Posts Tagged ‘ann’pale’

Archive: An n’ Pale | Café Conversations: featuring Millery Polyné, an NYU professor and historian


On February 25th 2011, our An n’ Pale | Café Conversation featured scholar on Haitian history and culture, Millery Polyné. Polyné is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.  A graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Michigan (PhD History), Millery is the author of From Douglass to Duvalier: U.S. African Americans, Haiti and Pan Americanism, 1870-1964 (University Press of Florida, 2010).  A historian by training, Millery’s interests also focus on poetry and film.  He is a 2003 recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Poetry Fellowship and the author of Release: Race, Love, Jazz (2003).  Currently, he is working on two books, A Better Destiny: Human Rights, Caribbean Exiles and Dictatorship during the Cold War and Boston’s Burden: Race and Urban Memory in the Twentieth Century, in addition to a documentary film on François Duvalier titled Papa Doc.

Polyné read excerpts from “To Carry the Dance of the People Beyond” a chapter in his most recently published book, Douglass to Duvalier: U.S. African Americans, Haiti and Pan Americanism, 1870-1964. The discussion that followed delved into the the significance of vaudou in Haitian culture as both a religion and a cultural representation and how it influences Haitian folkloric dance. Our discussion hinged on the understanding of Haitian folkloric dance as a derivative of Haitian vaudou practice ceremonies and incited questions about the effects of the development of Haitian dance as a misrepresentation of authenticity when contrasted with its religious roots.

The discussion was followed by a lively and soulful performance by Obed Jean-Louis and the vibe was decidedly relaxed as Millery, Obed and guests chatted and mingled at the beautiful space provided for us by Renaissance Fine Arts.


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Archive: An n’ Pale | Café Conversations: ArtQuake


The portfolio exhibition “ArtQuake” at the Renaissance Fine Arts Gallery in Harlem was a great success. Our opening night reception was filled with gallery-goers and HCX members, and our monthly    An n’ Pale with artist Didier William, currently a Vassar professor, led a lively discussion on the search for cultural identity through art and the Haitian “hyphen” American.

Portfolios are still available for sale. Proceeds will benefit a cooperative in Haiti for artists and artisans, Kolektif Atis Jakmel.

Please contact Regine Roumain at for more details on purchasing portfolios.

Image Credit: Drop, Didier William

Art Quake, Didier William, and Revealment/Obliteration of Haitian (Hyphen) American

Excerpt from an essay by Kantara Souffrant

January 15, 2011

Haiti Cultural Exchange’s (HCX) goal is to provide continuing support and promotion of the intellectual and artistic works being produced within the Haitian dyaspora, particularly in New York City. Yet, HCX has also devoted much of its time and programming efforts to supporting rebuilding efforts in Haiti post-quake. The January 15th An’n Pale | Café Conversations with Didier William was a continuation of this work and it was also the final installment of a week-long exhibition and print portfolio project fundraiser entitled “Art Quake” (AQ), whose opening was held on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. The opening of AQ exhibited a contemporary print of each of the 10 internationally known artists featured in the project: Sherezade Garcia, Terry Boddie, Cathy Mooses, Juana Valdes, Klode Caroute, Marlie Decopain, Aurora de Armendi, Rejin Leys, Vladmir Cybil Charlier, and Didier William. The group of 10 prints ranged in medium and content yet what they shared was that each image had been created, reproduced 25 times, signed, and donated by their artists. The result was the creation of 25 print portfolios which gathered these 10 one-of-a-kind images. By the eve of the An’n Pale the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture had already purchased a portfolio for their collection. All proceeds from the sales would support a collective of 12 artists and artisans living and working in Jacmel, Haiti whose studios, equipment, and materials had been destroyed by the earthquake. Art Quake’s fundraising initiative was aggressive and impressive but putting philanthropic savvy of this project aside, it was also, according to co-organizer Reijin Leys, a bridge for sharing and collaborating with artists whom Leys and fellow artist and collaborator Vladmir Cybil Charlier had wanted to work with for a long time, “the earthquake [was the] push we needed to get something done.”

