In an earlier post (23/12/15) I mentioned an incident that occurred during the penultimate night of the Ghetto Biennale in which a young man from Lakou Cheri, Gerard Masalen, died after a fight with another man. I think it is important to write something here about the circumstances surrounding Gerard’s death within the broader context of GB IV, the political tensions in the streets of Port-au-Prince at the time of the biennale and the experiences of some of the participants and guests that have not been widely discussed or publicly shared. The main issue I’m trying to tease out here has to do with the complex relationship between the actual and perceived risks for artists participating in the biennale, the implicitly economic and often fraught nature of inter-personal relations between visitors and locals, and how the perceptions and realities of such are understood, represented and managed by the GB organization.

My own contribution to this year’s biennale was a “gossip wall” hung within Lakou Cheri, the main site of the biennale, on which local people and visitors were invited to write anonymous stories about what was going on “off-screen” as it were. I would collect any gossip at the end of each day, then wipe the canvas clean ready for the following one. The idea was to create a kind of local gossip column that would potentially give voice to dissenting or critical opinions about the biennale. This was part of a broader project conceived as a means to gather material for an essay in the forthcoming Ghetto Biennale catalogue that would be based, in part, on the opinions of people outside the biennale’s inner circle. I mention this to frame my comments here in terms of the broader project I was involved in during the biennale. That being said, my account of the circumstances leading up to and following the events that night is primarily a personal one, supported by details gleaned from conversations with biennale guests during and after the event, witnesses, members of the organizational team and people who knew Gerard personally.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Here is the scratch edit of the video I made during this year’s Ghetto Biennale. A final, subtitled version will be screened and exhibited along with the sign itself during 2012.

American celebrity travel chef Anthony Bourdain recently traveled to Haiti for his t.v. show ‘No Reservations’. During his time in Haiti Sean Penn introduced him to the artists of Grand Rue (though they don’t get name checked).

“A New York Times photograph of a smiling Haitian merchant” Penn explains, “doesn’t speak the story of what’s going on inside these people. There’s a place that’s downtown, in the most devastated part of Port-au-Prince, earthquake wise, rubble still all over the place, and you go into the catacombs, into the kind of slum area where they work, and they’re mostly working outside, some of their studios are inside these concrete structures, and there’s incredible stuff. You’d think it was representative of post-earthquake Haiti. Bodies broken apart, nails in mouths, using pieces of a baby doll. Poverty makes people feel broken apart like in an earthquake in the first place. So that’s been the constant earthquake in this country.”

The video can be seen here. The sequence in Grand Rue begins about seven minutes in.

The show also includes an interview with Richard Morse, proprietor of the Hotel Oloffson.

Here is a great slide show and report from Grand Rue by BBC Radio 4’s today program.

Great to see Alex Louis in the background of one of the shots working away on a laptop.

And fantastic news that Eugene is planning to build a memorial to the earthquake with the bones of victims. It’s a brilliant idea. I think that will be a major and much needed work that will hopefully bring international attention to the hypocritical double-standards of the western corporate media’s approach to the permanent man-made catastrophe occurring in Haiti.  Read the rest of this entry »

On Wednesday last week Resonance FM broadcast an interview with yours truly by Christopher Thomas on the subject of Responsibility of curators in the age of the global art system. The main topic of conversation was the Ghetto Biennale and the exhibition of work by Grand Rue artists in the UK. A recording of the broadcast  can be heard here: resonance radio (11June).

Belle Williams speaks about the Ghetto Biennale

Here is a great short film featuring Belle Williams from the Grand Rue Atis-Resiztans community talking about the Ghetto Biennale and how the community is responding the the crisis.

And here is a very good program on Haiti after the earthquake from Al Jazeera which shows Haitian government workers telling reporters that it is important that they should lead the repair and reconstruction work of Haiti rather than foreigners, a message which we need to support. The program has interviews with Haitian government representatives explaining how they have been handling the disaster and even an interview with Réne Préval, the Haitian president, being questioned about the perceived US occupation of the island. Such reporting has been sadly very rare in our mainstream media.

The program also includes an interview with Haitian businessman Fritz Mevs who is allowing US troops to use his family’s private pier and land on his 2 1/2 million square foot ‘industrial park’ to land helicopters and transfer wounded people to USS Comfort hospital ship. He puts forward a rather unconvincing argument about how private business interests should lead the re-construction of Haiti. “What we need to do”, he says “is not to punish the rich for being rich but to educate the poor to have the means to become rich”.

More problematic are the images of Haitain’s blocking government officials trying to collect aid, suspicious that they are doing so for themselves. In response they chant for the “USA, USA!”. This footage was shot six days after the earthquake when there was still hope that the US military might be better at delivering the much needed aid than the Haitian government which is generally considered to corrupt to do so.

Please pass the link to the video on.


The Situation in Haiti

January 20, 2010

I will be posting updated information and commentary about the unfolding situation in Haiti here.

We have put out a call to groups, collectives and individuals to attend an emergency meeting to discuss collective action in response to the situation in Haiti. Please send a representative of your group if you can, or email us so we can keep you informed of further action / meetings.

Sunday 24 January 2009
2.00 – 4.00 pm at the Do you remember Olive Morris? exhibition that has meeting space available.
Gasworks, 155 Vauxhall Street, London SE11 5RH (tube: Oval / Stockwell)

I am currently working on a brief historical overview of the situation in Haiti and information about how best to get charity to the right places most effectively and most immediately. I should have this done for the meeting on Sunday and will post it here.

