Exhibition Brings Haitian and Dominican Artists Together

Jennie Santos stands with her mixed-media sculpture. The piece is supposed to be interactive. (Photo by Tequila Minsky via Caribbean Life)

Jennie Santos stands with her mixed-media sculpture. The piece is supposed to be interactive. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

In 2013, a court ruling in the Dominican Republic stripped the citizenship from those born in the country to Haitian immigrants. Efforts to mitigate international outrage has done little to ease tensions, particularly with the recent lynching of a man of Haitian descent in Santiago.

In this context, a Washington Heights art exhibition featuring artists of Dominican and Haitian background might seem “impossible on the island of Hispaniola itself,” writes Tequila Minsky in Caribbean Life. Through Feb. 27, “La Lucha, Quisqueya and Haiti: One Island” displays photos, sculptures and mixed media at the Rio Penthouse Gallery.

“Quisqueya” a Taíno language name to mean Mother of all Lands, is used for the entire island of Dominican Republic and Haiti but is mostly adopted by the eastern portion, the nation of the Dominican Republic.

La Lucha translates to “the struggle” or “the fight.”

The exhibition’s organizer Yelaine Rodriguez, a 24-year-old Dominican-American fashion designer put together the show to start a conversation between these Diaspora artists in New York. She partnered with Haiti Cultural Exchange.

As a young diaspora Dominican, Rodriguez recognizes she has “a lot to learn” about the history of the island — Dominican and Haitian history and she is learning from other artists. One such recent revelation, “We celebrate our independence from Haiti, but not from our colonizers.” She realizes how much separation there is.

“Even in New York, we were separate,” said Rodriguez, referring to her realization that she did not know many artists of Haitian descent. The exhibition serves as one way to bridge that separation.

One of the works in the show is a mixed-media piece by Dominican artist Jennie Santos, described by Minsky as “an oversized stuffed person-shape with the regions of Haiti delineated. Thin wooden dowels project with a container of ‘pins/dowels’ on the floor suggesting that the piece be interactive. Haiti appears to be one big Vodou doll.”

Go to Caribbean Life to read about other works featured in the exhibition.

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