The same initiative holds true for the collective of artists; as William stated at the beginning of An’n Pale, “[It] was imperative that I be involved with [Art Quake].”

William’s An’n Pale was a mixture of personal narrative and reflection. We were taken back in time as he charted through a progression of his work, from his training in figure drawing and painting at Maryland Institute College of Art, to his MFA from Yale in Painting and Printmaking, to his current work which is neither fully figurative nor abstract, but a combination of reveal-ments and concealments. Indeed, the progression from the first slide to the last and most recent work, which Didier defines as a “process of obliteration” is striking. Where initial pieces seem rooted in a narrative and one can see Didier manifesting an idea into a form, the traditional sequence of concept-to-sketch-to-final product (which then births another project and then another), the “process of obliteration” is antithetical. The spectator is unable to gaze upon the artist’s work fully, or to know Didier’s process by merely observing the final image. Didier himself never truly knows how these pieces will emerge once he has created them.

His process entails a recess flooding technique that leaves some areas of the original image visible and others completely consumed in blackness, resulting in a sort of visual cacophony of images trying to burst through the obliteration.

William is convinced that the “process of obliteration [can] give birth to new stuff.” The process is not about destruction, but rebirth, finding order and beauty in perceived chaos. Although it would be easy (and neat) to lend this metaphor of beauty-in-chaos to the aftermath of the earthquake, I resist this urge. Instead, I wonder if we might see this “process of obliteration”, of seeing beauty through, with(in), and outside of chaos, as part of Didier’s own negotiations and articulations of Haitian (hyphen) Americanness; a poignant and artistically-rendered response to the question posed by his critiques and colleagues that both stirred and infuriated him in grad school: Where is the Haitian in your work? The question of Haiti and Didier’s Haitian authenticity as a painter has been both muse and shadow in Didier’s work. Born in Port-au-Prince, he moved to Miami with his family at the age of six and his travels because of school and work have left him with, “no concrete idea of what home is […when my] place is always shifting.” Though Didier’s artistic process has always been about a relationship between the materials and himself, Haitian heritage had always been culturally and contextually important to his work, realized in the complex relationship between oral traditions, memories (imagined, inherited, and real), and his family.

However to those critics who search for a Haitian “authenticity” in his work, Didier retorts “my work isn’t about Haiti, it’s about me [and] my process of displacement from Haiti.” In this respect, the interplay between reveal-ment/concealment, beauty/obliteration, figurative/abstract is reflective of the interplay and tension that constitutes Haitian (hyphen) Americanness, a formation which is always in the process of becoming, revealing itself as it creates itself; born out of shifting relations to territory, nationhood, history, and (inherited and imagined) memories. “Concealed” by this very token, Didier’s art is not only about the myriad ways that Haitian dyasporans critique and disrupt an imagined Haitian “authenticity” but the ways that, at least in the context of An’n Pale | Café Conversations and ArtQuake, they have burgeoned the “hyphen”; creating a space for flexibility, critique, and transgression vis-à-vis their art and their own articulations about what their work does in and for the world.

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Archive:André Juste on the mission of the AQ/ArtQuake Portfolio


A year ago the earth adjusted itself and in a fearful momentary growl reduced as many as 300,000 Haitians into unceremoniously buried flesh. Countless others would bear the trauma of this unspeakable horror in the disfigurement of their bodies and, both within and outside of Haiti, in the shock registered in their memory. If before this tragedy most Haitians had little difficulty in apprehending   “les invisibles” and, in their own way, the various forces in their universe, their post-earthquake consciousness must render their external world more than just merely visible.  For the mind, as a meaning-making entity, is forever attempting to refashion the various levels of reality that come within its purview.

