ASK THE DUST, ASK THE PEOPLE, HAITI, 2014
One of the children during a workshop in the Camillian mission in Croix-de-Bouquetes, Haiti, 2014
“There will be confusions, and there will be hunger; there will be loneliness with only my tears like wet consoling little birds, tumbling to sweeten my dry lips.” John Fante
In February / March 2014 I was in Haiti, with Gianluca Orrù di Tekla (equipped with camera, microphone and cameras), in the capital Port Au Prince, hit in 2010 by a magnitude 7 earthquake and a cholera epidemic, with over 200 thousand dead. For some years I have been giving my support to the charity auction “Speech for Haiti, born after the earthquake, for the Camillian Fathers of Turin, and I wanted to see the reality of this country, and the activities I had supported. For three weeks we were hosted in the “Foyer Saint Camille” in Croix de Bouquets of the Camillian Fathers, where there are a hospital, a church, a seminary, the lodgings of the fathers and the Foyer Bethleem: a small structure that welcomes disabled and abandoned children from parents. The area was enclosed by walls with military barbed wire and guarded by armed guards. Thus the Haitians cohabit with the “white man”.
February 2014, Kwadèbouke, Port au Prince (Haiti)
In our first week here I had the opportunity to have children draw for us in these schools: La Providence, St. Camille a Croix de Bouquette, and Kai Chal Delmas31, thanks to the Little Sisters of the Gospel. The drawings of more than 1000 children will become compositions made in glue and paper.
We would not be able to do this without the help of many people: Angela, Sister Louise, Sister Vanna, Don Crescenzo, Maurizio Barcaro, the directors and the teachers of the schools, and our Haitian friend, Claudy, who accompanied us through the streets, translating for us in Creole language with people passing by, Nana of artstreetvyzionayiti.org, a very kind lady who introduced us to St. Camille’s children.
This is an indipendent and self-financed project, for supporting Foyer St. Camille Hospital through charity auction in Turin by Madian Orizzonti:
February 2014, Port au Prince (Haiti)
Photos and videos by Gianluca Orrù (Tekla Video, Torino)
“It has been five days since we arrived at the St. Foyer St. Camille mission in Croix-des-Bouquets. We have seen very little. Moving from one place to another isn’t easy.
Dust, walls, barbed wire. White people hidden behind walls. Only a few tarmacked roads. Ruins and rubble everywhere. Crumbling, unsafe walls. Glass shattered by the earthquake, unstable arcades. Very little has been rebuilt. The famous Presidential Building has been demolished. On the roadside, people sell practically anything from market stalls along Route Nationale #1. On Sundays, people wash their cars and motorbikes. Above a layer of trash that covers the ground. I have yet to see a foreigner walking among Haitians on the streets of this capital city.
We have travelled only marginally through what is known as the poorest and most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere: the Cité Soleil slum. We have filmed very little with a GoPro. Trying not to be noticed by eyes which are anything but friendly. Lots of raised middle fingers. Although we have covered around twenty kilometres, we have not seen a white person. There is no city at all here, nor a capital, and I wonder if there ever was, before the earthquake on January 4th 2010. I don’t know whether I will be able to paint where and how I had wanted to. The perception of danger is very high.”
February 2014, Turin
“People don’t take trips… trips take people” J. Steinbeck
“To be a real artist you have to be a real person” Victor Rice
The journey” is a poetic prerogative.
In 2013, Opiemme crossed Italy. The “journey through painting and poetry”, recounted by Huffington Post, drew a symbolic line of street poetry from North to South of Italy.
In 2014, Opiemme will cross the Ocean, fly to Haiti and land in Port-au-Prince. The “ask the dust, ask the people” journey, narrated by the journalist and video-maker Gianluca Orrù of Tekla Television, will draw the memory, dreams and sins of Port-au-Prince children.
In the capital of Haiti, Opiemme will be painting together with the children of the Foyer St Camille school, four years after the devastating earthquake of January 12th 2010.
This painting and poetry, playful and colorful project is inspired by John Fante’s famous novel, Ask the Dust (1939).
Questions, questions, questions: the answers from the people. Why are there so many NGO in the country? Why is the situation still so tragic? What has been rebuilt? Ask the dust, the only thing of which there is plenty after the earthquake; Ask the people, who have no voice, what it is like to live in Haiti today. Remember a date, the 12th of January 2010, has been so quickly forgotten.
Opiemme made his first contribution to the Haitian earthquake relief efforts in 2010, when he donated works for the “Asta X Haiti” auction held in Turin by the non-profit organization Madian Orizzonti to collect funds for the construction of the Saint Camille hospital in Jérémie. He has donated works for all subsequent editions. This journey hopes to increase the adhesions of both artists and collectors to the auction (https://www.madian-orizzonti.it/come-contribuire)
February 2014, Nowhere
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” John Steinbeck
I made this work (left) just a few weeks after the devastating earthquake of 12th January 2010 in Haiti. I clearly remember that moment: I was on a train from Milan to Turin. In December 2010 it was shown in a charity auction for Haiti in Turin. I took part to every edition of this charity auction “Asta x Haiti“.
I really wanted to see what is going on in this country. I hope as well that this will be a little occasion to give attention to this charity auction. In a few day Gianluca Orrù, from Tekla Studio, and I will leave, and will be hosted by Camillians Fathers in Port-au-Prince.
It will be a journey of playfulness and colours for some children in Haiti, of questions aimed at giving insights into how the country is doing today. ASK THE DUST, ASK THE PEOPLE.
An huge thanks to who helped me in setting everything for:
Anna, Alessando, Elisabetta, Edward, Elisa, Gianluca, Marta, Riccardo.
Support Madian Orizzonti and charity auction in Turin: