Haitian Studies Association

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Haitian Art: Koneksyon, Rezistans, Istwa (Oct. 5, 2020)

A Haitian Studies Association Working Group

Live Zoom Conversations will take place on Monday, October 5, 2020 at 10 am and 2 pm (ET, i.e. NYC)

as part of the H.S.A. 2020 Conference.

Battle of Vertières II, 1803. By Ulrick Jean-Pierre (1995)

This session is free to the public (click here to register) and all current H.S.A. members (you may become a member here). This event will also be broadcast live in our Facebook page and YouTube  channel. 

View Livestream Videos

Monday, October 5, 2020 at 10 am (ET, i.e. NYC) 

“IN ALL MY DREAMS | Haiti, History, and the Visual Art of Storytelling,” related to the In All My Dreams book club and In All My Dreams: A Visual Installation, which engages René Depestre’s novel, with Laurent Dubois, Kaiama L. Glover, Nathalie Jolivert, Tessa Mars, and Mafalda Mondestin.

Monday, October 5, 2020 at 2 pm (ET, i.e. NYC) 

“Thinking Haitian Art, in and with the Caribbean,” Anthony Bogues, Erica Moiah James, Jerry Philogène, Petrouchka L. Moïse, Wayne Modest, moderated by Cécile Accilien and Darlène Dubuisson.

Nota bene: Most up-to-date bios will be online by October 3, 2020.


Pre-watch: As part of the generous platform that the Haitian Studies Association has created for our working session on Haitian visual art, we are recording interviews between Carlo Célius, Cécile Accilien, and Anthony Bogues with artists and specialists of Haitian art.

[Youtube] Cécile Accilien and Carlo A. Célius, in conversation: see breakdown of there talk below

Also, coming soon to our website (to be updated by October 3, 2020), is notably a conversation between Ulrick Jean-Pierre and Carlo Célius, as well as hopefully a few more recorded conversations.

For updates to our HSA visual arts initiative and the bios of speakers, see: https://www.istwart.com/ (to be fully online by October 3, 2020).


Concept & Objectives of Haitian Art: Koneksyon, Rezistans, Istwa

With the extremely generous and catalyzing platform offered to us by the Haitian Studies Association, the present project offers first and foremost a call to us as scholars, pedagogues, and publishers to be ever rigorous and conscientious  about the ways in which we engage theory, in this case, theory and historical scholarship on and about Haitian visual arts. How might we more rigorously create new mechanisms by which to better facilitate more constant dialogue in regard to the ways in which we speak, think, and write alongside Haitian artists and scholars, especially those writing in Haitian Kreyòl and French? Too often we engage primarily with scholars writing notably in English. However, the problem is not only one of translating these works into English, but as art historian Carlo Célius so cogently explains, it is also about circulation: much of the work, such as Claudine and Paul Corbanese’s recent edited translation from French into English of Haitian art historian Michel Philippe Lerebours’s monumental work, published in Haiti, does not circulate as well as scholarship published in North American publishing houses (see below). This project also has as its goal to bring scholars who think with and from ‘the Caribbean’ to reflect on Haitian art with scholars thinking with and from Haiti, Haiti as place, Haiti as dyaspora, and Haiti as “idea” (Millery Polyné). And here, as Cécile Accilien insists, we refuse to define Haitian art. The work of artists is to constantly rework our very definitions and notions of what Haitian art is, has been, and is becoming.

As such, this project’s concrete objectives for making thought and scholarship on Haitian visual arts more visible in the ‘Global Northern’ academes are:

  • Translate writing on Haitian visual arts into English, as well as present this work in such a way that it corresponds to the exigencies of many North American publishing houses;
  • Give more visibility to the translations that already exist;
  • Engage conversations between and among Haitian artists throughout the globe;
  • Engage conversations between and among Caribbean scholars from throughout the Caribbean with Haitian scholars and artists;
  • Gather some internet links that might offer further resources.

