The Ghetto Biennale exhibits art where it’s made: on the streets and in the shanties of Port au Prince. Haitian sculptors and 40 overseas artists transform parts of the city into a flourishing festival site.
The heat is oppressive. It’s noisy, dusty and stinks of diesel. Mopeds weave past brightly painted buses. Traders peddle cheap goods on the seafront. There are mechanics welding, tyres being piled up, women balancing vats of water. Lunchtime on the Grand Rue, the heaving main thoroughfare in Port au Prince.
At the southern end of the street, an eight-metre metallic colossus soars skywards from among semi-dilapidated houses. The body is made from the chassis of an old lorry; the head was once an old oil tank. The statue is from the studio of André Eugène, head of artists’ colony Atis Rezistans: The Sculptors of Grand Rue.
The ‘Rezistans’ refers to their will to get on, stick together and not be beaten by the catastrophes that have befallen Haiti. Eugène and his colleagues work on sculptures made from car parts, bits of wood, dolls’ heads and human skulls. It’s art from waste, imbued with voodoo symbolism. The sculptures stand tall in backyards, on rooftops and in the shacks themselves, lending the area a morbid charm. Its allure has captivated the international art world and Grand Rue sculptors regularly exhibit in London and Miami. Last year they were invited to the Venice Biennale. And once every two years they put on a huge show of their own: the Ghetto Biennale.
Watch the Pictorial in July's issue of The Red Bulletin.