Days 1 and 2

It’s too much to explain what it is like to arrive at the Oloffson and to be plunged into the energies of the Ghetto Biennale. Suffice to say that it is a medium.

It turns out that the Tap tap I’ve commissioned to be painted has already been half done and that there seems to be some confusion as to whether the owner – Evel – will allow the rest of his truck to be painted, and whether the $100 US I sent to pay for the job will be recuperable from the guy Michel who painted the other parts of the truck.

I meet with Evel and Chevy from Atis Rezistans and some sort of deal is struck about making a painting on the bonnet of his truck on plastic so that it can be taken off after the biennale. That’s agreed. Now it’s a question of finding the painter and working out the cost.

After dinner I meet with a guy who says he can do the job. But we will have to speak to Michel first. I’m not sure how this is going to work out exactly or whether any definitive agreement was reached because I’m working in incredibly bad, broken French with bits of English thrown in. I’m never sure exactly what I’m saying or if it’s being understood. There’s also a lot of discussion and debate moving in Kreyol between the different interests to which I’m not party. I’m re-assured something will be sorted.

The next day I spend some time walking around the neighborhood with Jana Evans Braziel, who is writing a book about Atis Rezistans and the Ghetto Biennale. I take the opportunity to take some photos of signs in the area.

I notice that several of the signs have business names and contacts written on them, suggesting that they are made by free-lance painters. I had assumed that their might be some kind of guild system working, at least with the tap tap painters, but I’m starting to think that sign painting in Haiti is a much more individual and entrepreneurial venture pursued by any one with a feel for it.

That certainly seems to be the case when I start to negotiate with both of the sign painters, who turn out to be friends, down at Grand Rue, the site of the biennale.

Michel and Joseph on the Grand Rue

After some negotiations with Evel, Eugene, Michel and his friend we agree on a price for the new work which will be painted on a canvas which will be attached to the bonnet of the truck: $200 US, $100 each, the first today, the second on completion of the job in two days time. We shake on the deal. I will be at the rue tomorrow at 8 to start the filming. I go back to Eugene’s yard, take a few more photos of the biennale space as the light fades, then head off back to Oloffson on Evel’s truck.

Romel and Racine at Eugene’s place