First Movement: Hadriana in All my Dreams

Slide 1

I died on the evening of the most beautiful day of my life: I died the evening of my wedding at the Church of Saint-Philippe-et-Saint-Jacques. Everybody thought I was struck by the sacramental YES that burst from deep inside. My acquiescence had been so strong and convincing that everyone said my passion carried me off. I was presumed to have been struck by a lightning bold of determination to marry.

Slide 2

To tell the truth, my apparent death began a half-hour before my outcry, in the instant before the departure of the wedding procession from the house. I was ready to leave. I had glanced one last time at the living room mirror: “Go, Hadriana!” said a voice inside, from the Caribbean side.

Slide 3

During my happy life as a girl, there had always been three spaces- the inward garden, the exterior courtyard, and the Caribbean side. It was very warm in all of them.

Slide 4

In the midst of the ­affectionate chatter of my maids of honor at the foot of the stairs, I proclaimed my thirst aloud. I would really like a glass of ice water.” […] Had someone foreseen my last-minute thirst?

Slide 5

Arms lifted me from the floor of the Church. Whose were they? ­ The man had a difficult time making his way through the crowd of people. My dangling feet struck bodies as we passed. A hand grabbed my right foot and squeezed it for some time. I felt the cool evening air in spite of the mask glued to my face. The bells pealed out full volume along with the cries and the applause, as they had when we left the house. The person carrying me began to run. Many people were running alongside. I still could not see. The only sense still working was my hearing.

Slide 6

A woman’s voice yelled: “Long live the newlyweds”. Carnival began immediately on the square. I realized that I could smile and even laugh in the midst of my misfortune. I laughed like crazy for the first time that night: they were dancing the rabòday around me while the drums and the conch shells went wild. The man carrying me seemed to be dancing as well. My stiff limbs could not take up the rhythms. As the stranger passed over the threshold of the villa, my sense of smell came back to me suddenly. I could smell the freshly waxed floor from my childhood days. The man put me down carefully on one of the living room carpets.

La Joconde & Golden Ratio

A la fin de 1946, à mon arrivée à Paris, je me précipitai, haletant, au musée du Louvre, vers la célèbre toile de Leonardo, comme au premier rendez-vous pris loin de Jacmel avec Nana Siloé. J’en fus profondément décú. La Joconde était bien le chef-d’oeuvre d’un peintre génial, mais, comparée à la jeune fille de mon souvenir, elle semblait plutôt ricaner, sans aucun feu intérieur.

Hadriana dans Tous mes Rêves | René Dépestre

Haitian Chancellor Laurent Lamothe at the Louvre Museum during an official visit of the exhibition of Le Serment des Ancêtres:, property of the Musée National d’Haiti.

Spiral stairs at the Louvre museum in Paris, France: 

Spiral stairs at l’Habitation Leclerc in Port-au-Prince, Haïti: 

Anghelen drawing of iron-laced spiral staircases in Jacmel:

Old Pergola in Jacmel’s Place d’Armes

Bringing the pergola back to Place d’Armes as the entry-way to an underground museum


“Tu marches vers une mort illustre sans être tâchée par la maladie ni par l’épée”
– Sophocle (choeur d’Antigone)  | cité dans Hadriana dans tous mes Rêves

-Un baiser pour toi, Nana!

J’aurais voulu le lui rendre. Il était trop tard: j’étais en train de mourir. Ça faisait un instant qu’un malaise effarant s’était abattu sur moi. J’étais parcourue d’une sensation aiguë de fourmillement comme si on me piquait à ‘aiguille des pieds à la tête.

Hadriana Dans tous Mes Rêves | René Dépestre

Book Design- Lace and Leather

Une fois tout le monde couché, je me levais sans bruit, le coeur battant, pour aller célébrer un rite bouleversant dans l’atelier de couture du rez-de-chaussée. A la lueur d’un quinquet que j’allumais, je faisais danser le mannequin, Je lui caressais sa ronde encolure. Je lui soufflais à l’oreille les mots d’une tendresse dont je ne soupçonnais pas l’ascendant en moi. J’aidais sa flamme à prendre des forces and notre foyer, à l’abri du vent, à la veille du fabuleux voyage qu’allait entreprendre ma soeur d’eau bénite.

Hadriana dans tous mes Rêves, René Dépestre

Book in Progress: 

On Issuu:

Book Design Idea: Must convey issues of Recognition.

Lace and Leather, Contrast between Hadriana in all My Dreams and Oath of the Ancestors, Female and Male, French and Haitian, Recognition and Patriotism.

Front Cover in fabric and lace with the embroidered title  “Le Manoir Alexandra”.

Back Cover in Leather as I approach the exhibition of Le Serment des Ancetres and proposal for a Performance Space.

In the back cover, a pocket to insert the catalogue to the exhibition of Le Serment des Ancêtres “Oath of the Ancestors” in le Manoir Alexandra.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door | La Mariée Oubliée

In the midst of the affectionate chatter of my maids of honor at the foot of the stairs, I proclaimed my thirst aloud. I would really like a glass of ice water.” […] Had someone foreseen my last-minute thirst?

