Port-au-Prince, Haiti—The weekend of the 8th edition of art (October 25 & 26), had finally arrived in Port-au-Prince. Everywhere I turned, everyone was talking about it; excitement was in the air. It was a not-miss festival. At a point, I too became too excited. But before I go into the detail, let me explain what the art festival is and as it is written in French “Artisanat en Fête.”
Artisanat en Fête is a Haitian art festival that first saw light in 2007. Gradually, it has become one of the most look-forward festivals every year. Many artists of every caliber would present their products. Whether it is clothes, jewelry, paintings, objects, etc… In other words, you could say it’s the artists meeting point.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, let me proceed with the event. The festival happened in Parc Historique de la Canne à Sucre, tickets were 300 gourdes. Valerio Canez and the parc are practically neighbors, so it was no surprise that the parking of Valerio Canez was used as the main entrance. As I walked in, I could see the welcoming sign with big A in the middle of it. Position under the A, were the cashier. Walked in and paid my ticket. As a token of thanks for participating, I received a free digicel 50gourdes card, a free ticket for drink and a 150gourdes card deductible on any of my purchase.
That out of the way, I started walking around. I was truly impressed with all that was exposed. I told myself “seriously my country has all this and has so much talent.” I was in awe looking at everything exposed: clothes, shoes, jewelry, beautiful handbags for women, swim wears, paintings, bathroom equipments, hair accessories, decorations and many more. I know I said it before, but I was truly in awe. My first thought, when I decided that I was going to the festival, was that I would not buy anything. Boy was I wrong!
First I was persuaded by a charming seller who convinces me to buy a chain with the letter B inscribed on it, representing the first initial of my first name. Second, I bought a shirt with our country logo upon it. OK I thought to myself “that is enough no more buying.” Oh so I thought. I came across a self-portrait stand. I had to stop and observe the artist at work. They were mesmerizing. They painted the person as exactly as they were. I thought maybe I should get one, but thought against it. Instead I went back to roaming around. I ended up buying two hair pieces. Yes, I know, I could not help it hehe! Anyway, after all my roaming around, finally I stopped and brought a drink using my free ticket of course.
As I was sipping my drink, I couldn’t help noticing, the number of people that came. They were of all colors, of all nationalities, of all shapes, and of all class. It was truly a mixed up and it was beautiful. In that moment, it did not matter whether you were poor, rich, or a foreigner. What matter was supporting our artists and having a great time doing so. Also, I couldn’t help noticing the big purchase bags that a lot of people were carrying.
Anyway, done with my drink, I decided to do another round, I accidentally stumble into the self-portrait stand again. Too many people were present and I still could not make up my mind whether I wanted one or not. So I left. Hunger hit me and I was forced to buy a delicious Creole fritay made of fry plantain and pork meat and pikliz (hot Haitian pickles). Of course delicious but too little for the amount of money I had to pay (shaking my head).
Once done, I decided to go back to the self-portrait stand. I told myself, if there is a lot of people, then I would not stay, if not I shall see. To my utter surprise, it was empty. I called over the artist, and asked him, how much it would cost to have one. He answered “500gourdes”. ‘That’s expensive’ I replied. He simply smiles. Been the person I am, I tried to bargain; but it didn’t lead me anywhere. Taking a deep breath, I was like “oh well” may as well get it over with. So I sat down and a young man (quite handsome must I say) started doing my portrait.
I sat there for more than 15 minutes, unable to move. Before I knew it, a crowd had gathered, and a young lady came next to me, look at the drawing then look at me said “wow it look exactly like you!” I smiled.
“Ok thank you, but now you are making me restless because I so badly want to see it,” I thought to myself. Anyhow, lost in my little world, I waited patiently, making less movement as possible, and trying to make eye contact with the artist at his request. After what felt like an eternity but was just few minutes, he was done. Bam, I was once again stupefied. The self-Portrait looked exactly like me; wow I couldn’t stop saying thank you. I left that stand with a smile, feeling proud that I did it.
On my last tour, I stumble into the books stand. In there I found a book by “Gary Victor” called “Le Revenant.” I remember back in the days, my brother and I would enjoy reading that story in Ticket Magazine. Since my brother b-day was on Monday, I decided to buy the book as a birthday gift, knowing how excited he was going to be.
At 6 PM unfortunately, my tour came to an end. I enjoyed the festival even though I was by myself, it was worth it. I certainly can’t wait for next year.
Note: Claire Bijou is contributor to CSMS Magazine. Her beautiful writing is a joy to read. She lives and works in suburban Port-au-Prince. She can be reached at:email@example.com
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