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May 25, 1999



An exhibition of signature lush tropical Haitian paintings and other art and craft items opened Monday evening to spotlight Haiti Week at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C. The display was organized by Haiti’s First Lady Géri Benoit-Préval in conjunction with the country’s Permanent Mission to the OAS.

On hand to open the exhibition, the Haitian First Lady explained this "special flavor of Haiti at its best" as art that depicts the full range of an eclectic historical experience--from the victorious slave rebellion to freedom and independence to the years of repression to democracy.

She said the "small but powerful sample" of her country’s culture on display also had a significant purpose--as a gentle reminder that despite the struggles, successes had been achieved. Expressing the hope that it will provide insights into Haiti’s progress, the First Lady identified the promotion of human rights, health and education as gains in the efforts to improve the overall quality of life.

The Organization’s Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, hailed the collection as a refreshing showcase of the "vigorous" art form of Haiti. The exhibition "serves to illustrate the creativity and the direction being taking in contemporary Haitian art," he remarked.

It features an array of items including oil on canvas painting, forged iron figures, flatmetal sculptures, wood and stone sculptures, traditional furniture and decorative boxes made from cow horn or wood painted in lush tropical colors, all bearing testimony to some two centuries of Haitian culture that reflects a strong African identity as it is underlined with a French and Catholic world view.

Ambassador Thomas referred to the popularization of art in Haiti, citing the observation by the American poet and art critic Selmon Rodman that, "In proportion to their number, there are more great popular artists in Haiti than anywhere else in the world."

Prominent among the world-renown artists featured in this weeklong exhibition are: Lionel St. Eloi, Prefete Duffaut, Edouard Duval and Burton Chenet. The exhibition is open to the public at the OAS main Building, 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. until May 30.