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Haiti General Information
 
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Culture in Haiti
 
 
 

General

Haiti has a long and storied history and therefore retains a rich culture. Haitian culture is a mixture of primarily French, African elements, and native Taíno, with influence from the colonial Spanish. The country's customs essentially are a blend of cultural beliefs that derived from the various ethnic groups that inhabited the island of Hispaniola. In nearly all aspects of modern Haitian society however, the European and African elements dominate. Haiti is world famous for its distinctive art, notably painting and sculpture.

The bankrupt government provides occasional token support for the arts, typically for dance troupes.

Architecture

Haiti's most famous monuments are the Palace of Sans Souci and the Citadel, inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1982. Situated in the Northern Massif de la Hotte, in one of Haiti's National Parks, the structures date from the early 19th century. The buildings were among the first to be built after Haiti's independence from France.

Jacmel, the colonial city that was tentatively accepted as a World Heritage site, is reported to be extensively damaged by the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Literature

Haitian literature is written primarily in French. The elite has produced several writers of international renown, including Jean Price-Mars, Jacques Roumain, and Jacques-Stephen Alexis.

Visual Arts

Haitians have a predilection for decoration and bright colours. Wood boats called kantè, second hand US school buses called kamion, and small enclosed pick-up trucks called taptap are decorated with brightly coloured mosaics and given personal names such as "Kris Kapab" (Christ Capable) and "Gras a Dieu" (Thank God). Haitian painting became popular in the 1940s when a school of "primitive" artists encouraged by the Episcopal Church began in Port-au-Prince. Since that time a steady flow of talented painters has emerged from the lower middle class. However, elite university-schooled painters and gallery owners have profited the most from international recognition. There is also a thriving industry of low-quality paintings, tapestries, and wood, stone, and metal handicrafts that supplies much of the artwork sold to tourists on other Caribbean islands.

Many artists cluster in ‘schools’ of painting, such as the Cap Haitian school, which features depictions of daily life in the city, the Jacmel School, which reflects the steep mountains and bays of that coastal town, or the Saint-Soleil School, which is characterised by abstracted human forms and is heavily influenced by voodoo symbolism.


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