As a Haitian immigrant, while growing up in Brooklyn during the 1980s, it was difficult to maintain social and cultural ties to more than one place at a time. This created a constant struggle with identity and acceptance. Despite my Haitian nationality, I am too often confronted by and subjugated to, harsh scrutiny solely based on color, while polarizing my image and marginalizing its complex inner value. My current body of work revisits this struggle, to reveal my life-long dialog about nationality, as it relates to blackness and the contemporary demands of a modern era. In one series of works, a hooded male figure is smiling while wrapped in a fire hose and is being propelled in random directions. The imagery in this set of works is both deliberately dispossessing and amusingly playful almost in equal measures, hence the title “Mumbo Jumbo.” The similarly titled novel by author Ishmael Reed inspires the series, “Mumbo Jumbo.” In the novel, as in this collection of works, Mr. Reed attempts to capture the complexities of the African American identity and how it is affronted and thrown askew by external pressures. Yet in an act of quiet defiance, the protagonist’s smile is an immediate reminder to the viewer of his humanity and inner self.
Relatedly, I also seek to explore how commonplace objects can be re-loaded with an entirely different set of perceptions. This re-defining of ordinary, everyday items is based solely on the context within which such objects are placed. For example, in various pieces from this collection, it is interesting to note how the placement of a construction cone (in an otherwise innocuous social setting), can invoke an immediate sense of danger and urgency in the viewer. Against certain backdrops, hypercritical has become the new normal when interacting with a minority population. Also embedded in the work is a faded tribute to the African diasporic influence on Haitian culture. The symbols represented in the work are often used in voodoo ceremonies, derived from venerable cultural links to the African continent. This additive or duality is designed to redirect the viewer’s attention towards cultural markers in regards to identity and blackness, as opposed to racial precepts. Although hefty in terms of subject matter and pervasive in its relevance to our everyday lives, my goal in this work and the themes it seeks to explore is to create a platform for meaningful discourse in hopes of fostering a state of collectivity and consciousness.