jhon-charles_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Art Basel takes over the Miami Beach Convention Center this Thursday through Sunday, with the international art show bringing together the works of more than 2,000 artists.

The Haitian Heritage Museum is using the weekend of art to continue to shine the spotlight on Haiti.  Across the Julia Tuttle Bridge in Little Haiti, the museum will open its new exhibit The Soul of Haiti, on Friday, the title paying homage to Jhon Charles’ series of drawings and paintings of the same name.

Eveline Pierre, founder and executive director of the museum, describes the series as a transition from dark to light. Charles got the inspiration for the work while he was living in a tent city in Port-au-Prince after an earthquake devastated the city in January.

South Florida community and international art lovers have a lot of exhibitions to choose from during Art Basel and Pierre wants them to visit Little Haiti to experience Haitian culture.

“While people are enjoying the art [in Miami Beach], they can come to the museum and get a taste of our culture without needing a passport,” Pierre said.

Charles, a Port-au-Prince native, began drawing as a child and later studied at the Haitian National School of the Arts. “As an artist, creating is important to me, it’s an escape, it’s a hideout, a place to relieve myself from everything that overwhelms me, with freedom, with confidence, without fear,” he said.

After the earthquake, that need to escape and create was stronger than ever. “I needed to clear my mind of all those negative images which roamed in my memory constantly,” he said. He felt helpless. “That bothered me a lot — people crushed under the rubble, many others screaming, images of many that I knew who died or lost relatives and all their possessions.”

While in the tents, Charles said, the children were almost everywhere, coming and going.  This memory led him to create a color painting in The Soul of Haiti series.

“The Soul of Haiti goes back to the children and reflects their spirits. Even though these are children living in poverty and amongst great tragedy, we have to nurture them because they are the future of Haiti,” said Pierre. 

After painting the piece of children playing traditional Haitian games, Charles said, “I found myself in a situation where I could no longer use colors in my work.” Some of the darker pieces in the series are charcoal drawings on wood. “They are about life in my surrounding which seems to be in black and white since this major tragic event.”

When the people see the show Pierre anticipates they will experience many emotions and she wants them to walk away with feelings of hope and strength.

“My work does not attempt to explain the earthquake; the work is mostly geared towards expressing people’s feelings,” said Charles.


WHAT: The Soul of Haiti art exhibition.

WHEN: Opening 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3

WHERE: Haitian Heritage Museum, 4141 NE Second Ave., Suite 105C Miami

HOURS:  Museum hours:  10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; 7-10 p.m. daily

CONTACT: Call 305-371-5988 or visit www.haitianheritagemuseum.org/index.html