I’ve also uploaded some video footage from the Ghetto Biennale here. It shows Grand Rue artist Alex Louis interviewing the toy Tap Tap makers during the opening event.

I have also posted some images from the Ghetto Biennalehere.

And I just uploaded a clip of Reggie Jean Francois here telling the story of how Sri Lankan troops in the UN mission to Haiti performed a ceremonial ritual on the sculpture of a boar in Port-au-Prince in 2004.

Please feel free to use and circulate.

Donations to Organizations active on the ground in Haiti

Given that the social sector of Haiti is now run almost entirely by NGO’s these are the organizations that are likely to be delivering aid and assistance on the ground there. However the massive involvement of international NGO’s has the long term effect of undermining Haiti’s powers of democratic self-determination.

For people wishing to get their donations directly to the communities in most urgent need I suggest the following organizations, most of which are run largely by Haitians in Haiti:

1)PAPAZA

PAZAPA staff, who survived the quake, indicate that there is an immediate need for food, clean drinking water, shelter and medical care.  They describe virtually no distribution of emergency food (with much of the disaster relief efforts centred in Port au Prince) and have stated that the primary work of emergency relief agencies in that community has focused on search and rescue.  The price of food is rising and water and fuel is becoming dangerously scarce.  They need our help with funds to immediately purchase essential food supplies such as rice, beans and oil, that can be distributed to the centre’s children and families most effected by the quake. PAZAPA staff are working, despite suffering their own losses, to locate and assess the needs of the centre’s children who will be terribly affected by this tragedy.  For more information about the centre, link to a recent video , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OKK1T-zgdA.

2) Konbit Pou Ayiti/KONPAY

Konbit Pou Ayiti/KONPAY (Working Together for Haiti) strengthens existing organizations, builds national networks, creates relationships between individuals and organizations in the U.S. and Haiti, and and supports collaboration and the sharing of technology and expertise. KONPAY focuses on Haitian solutions to environmental, social and economic problems and provides training and funding to grassroots and community-based projects.

Haiti-Earthquake-Emergency-Relief-Campaign

3) Honor and Respect for Bel Air, a big community-based network in Port-au-Prince, and Coordination Régionale des Organisations de Sud-Est (CROSE), which brings together some of the most active community groups in the south (via Avaaz.org)

4) The Lambi Fund of Haiti

The Lambi Fund’s mission is to assist the popular, democratic movement in Haiti. Its goal is to help strengthen civil society as a necessary foundation of democracy and development. The fund channels financial and other resources to community-based organizations that promote the social and economic empowerment of the Haitian people.

5) Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA)

PAPDA is a coalition of nine Haitian popular and non-governmental organizations which work with the Haitian popular movement to develop alternatives to the neo-liberal model of economic globalization. When the Haitian government moved to privatize certain industries, PAPDA worked with the unions and the business community to create strategies that would improve production and minimize cost without privatization.

6) The Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

7)FONKOZE

Fonkoze is Haiti’s alternative bank for the organized poor. In fact, it is a family of three institutions working together shoulder-to-shoulder towards a single compelling mission: building the economic foundations for democracy in Haiti by providing the rural poor with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. This mission is reflected in our name, Fonkoze, which is an acronym for the Haitian Creole phrase “Fondasyon Kole Zepòl” meaning “Shoulder-to-Shoulder Foundation.”

8 ) Partners in Health

PIH has been working on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. We urgently need your support to help those affected by the recent earthquake. Partners In Health (PIH) works to bring modern medical care to poor communities in nine countries around the world. The work of PIH has three goals: to care for our patients, to alleviate the root causes of disease in their communities, and to share lessons learned around the world.

I await news from Leah Gordon who is now in Port-au-Prince about what is the most effective way to get aid working on the ground.

According to a CNN report from Sunday one of the few working hospitals in Port-au-Prince is La Paz hospital.

This hospital is being run by Cuban medics supporting the strong argument for more Cuban-US cooperation in the aid mission.

Here is a video report from MediaHacker Ansel on the ground in Haiti the day after the quake in which local citizens express their anger at the absence of assistance from either UN or US forces.

Activists and citizens both in and outside of Haiti are concerned with what they see as a lack of response by the UN authorities in Haiti and by recurrent stories of immanent violence on the part of the Haitian people which we fear may be used to justify violent intervention by both the UN and US forces against the Haitian people. Articles like Tim Padgett’s Will Criminal Gangs Take Control in Haiti’s Chaos and Mark Lander’s Clinton, in Visit to Haiti, Brings Aid and Promises Support‘ set the tone for this kind of ideological scare-mongering. Lander warns that As Haitian and international officials try to coordinate an effective relief response to what is probably the worst disaster to ever hit the western hemisphere’s poorest country, they’ll need to be mindful of the human rats that come out of the capital’s woodwork at times like these”.

He goes on to say that “unless the international community can exert some semblance of street-level law enforcement in the coming days and weeks, gangs are likely to lay down the law in its place”.

Outside the mainstream media reports from the ground tell a very different story, such as this one from Dave Belle, director of the Cine Instute there.

Regarding the historical politics of debt and aid in Haiti this article by Richard Kimin The Nation is one of the most thorough and informative, exposing precisely that ‘history’ which Bill Clinton, in his speech accepting the job of coordinating the US aid mission in Haiti, said that Haiti was on the verge of ‘escaping’.

Clinton’s complicity in UN Human Rights abuses in Haiti is discussed here.