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The impact of insecurity on Haitian Artisans.


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For many years, Haiti has been facing major insecurity from heavily armed gangs. Even our homes have not been a reliable shelter against kidnapping, arson and theft. Does this situation affect Haitian artisans? Are they safe? Art is part of Haiti’s identity. Port-au-Prince was and is the center of craft activity, and we express our art through leather craftsmanship, shoemaking, painting, and sculpture. Artwork is not only a means of activism in Haiti, but also an outlet for artisans.

Importance of Art for Haitians

I wear many hats. I am a young entrepreneur and journalist, among other talents I am blessed with. Above all, there is something special within me, an inherited and innate passion for craftsmanship, specifically in leather workmanship. Since my childhood until today, I have given my all to this trade. This work awakens a great pleasure within me, and it helps me so much, on many levels. It helps me economically and mentally. Crafting makes me independent, and at peace with myself and with those around me.

Economic Freedom

Art activity in Haiti is a major force for the population. There are many artisans in working-class neighborhoods, and these artisans can use their talent to meet certain preliminary needs, either in their personal activities or by working with an artisanal company in the city. This is the minimum, as craftsmanship could bring us much more. Especially now, there is a considerable international demand, as the market is thirsty for handmade products. Unfortunately, we have not yet reached the point of having the capacity for high levels.

The Impact of Insecurity on this Sector

Artisans who are passionate about art in Haiti often live in “working-class neighborhoods.” This is also where the authorities of the armed groups reign. Violence of all kinds fill our streets, detonations like those of intercontinental wars ignite constantly, and the darkness of the sky caused by the dense blackness of smoke coming from fires and smoldering tires consume us. This only inspires fear and discouragement and a great feeling of abandonment within the city.

I have been working as a professional craftsman for several years in a company called “Deux Mains” a company that does not have a strong economic presence, but acts with great love, and professionalism. This company believes in and fights with tenacity for the emancipation of young Haitian men and women in education and art. My colleagues and I are all overwhelmed with love for what we do. We always rejoice after the creation of each product because we know that it is the fruit of the union of our hands and the harmony of our thoughts.

Inspiration Overcomes Fear

We find motivation every day from the desire to reach the summit of art, and from the pride of being workers, and not members of an army that terrorizes the Haitian population. There have been many times in recent days when we are working, and suddenly are forced to leave the factory and take shelter. Personally, these moments helped me discover that deep within me, I have an unbridled passion for what I do because during these moments of fear, while managing to shelter myself, I find myself thinking not only of my safety, but also about the next steps for the work we have been accomplishing at Deux Mains.

The current insecurity in Haiti completely affects the activity of our craft. To weaken an artisan is to weaken an entire family. Port au Prince is weakened under the power of these criminals. The Middle Class is on its knees as the doors of institutions close. Even our schools are not exempt. Even at this moment, as I write this article, it is under great detonations of heavy weapons. This soundtrack frightens us and weakens our activities. To quote the words of Vin Diesel: “It’s insecurity that is always chasing you and standing in the way of your dreams.” This insecurity ravages me from the inside, like a violent tornado that uproots trees planted in good soil, stealing the roofs from houses even if they are built to standards.

As Boris Vian said, “Work is freedom.” In the same way the absence of light generates darkness, so the absence of the possibility of working as an artisan gives me a feeling of being a slave, a slave to fear, a slave to worry as long as it lasts. The impact of insecurity on artisans is worrisome. As an artisan, I am convinced that Haiti has a great destiny, with an extraordinary motto: “LIBERTY-EQUALITY-FRATERNITY.” Insecurity is devastating, and being deprived of my art is hard. As St. Francis of Assis once said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

The same goes for this great political instability which has been destroying the country for several years. This insecurity, like breeding grounds for multiple armed gangs, especially in the heart of the capital, terrorizes the population and artisans. It does nothing but destroy social and economic life, and disguises Haiti, a paradise, as a hellish place that has collapsed. One day, life will resume. Port au Prince must remain the center of art for the Haitian people and also for our dear brothers and sisters in the world. Yes, the current situation is too harsh to imagine, but we know that we have the right to stay standing and continue to move forward despite the fear. Art is in the soul.

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