Every year, Haitian Heritage Month is celebrated in May, in the United States, to recognize the culture, history and legacy of the Caribbean country. It’s an annual opportunity for Haitians and members of the diaspora to rejoice in the rich culture, distinct art and delicious food of Haiti and its people, without needing a passport. One of the many contributions that Haiti has made to the world is in the form of art. Haitian art, due to its depictions of African roots and strong Indigenous influences, is widely regarded as important visual representations of the culture and history of Haiti, and one gallery is determined to share this vast output with the world.
“The Yellow House” by Georges Desarmes.
Located in West Hollywood, California, Galerie Lakaye was opened in 1990 by Carine Fabius and her husband Pascal Giacomini. Out of their craftsman home, the couple began showcasing and selling contemporary ethnic art works, specifically from Haitian artists. “My husband/partner and I had gone to Haiti to visit family and brought back lots of art,” says Fabius, who is Haitian-born but has lived in the US since she was eight. “After everyone who walked into our house said they wanted to give us money to bring them back some art on our next trip, we decided to turn our house into a Haitian art gallery.”
“Guardian,” from the Lullaby Series, by Francesca Lalanne
By focusing on Haitian artists and their work, the couple wants to educate Los Angelenos, and all Americans, about Haitian history and culture through paintings and sculptures created by the people who understand it firsthand. “Although Haiti has lots of issues, our strength is in our culture, and specifically in our extraordinary art culture,” says Fabius. And it is quite extraordinary. On the gallery’s website, where all of the art can be seen, each unique piece tells its own story while still adding to an overall understanding of the art and culture of Haiti. Despite the political issues that plague the nation, every piece in the gallery is brightly colored or incredibly expressive—Haitians are creating optimistic art, painting bountiful harvests or strong communities working together. And because the gallery is within the private home of the owners, a close-knit community has been created and fostered around the art. In Haitian Creole, “lakaye” means “home,” so Galerie Lakaye literally translates to “gallery from back home.”
“Underwater” by Iris
The gallery provides a diverse supply of Haitian-created pieces to an audience that may never otherwise know the beauty or power of this particular category of ethnic art. Just browsing through the website gives a sense of how Fabius and Giacomini carefully cultivated this collection with the idea of telling Haitian stories through the universal language of creativity and art. “Haitian Heritage Month is an opportunity to share and express our dignity and self-respect with others, and art is the obvious way to do so,” says Fabius.
“Cuban Beauties” by Nelson Franco
Carine Fabius is an author and freelance museum curator and Pascal Giacomini is a French-American sculptor, photographer and filmmaker. The couple wrote, produced and directed an award-winning film titled Out of Chaos, An Artist’s Journey in Haiti, and it represents their newest initiative to “bring the art of Haiti to young, new audiences by immersing them in the culture.” The film is available to stream here and you can follow Galerie Lakaye on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“Au Marche” by Pira Casso
Words by Claire Blaha
Images courtesy of Galerie Lakaye