Hadriana in All my Dreams | René Dépestre

When Hadriana wakes up from her state of coma, she knocks at all doors surrounding the Central Plaza. The night is torrential and her followers are getting closer to her. The city mourns her death but has now shut its doors.

But is the city solely comprised of her family the Siloés, the Krafts and the Catholic sisters who now ignore her? Hadriana’s image of purity was gone as soon as her body came out of the Church. People dancing the Rabòday around her to bring her back to life, have forever affected her innocence. Nobody around the plaza will answer to her calls because she is now no longer worth their recognition.

Granchiré | La Mariée Souillée

Les Papillons ne sont que des fleurs envolées un jour de fête où la nature était en veine d’invention et de fécondité. “Butterflies are but flowers that blew away one sunny day when Nature was feeling at her most inventive and fertile.” George Sand

“Go Hadriana!” said a voice inside on the Caribbean side

Hadriana In All my Dreams- René Dépestre 

In Hadriana in All my Dreams, Granchiré is a Man-Butterfly who terrorizes Jacmelian families by luring their young women. On the day of her wedding, Hadriana dies at the altar of the Cathedral St Phillipe & St Jacques. Although some believe that her passion to marry has caused her death, the following day her corpse disappears from the cemetery. Those who had tried fervently to bring her back to life with Vaudou processions on the Place d’Armes, are finally convinced that Granchiré had not been satisfied yet. For a very last time, he takes away the life and purity of a young girl.

Garden on the Caribbean Side

Alors l’enchantement commençait pour moi au jardin. Pour notre plaisir, mon père, en botaniste amateur, avait voulu y faire épanouir, outre la flore spécifiquement haïtienne et dominicaine, le paysage de toute la Caraïbe, de Cuba à Trinidad, en passant par Porto-Rico, la Jamaïque, la Martinique, la Guadeloupe et l’ensemble insulaire des Petites Antilles. Ainsi prospérait autour de la maison un échantillon de chaque espèce de plantes à fleurs, des plus humbles aux plus spectaculaires […]

Depestre, René. Hadriana Dans Tous Mes Rêves: Roman. Paris: Gallimard, 1988. Print. 190.

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Photography: Catherine Buteau, during our trip to Jacmel in November 2011


An attempt at a thesis statement, in which I let René Depestre’s protagonist haunt the ‘constructions of my thoughts’.

In the Caribbean city of Jacmel, the Manoir Alexandra, an early 20th century white-brick building sits in a historic colonial district. On its Northern façade, turquoise wooden-framed windows overlook a barren plaza, while Southern iron-cast balconies offer views of a quiet bay. Layers of chipped paint and missing window panes, illustrate a desolation that has struck the Southern city of Jacmel since the closing of its commercial port in the 1960s. The city’s economic decadence accelerated when a powerful earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, affecting much of the historic district and adding long cracks to the aging structure of the Manoir.
Alexandra looks like an actress whose grandiose years have been left behind in an era of a now lost coffee industry. Her state of disrepair perpetuates the fictional novel that made her famous. Visitors, who learned about her resident zombie bride, Hadriana, look for traces of the young French girl in its decaying walls, mahogany stairs, and spacious rooms. On the inclined balcony, Hadriana combs her hair while looking out towards a lush garden on the Caribbean side. Her story is a threshold into the mystical city of Jacmel. The current generation of Jacmelians is young and unaware of Hadriana’s story which, not only translates a magical language, but also allows an appropriate understanding of the city’s complex social inheritance. In the novel, Hadriana’s disappearance coincides with Jacmel’s actual decadence. Yet it also calls for a reunion between the Haitian population and the international community. René Dépestre has been criticized for idolizing his protagonist and her symbolism in a proud emancipated Black society, yet his novel depicts exactly the complicated relationship between Haiti and the world.
Today, Jacmel is at the forefront of the Haitian government’s efforts towards the redevelopment of tourism in the country. Its historic district has made the 2012 World Monument Heritage Watch List and presents a rich potential as a prototype of cultural preservation and reconstruction, yet it also faces the challenge of pushing against a global tourism economy that favors chain resorts and might render a weak government, even more vulnerable. The Manoir Alexandra, a physical anchor between the upper and lower sides of the city and threshold between the town and the international population, is located at the southern end of a ring of civic buildings, in which important decisions for the city and whole South-East Department are made. While taking into account the legend that has made the Manoir Alexandra important, this thesis will explore how this prime piece of real-estate can mediate a mutually beneficial relationship between the global community and the local inhabitants of Jacmel who have long been renowned for their welcoming habits, their vibrant art scene, progressive philosophies and vivacity in social affairs, despite the many challenges that have crippled Haïti, throughout the years.

Spatially Yours

I took advantage of the break to edge my way into the crowd. The carnival bands had completely taken over every meter of the square. As had previously been announced, the most renowned ones from the South East were there. The musicians and dancers seemed to be camped out for the moment amidst their sleeping instruments; different types of drums, bamboo horns, conch shells, rattles, saxophones, flutes, cones, accordiaons. Here adn there, under the trees, while eating and drinking, the Jacmelians began to tell stories.

Hadriana dans tous mes rêves | René Depestre