Two months of Haitian arts and culture

Lakou Mizik entertains a filled ballroom at BRIC.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Haiti Cultural Exchange is hosting its second Biennial Celebration of Haitian Arts & Culture, an inter-disciplinary two-month springtime festival that began May 1 and run until June 30.

Featuring music, film and video, art exhibitions, dance, storytelling, literature and food, Selebrasyon! 2016: Freedom / Liberte is bringing together more than 30 artists — emerging to established from Haiti and the diaspora. The programs take place in community-based and main-stage venues in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

This year’s theme pays tribute to the 30-year anniversary of the fall of the Duvalier regime. This brutal dictatorship resulted in the exile of thousands of Haitians, their migration to the U.S. and the growth of a Haitian diaspora community in the New York region.

“Selebrasyon! highlights the revolutionary spirit of the Haitian people, movements of resistance, and the on-going opportunities and challenges of freedom,” writes Regine M. Roumain, director of the seven-year-old HCX.

The family day kick-off event at Affirmation Arts offered something for everyone, children drew or danced to the music of DJ Hard Hitting Harry. A performance in folkloric dance and live music entertained.

Announced that day were the recipients of the HCX’s Lakou NOU (Our Yard) artists’ residency grants, awarded to Haitian descent artists in order to connect their skills and talents with underserved Brooklyn neighborhoods Recipients are DJ Sabine Blaizin, dancer Sherley St. Fort Davilmar, percussionist and MC Okai Fleurimont and dancer and choreographer Veroneque Ignace.

On May 6, BRIC, in partnership with HCX, presented the nine-member collective of Haitian musicians — Lakou Mizik, who came together after the Haitian earthquake and are “bringing new life to Haitian music.” Elder drummer Sanba Zao along with guitarist Steeve Valcourt, fellow singer Joan Attis and the ensemble inspired BRIC’s filled ballroom to dance.

Upcoming programs: Haitian Flag Day on May 18 will be celebrated at Shapeshifter Lab (6-10 pm) with Gashford Guillaume’s Creole Fusion Ensemble and the band Baz Twoubadou that blends traditional sounds of the popular acoustic genre with modern instruments.

On May 21 (7 pm) and May 22 (2 pm), Boston-based Jean Appolon Dance Expressions will dance the New York Premiere of Angaje (Engage) exploring themes of injustice in the context of contemporary Haiti, set to the music of Toto Bissainthe.

Also performing, locally based Kanu Dance Theater will dance “She is a Potomitan (Pillar of strength). “

Come June, Guetty Felin’s latest film Ayiti Mon Amour, a magic neo-realistic post-earthquake tale, will screen at BAM Rose Cinemas on June 1 at 7:30 pm.

For the family, storytelling will take place at 1087 E.43rd Street the Block Association Community Garden on Saturday June 18 at 2 pm.

The Queens Museum will host writer, novelist and teacher Yanick Lahrens as the featured guest at Salon D’Haiti, June 19, at 2 pm.

The festival continues feting Haitian music at Pioneer Works in Red Hook (June 23, 7–10 pm, 159 Pioneer St.). Also, Bowery Poetry Club will host an An n’Pale conversation with poet laureate of Boston Danielle Legros Georges, June 26 at 3pm.

With the concluding wrap-up, music and Haitian food will be celebrated as the 2016 Selebrasyon! comes to a close. Taste of Haiti will feature a Haitian food tasting at Berg’n ( 899 Bergen) June 30, 6–11 pm.

The schedule:

Sherley St. Fort Davilmar, founder of “La Troupe Zetwal” peforms at Selebrasyon!’s kick-off.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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