What We Need Now Is A Poet: A Preemptive Argument for Developing Art in Memory of Haiti’s Earthquake Victims

By Kette Thomas.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

How do we, Haitians, critique our country without becoming traitors to it? How do we observe its vulnerability yet, primarily, publicize its moral and ethical failings, as if its current state did not torment enough? In the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake, it seems public media has leaned on doing just that.
If the Haitians who suffered the earthquake thought that there was room enough to reflect on this tragedy, by now they have had to think again, as horror stories of man-made crises pile up on the heels of their exhausted condition. Haiti suffers from shortages of clean food and water, lack of shelter, government corruption, Restavek systems, superstition, exploitation, etc. By the time the list has concluded, if it ever does, we ought to be over the earthquake. Those of us in academia who thought that we would have time to develop poetry for a Dark Age and a new beginning; contribute voice for the victims; and produce a burgeoning new interest in the sciences, have, by now, found ourselves lost in a media tsunami of other problems that plague Haiti. If we thought it was a time to regenerate, we are disillusioned. In this paper, I argue that while we should not avoid the very real exacerbation of preexisting problems brought on by the earthquake, the role of art and its principles can bring balance to habits of the past and the hope for a new future. If a society rests on its principles of survival through artful expressions of heroism, strength, and faith in times of tremendous hardship, then Haiti needs art more than heightened expressions of degradation. Art can function towards much needed encouragement and catharsis for a population crushed by a natural disaster, asphyxiated by corruption, and buried alive by unrelenting media narratives of violence, hopelessness and loss.

Keywords: Haiti’s Earthquake, Art and Media, Narrative

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.243-252. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 599.558KB).

Dr. Kette Thomas

Assistant Professor, Humanities, Michigan Tech University, Houghton, MI, USA

Assistant Professor of Diverse Literatures, Kette Thomas’ work centers on questions regarding identity, agency, and language. She places special emphasis on religion, myth, folklore, as it relates to cultural practices. She recently published an article on the Zombie myth and the biblical figure of Lazarus and is doing research on rhetorical and representational models of human rights violations. Her current book project on Restavecs, an informal institution of child labor in Haiti, is a primary example of such investigative focus.


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