Opening Night: The divine colours of Hell. New painting from Haiti – Préféte Duffaut & Frantz Zéphirin

Back in 2005 we spent a week in Port-au-Prince.

We rode in Tap-Taps. We wandered through the central cemetery. We rode motor bike taxis. We got chased by pigs. We had a great time.

We even tried to break into Port-au-Prince prison. It was in context.

Among the numerous scenes we will never forget was the street vendors around United Nations Square offering their art for sale. Back in the day such vendors made a good business from the cruise ships that stopped in Haiti as part of their Caribbean tours.

That the ships had long since decided to give Haiti a wide bearth, we were the object of everyone’s attention.


Frantz Zephirin began by selling his works to tourists such us; and has gone on to establish a career that has seen him exhibit across the USA, Europe as well as throughout the Caribbean. Although many of his works may lack the vibrant colours that so dominate the typical stereotype of Haitian art; the themes and denotata of his works are very much grounded in the Haitian tradition.

Préféte Duffaut belongs to the old guard of Haitian painters and to that generation whose work so inspired artists such as Picasso or intellectuals such as André Breton, who made special reference to Haitian art in his book “Surrealism and Painting”. In 1948 Préféte Duffaut was invited to join the celebrated Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince where he worked alongside artists such as Hector Hyppolite and Georges Liautaud and in the early 1950s he contributed two murals to the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port-au-Prince. In 2005 we did visit the Cathedral, to our shame we can’t remember seeing the murals.

The works displayed during “The divine colours of Hell” were partly created in Haiti, and partly during a workshop held in 2010 at the Denkmalschmiede Höfgen; an institution who are not only co-hosting the exhibition in the Ethnography Museum but are also hosting a second, parallel exhibition of works by Préféte Duffaut & Frantz Zéphirin.

A collection of circa sixteen paintings,”The divine colours of Hell” is not only a wonderful introduction the intricate nature of naive Haitian art; but is also a thought provoking look into the soul of a land that never wanted to be anything other than happy. But which the West simply couldn’t leave in peace.

Both Préféte Duffaut and Frantz Zéphirin were present at the opening in Leipzig on Thursday evening – and will also be present at the opening of the exhibition in the Denkmalschmiede Höfgen on Sunday 11th 2011.

The divine colours of Hell. New painting from Haiti – Préféte Duffaut & Frantz Zéphirin can be viewed at the Grassi Leipzig Ethnography Museum until February 19th 2012

The second exhibition at the Denkmalschmiede Höfgen runs from 13.10.2011 until 26.02.2012

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