Belleville, a whole other world in Haiti. A gated community for the wealthy in Port-au-Prince. Driving through this district one can feel as if they were in America or a suburb in the UK. The streets were manicured, the roads were smooth and perfect. You would not have thought this was Haiti!
Archive for November 2010
'Gingerbread' architecture, a term coined by American tourists in the 1950's who visited Haiti has long been the term used to call these timber framed houses. This style of architecture ceased to be built in 1925 as it was banned in the city due to it being a fire hazard.
The Gingerbread Houses reflected a time of prosperity and creativity when Haiti was a vibrant part of the international community. It had hosted the Paris Exposition in 1900 which saw the local Haitian artists incorporating foreign influences into its indigenous art and architecture.
The hotel Oloffson, stands proudly and is the epitome of the typical Haitian gingerbread architecture. It was built in the late 19th century as a private home.
The property owned by the Sam family who had a lineage of Haitian presidents. Tirésias Simon-Sam was president of Haiti from 1896 to 1902 and the mansion was built by Tirésias's son, Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. The Sams lived in the mansion until 1915, when Guillaume himself became president but only for five months until he was torn to pieces by an angry mob.
By chance we found out about this art fair organised and sponsored by Digicel happening near the new American Embassy out in Tabarre. So a few of us decided to head out there to see what was going on.
It was a collection of local artists showcasing a variety of Haitian art. It was an impressive collection and reflected the creative personality of Haiti.
Architecture for Humanity, Bezos Family Foundation together with Global Nomads Group have collaborated to get young people helping with rebuilding Haiti's schools. There intention is to get American & Canadian high school students involved with fundraising and awareness raising.
What happens is that every dollar raised by the students, it will be matched in a grant form by AFH, Bezos and GNG. Schools in Haiti wishing to be part of this grant scheme apply to be registered in the program.
Tap-tap's are readily seen all over Port-au-Prince. These are the Haitian taxi cabs and serve as public transportation in Haiti. Tap-taps are privately owned, but publicly operated as a form of shared taxi. The larger Urban Tap-taps are small pickup trucks, the smaller sometimes mini-vans, with benches and a sun cover, able to maneuver in heavy traffic.
Haiti's own Banksy!
His graffiti can be found all over Petionville and downtown Port-au-Prince. It carries both a satirical humor and political message. Much of it is repeated in different parts of the city, and a few imitations can be seen, but we know its a Jerry, when we see his signature, not the 'r's' are without the back, so one would think it says Jezzy but from our good Haitian source, his name is Jerry.
Finally, I get to visit the site in which we are building houses for Digicel Foundation. Two houses are on the drawing board. House of Odeline and House for Marie. Both are workers at a local hospital and both are in line for a new house.
The first site for Papa Odeline, is a simple house for four people. The site is very marshy and water logged, which has created site issues for construction and design. The second site, much less problematic is for Marie, but a house suitable for 17 people.
A few AFH volunteers and myself got to go and explore the Southern coastal town of Jacmel. It is about a 4/5 hour drive from Port-au-Prince, and a bumpy journey it was as we drove out of the capital. The roads up the mountain were surprisingly smooth and the journey wasn't too bad.
Jacmel, founded in 1698 was formerly called by its Taino name 'Yaquimel' until the French colonialist arrived and renamed it Jacmel. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and has a charm likened to that of New Orleans.
After a few months of e-mail correspondence I finally get to meet Fr. Gerry O'Connor, a Redemptorist priest who works and lives in Ireland. Alongside his job as a priest he also runs a Charity called Serve, 'solidarity in action.' They work in developing countries, offering volunteer programs to either to house build or to educate.
Fr. Gerry, or he likes to be called Gerry, currently is helping the Redemptorists in Haiti. If you read my previous blog about the Redemptorist under 'Home Away from Home', you can understand why they need help.