Jean Pierre’s story:
We both left when we were in our 20s. We met in Philadelphia, where I moved to in 1977. I was invited to the U.S. by the Haitian Cultural Society of Philadelphia and Drexel University. When I first came, I wanted to go back to Haiti. Every night, for six months, I dreamed about being back in Haiti. But so many people believed in me. They believed that I would come to the U.S. and be a success. So at some point, when I became interested in history, my interests shifted a bit. I became interested in Haitian culture. The more I learned, I realized that there was a commonality between the two countries. That sense of connection made me feel better. It kind of kept me focused on doing more research, and that was the genesis of my interest. I had an opportunity to be exposed to so much information here since the libraries were close by where I lived. That gave me a chance to really research more and uncover my own Haitian history. I realized that there is so much to create as an artist, and I am in the center of inspiration by being in Louisiana. Every day, for me, is a great inspiration as an artist.
I left there and came to New Orleans in 1995. We left Haiti many years ago as artists and managed to have many shows at different institutions. Our goal here is to promote culture through the arts. We paint on history, social life, we always try to capture the essence of human dignity. So basically this is part of the story.
His daughter is my goddaughter. I was telling him yesterday how beautiful it was that when his daughter was a baby I used to babysit. Now she’s married with her own children.
I think Haiti is one of the greatest countries on earth. Though poor, culturally it is a great country. It may seem to be poor, but to me it is not poor. Because I do not value the importance of my country on money. It is important to remember the heroes and heroines. What they have done is something that should not be forgotten. I feel a sense of responsibility to immortalize those historical characters that shaped the country, and I realize I am a part of them. I feel spiritually compelled to use my artistic abilities and my passion to do what I am doing. Without the past I would not be here. I feel a sense of obligation as an artist. I do not want to paint just to paint as a decoration. I paint because I have a message to send to the world, and I feel like it is my place to take you to the consciousness of the world. Creating art is not a joke, when you create a work of art you put yourself on the canvas, or whatever it is, music, poetry, whatever it is you expose what is in your consciousness. I am on this earth temporarily. I am a passenger, but when I leave I want to leave something that will inspire children. There are many children growing up today who don’t have a sense of direction but who need an example, so I feel compelled, spiritually compelled.
I met him in 1983. I left my children in Haiti. Later on, I was thinking about bringing my kids over. I came to the States with my wife one time, she said “I’m not going back to Haiti.” So I went back to get the kids, I was looking for houses in Miami, but they didn’t want to allow me to rent anything since I had kids. Then a friend of mine suggested moving to Philadelphia to find houses, so that is when I went there and met JeanPierre. Since then we have been good friends.