During my Spring Break (March 2012), I traveled to Jacmel with my good friend Andreas Nicholas, a film student at RISD. The main purpose of our trip was to take the measurements of the Manoir Alexandra with students from Jacmel’s Preservation School and to collect stories from locals of various generations, through video interviews.
I measured the house for four days with three students from the first graduating class of the Ëcole Atelier de Jacmel (Jacmel’s Preservation School), an institution founded by the Haitian Historical Society (ISPAN) and the AECID (Spain).
On my second visit to Jacmel during my Spring Break, I reached the public plaza when the sun was setting down. It was lively with many younger Jacmelians hanging out, riding their bikes, playing soccer or basketball… There was an old tractor parked on the plaza and a group of kids used it as a music instrument, some of them beat on the machine like a drum while others jumped up and down on its huge tires. They created a really catchy beat. It was my first time experiencing such a lively scene of the plaza. It was surprising to me to see Jacmelians enjoy the public space because they often times criticized the government for having cut down its trees.
While the plaza does suffer from a lack shade due to the loss of its trees, it seems important to keep the young energy of Jacmelians alive in the park. From what my mother recalls of her visit to Jacmel, the trees did not allow for much space to linger. The space of the Jacmel plaza is limited but it should allow for kids to find an appropriate space of leisure. The makeshift basketball court attracted many of them on that Sunday afternoon.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Making a road Map for Visitors to Jacmel- Will distribute on days of Mid-review and Final-review of the thesis
Alleluia pour une femme-jardin / Hallelujah for a garden-woman
Located in Martissant, a densely populated area in the West Department of Haiti, the Habitation Leclerc is an old abandoned propriety with an expansive garden. It was built during the 19th century for Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Pauline Bonaparte and husband General Victoire Emmanuel-Leclerc, French governor of Haiti at the time. In 1944, it was bought by the renowned late American dancer Katherine Dunham, who influenced the Alvin Ailey dance school by using Haitian Folklore dance techniques in her career. Dunham transformed Habitation Leclerc into a resort, which attracted many famous people such as Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy and Mick Jagger. When the political situation worsened in Haiti, the propriety’s garden was shut down in 1982. Ever since, it has been difficult to maintain and the beautiful residence has fallen into ruins. The cultural organization called FOKAL bought Habitation Leclerc and is now transforming it into a botanical garden. The first steps of re-appropriating this property consisted in engaging with the people of Martissant and providing a community space to not only understand the needs of the area, but also to mediate conflicts that had risen among different groups.
FOKAL has successfully inaugurated the first earthquake memorial park at l’Habitation Leclerc, just this January 12, 2012.
While working with the gardens of Le Manoir Alexandra, I am interested in issues of accessibility. Who gets to use this garden? How welcoming is it? Le Manoir, just like the Habitation Leclerc, once belonged to the aristocracy of Haiti. However its location in the city of Jacmel and its future use as a cultural center calls for social inclusion.
A study of L’Habitation Leclerc will certainly provide some answers to my questions.
It is possibly the most remarkable/sensitive urban project currently being developed in Haiti. Here is a link to an insightful film documentary covering the project.: Martissant, the Dream of a Living
Website on the project: Parc de Martissant
Below, pictures from “Geraldine” on PICASA