The series of prints produced for  AQ/ART QUAKE, a fundraiser for Haitian artists and artisans directly impacted by the quake, suggests that, thematically, much of the world has been Haitianized, touched as it had already been by, among other memories, that of  1492 Hispaniola,  the 1791 anti-slavery revolution, and on and on with the political and socio-cultural struggle. Haiti’s copious offerings,  to  which its people themselves would like to add their own codas but must also pass on to others, add up to much more than a historical bequest. This is evident at least in the ten stylistically varied prints that ten mostly New York-based artists, who happen to be of Haitian, Cuban, Dominican, Nevisian and Mexican backgrounds, have contributed to the fund-raising effort. It would seem that the trials of the Haitian nation, and especially its relentless strides toward a liberation consciousness vis-à-vis both objective and subjective matters, is prefigured in various degrees in the selfless and empathetic contributions of these artists.

This is all the more significant in that even though the artists were not asked to address a particular theme, six of them, Didier William, Vladimir Cybil Charlier, Marlie Decopain, Kathy Mooses, Aurora De  Armendi, and Terry Boddie have contributed works wherein,   thematically, a fathoming of symbolic,  reshuffled reality is unfolding.  Klode Garoute, Rejin Leys and Scherezade Garcia in different ways structure this reality in dualistic terms and Juana Valdes, as if “without faith and words,” objectifies the locus of its identity within the self.

All in all, this serious, historically important collection of prints—contextually a rarity, indeed—intimates that the struggle and suffering of the Haitian nation is not just surmountable but pregnant with philosophical relevance and possibilities.

Andre Juste
December 2010

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Archive: An n’ Pale|Café Conversations with Val-INC November 18th


By Tequila Minsky from

Haiti Cultural Exchange held it’s roving cultural salon An n’ Pale | Cafe Conversations at Bubble Lounge in Manhattan, the same day as the anniversary of the Revolutionary Battle of Vertières, Nov. 18.

Regine Roumain, the organization’s director greeted those in attendance, remembering the battle of Vertières and the determination of Haitians in seeking freedom from oppression.

It was that date in 1803, Haitians, led by revolutionary heroes Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Pétion and Francois Capois, stormed the French-held fort of Vertières and caused Napoleon’s troops to abandon their stronghold and ultimately concede defeat – giving birth to the first Black republic in the western hemisphere.

She expressed hope “that we will have the fortitude to create the Haiti that all Haitians deserve.”

“For the past year, we have been faced with sadness and despair for our fellow Haitians, for our country, and the news from Haiti rarely gives us hope for progress, “ she said. “Personally, I vacillate between tremendous anger and deep sadness…”

She then quoted local teacher, artist, and poet, Michele Voltaire in answering the question she asks herself, what is she doing?

Michele Voltaire Marcelin has this to say: “Why do I write? As a way to defy darkness, misery and fear, violence, treacheries, delusions. And what goodness and wonder and rebellion I have to share is my art. In a world filled with headlines of disasters and fear, we need to turn to art for a place to nourish the heart and soul. So against darkness and in haste, I write to share my light.”

Haiti Cultural Exchange was founded to develop and present the cultural expressions of Haitian people and is endeavoring to provide platforms for artists to share their light. Their monthly salons offer a more intimate experience with the creative artist and spirit.

On Nov. 18, Val Jeanty better known as Val-INC shared her unique style of music. The artist conflates 200 years of music/sound traditions, incorporating musical traditions of her ancestors past with electronic sounds of the future. Her percussion background from growing up in Haiti is the foundation of her creations that she calls, as a new genre, “Afro Electronica.”

It might take the traditionalist a while to understand her style and wrap the mind around Val’s mixing of her percussion and turntable, electronic technologies and traditional source material creating Afro-Creole expressionisms. The ah-ha moment is in seeing how she brings the very distant past into the future.

Prior to her performance, a short documentary in-progress Sound Rite by filmmaker Ja’Tovia Gary was screened that helped give context to her work. Val answered questions from the audience following her performance.

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