To survive in Haiti, one must possess an untold capacity for holding great sorrow and immense joy – often at the exact same time. You see, in Haiti, emotions are raw, cut to the bone, an arrow to the heart. One cannot remain unmoved.
Haitian art, too – holds the darkness and the light of Haiti. I love all of it – the colors, the stories, the vaudou spirits, the landscapes. There is one painting, however, that stands out: The January 12 earthquake painting by Maxan Jean Louis.
Never before has a work of art evoked such strong emotions in my soul. Deep sadness, joy, anger, solidarity, and disbelief. Maxan’s earthquake painting is overwhelming in every sense of the word.
The painting depicts the immediate aftermath of the earthquake – the Canadian Embassy is in the foreground, a collapsed Palais National is towards the back. Haitians have their arms up in anger – are they shaking their fists at God, who seems to have once again abandoned Haiti? The Cathedral has crumbled. A stream of Haitians carry suitcases in the foreground – presumably as they head to the tent camps, carrying what they could salvage from their lives. Telephone poles break in two – bodies fill the street. A journalist films the events. Homes break and crack and tumble.
As overpowering as the earthquake painting seems, it is taken to a whole other level when one realizes that this scene happened all over Haiti – not just in mid-Delmas as the painting depicts – but in Jacmel, Leogane, St. Martin, Martissant, Cite Soleil, Petionville, Pacot and in so many other areas. Instead of 6 angels pulling people from the rubble with ropes, in reality there were thousands pulling survivors from the ruins. Instead of nine little pink spirits ascending towards heaven, in reality, there were 230,000.
To look at this painting, just like to live in Haiti, one must hold a grand capacity for the infinite polarities of Haiti.
The Death and the Resurrection.
The Angels saving and the Heavens taking.
Apocalypse and the Dawn.
The Loneliness and the Overwhelming togetherness.
The Separation and the Unification.
The Silence and the Drumming.
The Good spirits and the Evil ones.
Belief and Unbelief.
Destruction and Creation.
Chronos and Kairos.
Heaven and Hell.
The Alpha and the Omega.
It is all here. In one breath. Haiti.