In the meanwhile, they've already posted a Flickr set of my photographs from the trip, along with the almost oppressive suggestion that you visit this very same blog to "see more about the Biennale." Why oppressive? In addition to working on the piece for The World, I spent much of the last ten days writing stories about the event for the Suddeutsche Zeitung, the Times of London, the Miami Herald and the BBC's From our own Correspondent. Keeping all of these stories fresh and different has been enough of a challenge without more blogging on top of it.
Nonetheless, for those of you visiting from The World's link, antarcticiana refuses to disappoint, so here are a few more images from my recent trip to Haiti, where I was hanging out on the Grand Rue with a group of sculptors who make amazing vodou-assemblage art out of the discarded refuse of western civilization.
before. The Gedes manifest a beguiling combination of sexuality and death, which Eugene explained to me in terms of a yin-yang duality he says permeates vodou. The Baron's voracious sexual appetite, he said, represents life, through procreation; but wherever life is present, so too is its opposite, death. The head of this sculpture is an actual human skull. Eugene says these occasionally wash out of the cemetery up the hill, appearing in the streets during violent storms, but they are so prevalent in the work of the Grand Rue artists that something more than hurricanes must be at work. I suspect locals now collect them and pass them along for a finder's fee.
the Tracy Kidder biography Mountains Beyond Mountains. Farmer explained Haiti as "9,000,000 Africans kidnapped and dumped in the middle of the Caribbean with no way to get home." In the traditions of vodou and even in iconography such as that on this Tap-tap, which reads simply "Black Africa," that heritage is still very much alive, evident and celebrated. A visitor arriving to Haiti after being blindfolded and put on a plane could easily imagine that they had been transported to Senegal or Côte D'Ivoire, rather than to one of the Antilles.
The Comedians. I followed the sound to an outdoor basketball court down the road, where these musicians were practicing for carnival. The ensemble included only drums, an array of horns, and voices. Robert Peterson, the sound artist mentioned in the radio piece I did for PRI's "The World," joined me. Originally from Louisiana, he was bowled over by the similarity between this Haitian carnival music and the brass bands of New Orleans. Before the Haitian revolution and the Louisiana purchase, Port-au-Prince and New Orleans were of course sister cities in the French colonial enterprise.
On another occasion, sitting on the veranda, we heard more passing musicians. After just the very first few notes, Robert blurted out "that's funeral music." He told me that before coming to the Ghetto Biennale the farthest he had been from home was a trip to the Canadian side of the Niagara falls, but he took to Haiti immediately, wandering about with his digital recorder in a kind of exploratory ecstasy.
In the age of jet-travel and US hegemony the old trade routes that linked the great ports of the Caribbean basin have faded in our collective memory. Uncovering evidence of them is always exciting.