MUSEUM International N°248
Haiti, Cultural Heritage and Reconstruction
The Minister of Tourism provides a remarkable account filled with vivid personal anecdotes on the founding of the Republic of Haiti. He then draws a historic analysis on heritage considering it as the basis for the re-founding of the nation today.
ISPAN has many different roles. It makes inventories of, and classifies, items relating to Haiti’s national heritage. It draws up proposals for restoration projects and programmes for the enhancement of historical sites and monuments, and it manages and monitors the work that is then undertaken. It also helps promote and develop public and private operations for safeguarding the country’s national heritage. It publishes information and documentation on national and international architecture and monuments, and on their protection and restoration.
After the earthquake of 12 January 2010 which destroyed Port-au-Prince, what sort of city should be rebuilt, and for whom? Should the colonial town of 1749 be recreated, or should it be the nineteenth-century city? Should the traditional socially exclusive urban patterns be reconstructed, or should the dysfunctional zoning that was applied unsuccessfully in Port-au-Prince throughout the nineteenth century be reintroduced? This article offers some new approaches for the urban planning of the future Portau-Prince, based on the assumption that historical memory is a fundamental parameter for spatial planning.
Haiti’s rich and varied cultural heritage has been widely admired. A surge of interest in positively affirming this heritage began in the 1940s and grew stronger from the 1980s, reaching a climax with the bicentenary commemoration in 2004. But the terrible events of 12 January 2010 halted the momentum, demonstrating that intangible heritage is fragile and at risk. Irreparable losses have been recorded. Government authorities and civil society have reacted quickly to save as much as possible, and the institutions responsible for safeguarding the country’s culture have shown a lot of determination. This shows there is an increased awareness of the importance of Haiti’s cultural inheritance, which, although it has been weakened, remains a beacon of hope and a real asset in the rebuilding of the country.
This article presents the historical, administrative and structural aspects of the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien and offers a perspective on its national and international role. The article also discusses the relationship between the Ministry of Culture and Communications and other independent entities reporting to this supervisory body, which is responsible for promoting national historical and cultural heritage, especially in the aftermath of the earthquake of 12 January 2010. In conclusion, it considers prospects for the future and describes the measures introduced to re-open the museum to the public. MUPANAH seeks to attract the young, and to extend educational programmes to cover the whole country.
Ownership of heritage remains dependent on the opinion and position of those at the top of the social hierarchy. It also depends on the tastes and interests of each generation. Consequently the interpretation or meaning of Haiti's heritage objects must be sought from the viewpoint of those who take ownership of them or reject them. Since heritage making is also an act of legitimization, it raises some fundamental issues about identity; hence the need for recognizing cultural diversity in Haiti.
After the earthquake that hit the Haitian capital and surrounding districts, it was very difficult to get people to recognize the importance of private collections. However, they make up a significant proportion of Haiti’s artistic and cultural heritage and have undergone extensive damage. If what remains of this heritage is to be saved and restored, help must not be limited to inter-governmental agreements.
First aid for Haiti's cultural heritage was a three-week pilot training scheme carried out by ICCROM in partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Haiti and the Smithsonian Institution. The aim was to promote the recovery of Haiti's cultural heritage and to create a strong team of Haitian professionals who, within given means, could work quickly and efficiently to create safer storage environments and improve the general condition of their respective heritage collections. Twenty-six people from fourteen different cultural institutions in Haiti took part in the programme.
In the realm of tangible cultural heritage France is closely involved in reconstruction work in Haiti, collaborating closely with the Haitian authorities and local people. The French initiatives are all aimed at producing a contribution made up of medium-sized projects that will serve as sustainable examples in the whole field of culture, from the restoration of tangible heritage through to the training of professionals.
The world was shocked by the terrible earthquake that hit Haiti on 12 January 2010 and by the subsequent humanitarian needs. The Prince Claus Fund immediately contacted its network in Haiti and was astonished by the courage and strength of the people dealing with this terrible situation. Signs of resilience arose from amid the rubble, and stories of hope and survival fed people’s readiness to fight. Bolstered by their religion and culture, people in Haiti are still facing challenges every day, challenges they face with pride. In order to support the people in Haiti, the Prince Claus Fund has put its Cultural Emergency Response programme into action.
Today, in the eyes of the entire world, Haiti is categorized as a ‘failed state’. This perception is based on the country's level of poverty and the lack of public. How can culture become the means of rebuilding social ties in a country whose best business brains – along with most of its most young people – are desperate to leave? The article tackles the question through the prism of the social value of gingerbread houses and the urgent need for their restoration.
Born amid the waves that rocked the conquered indigenous Taino people and swept the victims of the slave trade from Africa to Haiti, voodoo is now a vigorous composite that provides the bedrock of resistance of the Haitian people and their courage amid desperate circumstances. It supplies a structural model for different groups of people forced to live together in the country, along with a universal cohesive force for peoples fighting to resist, while reflecting the historical contradictions and conflicts of this social and economic entity.
This article aims to show that intangible cultural heritage is an important tool for rebuilding the town of Jacmel, and the whole of Haiti. The authors suggest reinstating the Jacmel Carnival as soon as possible, because it was one of the town’s economic and social drivers before the earthquake. Income from the Carnival and other events could gradually be reinvested in rebuilding tangible heritage. The authors also highlight the creation of an inventory of intangible heritage. This is seen not simply as an archive collection but as a dynamic tool for managing, promoting, transmitting and revitalizing the region’s heritage and society.
Many voices have encouraged UNESCO to support the historic city of Jacmel, which dates from 1698. While Haiti is being rebuilt, they suggest, UNESCO should be at the forefront of the restoration project, helping this cultural and historical centre rise from the rubble and giving it a future. The first reason given is a simple respect for preceding generations, who have a long tradition of lively, colourful creativity. The art reflects the history and diversity that have shaped and forged the identity of the city's inhabitants. But the second reason is that, once rebuilt, the resources and assets of Jacmel and the area around the town will benefit the whole of Haiti, perhaps more than ever. The people of Jacmel and its region are dynamic, quick to respond and highly motivated, despite all they have gone through.
© 2008 - UNESCO