Haitian Art: Koneksyon, Rezistans, Istwa addresses the thorny and complex relationships between and among: the notions of aesthetics, art, ethnography, and the sacred. It argues that the art market and academia are ill equipped to think through these disciplinary categories. The ‘work’ then of our session is to explicitly present the scholarship of esteemed Haitian scholars to an anglophone context, so as to provide tools to think through (1) the relationship among these categories and (2) solidarity as a socio-philosophical concept that at times is in concert with revolt, but also offers its own praxis for coping with a neoliberal geopolitical order.

If you would like to be involved in any of the above, please email: alessandra.benedicty@gmail.com


Organized by:

Cécile Accilien, Curator and Project Director (caccilie@kennesaw.edu)

Carlo Avierl Célius (carlo.celius@cnrs.fr), Curator

Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken, Project Coordinator (alessandra.benedicty@gmail.com)

Juliette Huijgen, Web Designer

Special thanks to: Julio A Perez Centeno and Darlène Dubuisson; Claudine Michel, Régine Jackson, and Mark Schuller

[Youtube] Pre-watch: Cultural studies and gender studies scholar Cécile Accilien and art historian Carlo A. Célius, in conversation. 

As our goal is to provide information, we have not edited the conversations. Instead, we offer a table of contents to the subjects of discussions that take place in the interview. The interview is in French. 

Video Table of Contents:

0 minutes:

    • discussion of the various words for art and artists in Haitian Kreyòl
    • istwa art; atizay
    • Célius chooses not to use the term atizay and explains why; instead, Célius focuses on the practices and how the artists themselves use the terms, for example: atis-peintre.
    • Accilien: what is clear is that artists and their historians have a long history in Haitian letters

7 minutes:

    • Discussion of Haitian art history
    • Discussion of art historical work by Michel Philippe Lerebours (also again at 52 minutes into the conversation), author of Haïti et ses peintres: De 1804 à 1980: Souffrances et espoirs d’un peuple (1989), which later was republished in 2018, and also re-worked as Bref regard sur deux siècles de peinture haïtienne (1804-2004), the latter of which has been translated into English as a Brief Overview of Two Centuries of Haitian Painting (1804-2004) by Claudine and Paul Corbanese (Port-au-Prince: Éditions de l’Université d’État d’Haïti, 2018). See review by Peter Haffner, in the Journal of Haitian Studies (25.1, Spring 2019).
    • Cécile Accilien and Jessica Adams also translated an excerpt of Lerebours’s writing in Revolutionary Freedoms: A History of Survival, Strength (Caribbean Studies Press, 2006).

10 minutes:

    • Célius discusses the vocabulary he uses to refer to the Haitian visual arts as “création plastique” in the overall cadre of the visual, which focuses on the “production of images.”
    • Célius thinks through the relationship of the history of art as related to that of the beaux arts.
    • Accilien and Célius engage “la décolonisation de la pensée” as necessary to rethinking how the very disciplines we use condition how we define art.

32 minutes:

    • Célius discusses his personal professional trajectory as related to his scholarship and curation of the Haitian visual arts.

41 minutes:

    • Accilien discusses her personal professional trajectory as related to her scholarship and curation of the Haitian visual arts, with discussion of visualizing Haitian history through the paintings, for example of Ulrick Jean-Pierre.
    • minutes:
    • Célius rethinks the question of “art primitif” and “art naïf” in relationship to a more complex notion of the human as (re)imagined by a European E/e/nlightenment thinking, which Célius argues, needed (and needs) the notion of “primitive” to justify itself. His discussion is a summary and expansion on his article, “Haitian Art and Primitivism: Effects, Uses and Beyond,” translated into English by Kaiama L. Glover in The Haiti Exception (Liverpool University Press, 2016) and which will be issued in paperback in 2020.

1 hour 19 minutes:

    • Final words by Cécile Accilien