AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

The Ethos of Community: Modern Art of Haiti from the 1930s

by Yujie Tian

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2014
Keywords: Haitian art; ethos; community; multiple modernisms; participatory art; Préfète Duffaut; Laurent Casimir; Joëlle Ferly; Josué Azor
Record ID: 1260373
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/29351


Latin American modernism(s) has always attracted the attention of art historians because of its historical context of colonialism and highly syncretized culture. Its arts show how different forces, intrinsic or extraneous, converge and interact to result in what is deemed Latin American modern art today. Haiti, being a Creole-speaking country which is mainly composed of African descendants, cannot always find an appropriate place within this discussion. The two historical accounts of modern art - that of Latin America and that of the Caribbean - intersect but do not collaborate to form a coherent narration. What is the more urgent problem here is that Haitian modern art is hardly defined or described. This thesis examines the art of Haiti after the 1930s and arrives at the conclusion that the ethos of community could be utilized to characterize the idiosyncrasy of Haitian modern culture. Community permeates in every aspects of Haitian modern life: from society, economics, to politics and religion. The artworks of Préfète Duffaut (1923-2012) and Laurent Casimir (1928-1990) reveal how community is depicted in oil paintings and how this theme is related to the social and economic life of Haiti. The participatory art of Joëlle Ferly (1970- ) and the photographic series of Josué Azor (1987- ) show how community is established in the religious life of Haiti. The theory of the ethos of modernism by American art historian Esther Gabara, the concept of “other modernisms” by Australian art historian John Clark and the theory about participatory art by Claire Bishop are examined here and form the general analytical structure of this thesis. The research is based on a careful reading of the historical documents and scholarly works which explain the significance of community for Haiti and on a series of art historical literature which visualize the development of Haitian art from the 1930s until recent years.