“You can’t begin too soon to encourage an appreciation of art! And each artwork has a story.”
As we will soon be celebrating the most festive part of this season, it seemed appropriate for this week's Baba's Art School to introduce my grandkids to two paintings in my collection that bring me a sense of joy and celebration, recalling my own childhood in West Africa.
These two marvelous oil paintings are by the late legendary Haitian artist Guerda Louizor. Born in 1940 in southern Haiti, she passed away in 2011. Guerda was the wife and student of the master Haitian artist Ernst Louizor, who was the head of the celebrated Haitian Impressionist School. Guerda started out as a watercolorist, but moved on to oil paintings. Her work features characteristics of the Haitian Impressionist School, such as the application or small dabs of color with a palette knife, making the painting quite roughed, giving it dimensionality. She also uses warm earth colors against clear skies. She brings a real sense of originality to her paintings, which are sensitive and exude much warmth. Her work was very popular in Haiti, in numerous galleries around the capital, Port-au-Prince, and is now in collections around the world.
I encourage you to take some time to watch this interesting interview with Guerda Louizor on YouTube, which really gives you sense of her personality and creativity. See: https://bit.ly/3GVqai8
Growing up in Senegal, West Africa, a francophone country, I have always loved Haiti. Years ago, after reading Graham Greene’s marvelous novel set in Haiti, “The Comedians,” I longed to visit the country. The predominate takeaway for me from spending time there is the celebrative nature of the people, in spite of living in the midst of hardship. Their optimistic spirit is contagious. In so many ways, this reminds me of West Africa.
I am particularly drawn to these two paintings as they portray scenes that are very similar to Senegal… such as outdoor markets and laundry being washed in flowing rivers. Regardless of the effort required for life’s most basic existence, Haitians remarkably maintain a positive disposition toward life.
I love their proverbs, in the Creole language, as they express their worldview. One in particular has always stood out to me. In Creole it is “Dye mon, gen mon.” It means, “Beyond the mountains, more mountains.” In other words, life is continually difficult. Haitians have suffered hardship after hardship – from corrupt dictators, earthquakes, criminal gangs, poverty, etc. And yet, their most popular proverb remains, “Bondye bon,” which means “God is good.”
Two other popular Haitian proverbs have much to teach us. The first is “Lespwa fe viv,” meaning “Hope is alive.” In other words, hope itself gives us hope to continue. The second is, “Devan pòt tounen dèyè kay,” meaning “The front door becomes the back of the house.” The meaning is that things can always change and the situation can be reversed.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the holidays, let us remember that in the midst of hardship and life’s challenges, that hope and joy can indeed be found in their midst.
PS: The grandkids loved feeling the roughed paint on the canvas!
Guerda Louizor, “Lessive a la compagne,” 1997
Oil on canvas
Guerda Louizor, “Village market,” 1997
Oil on canvas