty-year-old artist with a slender build and dark
complexion. He described beautiful narratives about how art comes from his heart, and
he loves his paintings as if there were his mother and sister. I was compelled to purchase
two of his beautiful colored paintings. The first painting I purchased was an oil painting
that had one-hundred peasant women at the marketplace wearing beautiful yellow dresses
with colorful head wraps. The women are selling mangoes, rice, and avocados. The
second painting demonstrated Jean Claude ability to utilize bold colors in great detail of
six fisherman’s boats. The sky is illustrated with untraditional colors of red and yellow
giving the painting a dreamlike image of Haiti.
I also interviewed three young painters from Petion-ville, a middle class suburb in the
Haiti. Petion-ville suburb that is filled with Haitian art. There is an entire block dedicated
to paintings on both sides of a four-foot cement wall that has a fence over it. This Haitian
art atmosphere is rich in culture and different styles of painting; such a beautiful sight.
The first artist I interviewed in Petion-ville, Famille Louis, was trained at an art school
called Ecole Salessiens in Port au Prince, Haiti.
Famille Louis is a young man of 22 years old with an urban look, with a New York hat
and had paint all over his jeans and shirt. His painting called Reve D’Haiti (Dream of
Haiti). The painting shows a parrot on a branch with yellow and blue in a beautiful
tropical scene. The painting displays his imagination of Haiti being a prosperous nation.
Next, Louis Saurel was self-trained in painting by observing other painters. Louis is 25
years old with a noticeably relaxed disposition. His demonstrated painting is called
Pentre You Ti Limye Nan Fenus (The Little Light In The Darkness). The painting shows
three wooden houses on a cliff. Underneath the cliff is a calm river moving gracefully
down the stream. This artist is charming because of his personality, which is evidence in
the brilliant detail in his work. My third interview was Jacques Jr. whose painting was of
a beautiful woman with round features that symbolizes Haiti as a woman. Jacques Jr. is a
thirty two year old artist who is very serious about making a living as an artist through his
paintings. He was inspired to paint the picture because of the birth of his daughter.
Another artist I interviewed was Frantz Jacques Aliss (Gurido); a young contemporary
creative genius that recycles used car parts from America and transforms it into art. He
has his own sculpting studio in Grand Rue in the ghetto of Port Au Prince where he also
teaches young artists in his neighborhood about making art with raw materials that are
available in their environment. He mentors youth in his neighborhood in order to provide
the youth in the ghetto a creative outlet to inspire them to make positive contribution to
society. These students’ art projects have exhibited their contemporary sculptures of
recycling American used cars and making them an artistic expression in Switzerland.
Also Frantz Jacques has travelled to numerous countries overseas showcasing his art. He
is a very charismatic and he believes that defends Haitian art has bypassed European art
and Haitian art is not primitive.
I interviewed a total of four gallery owners Carine Fabius (Gallery Lakaye), Georges
Nader Jr. (Nader Museum), Gallerie Monnin (Gallery Monnin), Reynald Lally (BoubonLally Gallery). I interviewed Carine Fabius, who is art curator in West Hollywood,
California and who has a gallery called Gallerie Lakaye (Gallery House). It was during
my interview with her, I found the title to my feature documentary (Haiti Is A Nation of
Artists). Her gallery is a place where I saw the beauty of Haitian art and culture through
art. Carine Fabius is a tremendous cultural gem and art haven for the Haitian American
community and Haitian art lovers in Los Angeles.
I traveled to Haiti to interview Georges Nader Jr., where his Galerie D’Art Nader has the
largest collection of Haitian Art (twenty thousand), but three thousand were destroyed
during the earthquake. Some of the art is in a restoration process through the assistance of
the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Georges Nader established the gallery in 1966 and
became a renowned institution for Haitian Art. His son Georges Nader Jr. established the
first private Haitian art exhibit in the 1992. His Georges Nader Jr. went to the NYU art
school, then took over his family business in the 1990’s and expanded it into a private
gallery. I interviewed Pascale Monnin a female artist and her father Michael Monnin who
run the business of the gallery. Gallerie Monnin a family from Switzerland that has been
in existence since the 1947. This was an exciting time for Haiti because the art explosion
in the 1950’s by Centre D’ Art in Port Au Prince. The Gallerie Monnin specializes in
self-taught artist of Haiti.
My last interview in Haiti is with gallery owner, Reynald Lally, a former oil bureaucrat
who became an art dealer in 1992. Reynald Lally lived in London until he fell in love
with Haitian art by seeing beautiful art in a book. He ventured to Haiti where he fell in
love with its art. Boudon-Lally Gallerie is eceletic style of Haitian art with an emphasis
on the contemporary art scene. His gallery was also destroyed during the earthquake but
still displays his collection online and curator’s Haitian art exhibits. He has some
provocative things to say about how the Haitian Diaspora could support Haitian artists to
increase the value of the art form. Haitian art needs collectors to enhance Haitian art
value in the art world.
The main argument of this thesis is that art critics or art institutions should not classify
Haiti’s diverse art community as primitive because Haitian art has been in existence since
1804, because Haitians fought for their independence and won in 1804. Typically the
term primitive art”, intended to mean is artwork that is created by an artist without formal
training; simple or naïve in style. I disagree and contend that it is Eurocentric to think
Haitian art is primitive. Artists from Haiti have been making art for generations. Haitian
artists have developed an authentic style of art and should be acknowledge for their great
work, and craftsmanship. In the 1940’s, Dewitt Peters, an American art teacher from
California, started the Centre d’ Art an Art School in Port Au Prince, Haiti, which created
a new platform for Haitian artists to display their art form to the world. Haiti needs a new
identity. Instead of being viewed as the western hemisphere’s poorest nation. My
ambition as a filmmaker is to help Haiti be recognized as a nation that produces the
highest quality and most black art in the world because of its rich history and the
resourcefulness of its people.