Oath of the Ancestors | Serment des Ancêtres

Exhibition design around a painting which mobility through time and space constantly challenges our notion of freedom and cultural ownership. Le Serment des Ancetres by Guillaume Guillon Lethiere revealed the prominent French painter’s identity as a Mixed-race child of a French father and Guadeloupean mother. By sending the painting to Haiti in 1822, he showed his solidarity to the newly emancipated Black Nation, yet he rendered a white God sanctifying the Oath between Dessalines and Pétion, expressing personal struggle in looking for his French father’s recognition. This painting conveys many complex social layers also found in the Manoir Alexandra.

Below, schematic ideas as to how to interpret such exhibitions in the Manoir Alexandra

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Serment des Ancêtres, damaged during the earthquake and retrieved from the Haitian Presidential Palace. Today, the Serment des Ancêtres is exhibited at the Louvre Museum under a show titled “Les Musées sont des Mondes” … http://mini-site.louvre.fr/trimestriel/2011/3/index.html#/28

Black Content in a White Cube 

When the Modern confronts the Old … and when the governing voice…. is still the same

More Coming Soon 

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.

Early sketch

Below is a sketch illustrating how I wished to tackle issues of transparency with the Manoir Alexandra. When I started research for my thesis during the Summer of 2011, I was interested in using the Manoir as an accessible and progressive Town Hall.   I had begun altering the architecture of the mansion to provide more porches and public viewing access to the bay. Now, I am more inclined to keeping the aspect of the house in ruins, conserving memories of the aftermath of a catastrophe and its impact on the architecture of a place.

As I have learned in November 2011, that the Manoir Alexandra is becoming a cultural center and museum space, the goal is now to occupy its interiors, and most importantly its gardens, while perpetuating the narratives I wish to preserve in my thesis. 

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.

Hadriana in All my Dreams | René Depestre

‘Kote yo fè zafè yo’ shining light on the obscure

It is a common belief (and often times true occurence) in Haiti for families that practice Vaudou and deem themselves Christian, to hide their rituals in a room reserved for services to their governing Loas. When I visited the Manoir Alexandra in November, the Géran or gardener led me and my cousin to a dark lower room where he believed (with no hesitation) that the past owners of the house used to practice Vaudou. Sa se kote yo fè zafè yo “that is where they did their things” he said as he pointed towards stairs leading to the dark room. An old bell placed on a rocking chair, and racks of empty wine bottle were the indications that the owners practiced Vaudou.

The Manoir Alexandra was a hotel and all the wine bottles where neatly locked away in cages. The room was a wine depot, however, the Géran was sure the owners also practiced Vaudou there. Whether it was true or not, one cannot dismiss that in Haiti, the belief system is such that Vaudou is always on people’s minds, especially when things are difficult to explain… and this at both ends of the spectrum.

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

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

How far are we from Yesterday?

“How Far are we from Yesterday?” Martha Marcy Lay Marlene (Movie 2011)

“Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories”.

“…ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. So I have erected one of his dwellings, with books as the building stones, before you, and now he is going to disappear inside, as is only fitting”.

Unpacking My Library | Walter Benjamin

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me… Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeline which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dippint it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.”

A la Recherche du Temps Perdu | Marcel Proust

“the work of art can recapture the lost and thus save it from destruction, at least in our mind. Art triumphs over the destructive power of time”

Wikipedia on Marcel Proust’s “A la recherche du temps perdu”