This past weekend we brought a new piece of world-caliber street art to Port-au-Prince. A 5 day collaboration between Amanacer Art and Moise Jerry Rosembert "Jerry Graffiti", called "The Urban Mermaid and the Wishing Wall". If you'd like to visit, it's located at the corner of Avenue St Cyr and Rue Capois just off the Champ de Mars on the exterior wall of the historical Le Plaza Hotel. We like to think of it as not in the hood, but "hood adjacent".
Here are some shots, and a full reveal write-up below:
Thanks to everyone who came by to write their wish for 2018 on the wishing wall! We also wrote down the wishes that had been messaged to me from a special tribe located everywhere around the world from New York to Bali. Gotta love Instagram and Facebook for that.
One of the most interesting parts was the many a random encounters with passerbys on the street. To say the concept was novel and took a bit of explaining is an understatement. But the wishing wall is now full of wonderful words, and remarkably all the wishes generally fall into 2 categories:
1. wishes for more self confidence to make dreams happen
2. wishes for a better Haiti
Isn't that warm-and-fuzzy inducing?
The Urban Mermaid and Wishing Wall were created in the context of the 5th Ghetto Biennale Arts Festival "Cartographie de Port-au-Prince." The concept started from my desire to map the contemporary understanding of the Haitian vodou goddess "La Sirene" in the city and beyond.
And on a personal note...
When we first meet, people often assume that because I'm white, that I know little to nothing about Haitian culture. The truth is, a profound curiosity and need to understand has driven me since early childhood to independently study Haitian art and the religions like vodou that so strongly influence it. I was just seven years old when my family permanently relocated to Port-au-Prince. That's grade two. Kids can be cruel at any age, but as a very blond outsider I needed to quickly get up to speed, to learn creole, folklore dancing, ballroom dancing, and everything else about my environment to adapt. For me art was a natural fit, and some of my very earliest representations were of veve symbols off my household gate, and the mermaids I heard were seen swimming in the seas around Les Cayes and the rivers of Jacmel.
Why the mermaid obsession? Did I watch The Little Mermaid one too many times? It's not that simple. Mermaids, for me, beyond the sensual freedom, luck and feminine power they represent also a symbol of yearning. You see, mermaids need no passport to travel the world. They intrinsically belong to a single home in the sea, and no one would ever question their nationality, or ask "where are you from?" If only that would be the case for me.
I think, looking back, there were a lot of wonderfully elements to the mermaid archetype and the Haiti-specific mystical representations of LaSiren that drew me to her. The element of freedom from constraint of cultural specificity, of being at home in the deep, that feeling of escape into the deep, they all inherently and forever bind me to her flowing tresses. I've gotten more at home in my own culturally complex skin these past 3 years. Coming home to Haiti, and claiming my own sense of self has had a lot to do with that.
When it comes to street art and film, this is my very first project. It's a declaration of what I'd like to deep-dive into on the creative front and how I can stretch my outer limits. Besides Jerry, who'se been doing street art for 15 years, I'm grateful to be collaborating with Moise Pierre (film maker), Luc Segur (documentary expert from Muska group) and Isabelle Vasquez (writer/journalism) in bringing La Siren Urbaine to life thus far.
Here's the Master Plan:
1. Creating the Mural in collaboration with Jerry Graffiti
2. Gathering stories, interviews, photographs and artifacts
3. Releasing a Film and Coffee Table Book "The Blue Book" - Mermaids Myths, Art and Sightings in Haiti
The film that comes out of our interviews is still taking form in my imagination but the answers we've received to our mermaid-related questions are fascinating! They range from everything to "No, I don't believe in mermaids" to "Yes, in my family we have an affinity to the mermaid goddess and my great-grandmother was taken down to the depths by La Sirene before she was released to us 3 days later. Plus she came back with a sea-shell encrusted comb." Now that's a story.
Until next post, thanks for being here and don't hesitate to leave your comments below!
Happy holiday season to you and yours,