The Haitian Surrealists That History Forgot

Repeating Islands


A report by Digby Warde-Aldam for Artsy.

“It is the destiny of the Haitian people to suffer,” the country’s late, deposed dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, supposedly once said. Though the statement seems a strange one coming from a negligent, brutal despot whose excesses bled the already impoverished state dry in the 1980s (by one modest estimate, his wedding cost $3 million—about $9 million with inflation), it’s not hard to understand the sentiment behind it.
This extraordinary nation’s modern history reads like a checklist of every crisis imaginable. Once the most profitable colony in the Caribbean, its slave population rose up in rebellion in 1791, successfully ousting their French overlords by 1804 and, in the process, establishing the world’s first black republic. The French did not take their defeat lightly, and while they never reconquered this part of the island of Hispaniola, they did succeed in reducing it…

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