Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti and Me -II :Someone To Watch Over Me

drawing/collage by marguerita

Traveling through this life,embattled since a little girl,nearing my sixtieth year , I dare look back, as I am always doing. Facing obstacles beyond one's imagination,somehow scary and devastating. For the one who will lend his or her ear, or reading my words here ,seems to them and even to me fiction.
Watching Haiti's tragedy and the ones with their wonderful faith,I see them as looking in my mirror.
I can imagine that for many as, I myself,are in disbelief of one being so strong and looking at reality with no fear.I was maybe,fortunate to learn from my two parents,my mother out of Auschwitz and my father out from Siberia, both from cultured and prominent backgrounds,wealthy,to have lost all,but face the remains of their lives with an incredible joie de vivre,looking for Beauty and securing my mind to stand up for justice,never to harbor anger, see life through humor and colors,carpe diem,as I could hear my father's tick tack,writing on his typewriter,always in pursuit of his passion,Chemistry and Innovation in Textiles.
He was also an inventor.
My mother was an artist.
She loved to paint watercolors and always reading Chinese writers and philosophers.
Both,my parents ,intellectuals, believed to look at life with passion, having an interior monologue, to be au courant of what is happening around, reminding themselves, about what they were taught by their ancestors.
Life is not about material things. They had it all,and lost it all.
Not by their actions, but by human calamity.

By Hitler and Company.

My mother,on the other hand,despite our chaotic finances,we never felt or saw ourselves as poor. When I was ten years old, witnessing

my father collapse in the street,he contracted malaria,in the gulag

during the II WW, I realized at that moment that I had to jump into


My mother had dreams of me being a concert pianist.

She wanted me to be beautiful dressed,soigne.

Until her last moment,my mother herself

was always very elegant ,

exuberant,humorous and a good sport.

The number A-26.427 was

always there on her arm.

She had no wrinkles at seventy seven.

My drawing prevailed. I looked at my hands and thought to myself.

That is how I am going to earn my living and take care of myself and my parents.

Even now, facing to be once again, homeless and destitute,despite my past successes,I have faith that my

art,will be my passport and secure me to stand up on my feet.

Today is a good day to remember that in Haiti, nobody ever really dies. The many thousands who've had the breath crushed out of their bodies in the earthquake, and the thousands more who will not physically survive the aftermath, will undergo instead a translation of state, according to the precepts of Haitian Vodou, some form of which is practiced by much of the population. Spirits of the Haitian dead — sa nou pa we yo, those we don’t see — do not depart as in other religions but remain extremely close to the living, invisible but tangible, inhabiting a parallel universe on the other side of any mirror, beneath the surface of all water, just behind the veil that divides us from our dreams.

That extraordinary spiritual reservoir is the source of the Haitian religious view of the world — as powerful as any today. As often as it is misunderstood and misrepresented, Haitian Vodou, with all it carries out of the cradle of humankind’s birth in Africa and combines with Roman Catholicism, has enabled Haitians to laugh at death, as they have too often needed to do.

During the decade-long Haitian revolution that began in 1791 — the only event in human history where African slaves won freedom for themselves by force of arms — a prisoner of the French was awaiting execution by burning. Come, he is supposed to have said to his companions, let us show these people how to die. He climbed onto the pyre himself and stayed there, without uttering another sound, until the fire consumed him.

The energy of souls not lost springs back into the living world, not only through one of the few surviving religions that allow believers to converse face to face with the gods, but also in an extraordinarily rich, fertile and (in spite of everything) optimistic culture. Haiti offers, keeps on offering, a shimmering panorama of visual art and a wealth of seductive and hypnotic music, much of it rooted in the rhythms of ceremonial drumming. For the past 50 years a remarkably vivid and sophisticated Haitian literature has been flowing out of Creole, an ever-evolving language as fecund as the English of Shakespeare’s time. The Haitian world is not all suffering; it is full of treasure. Here are a few of the many voices, native and not, inspired by Haiti. —Madison Smartt Bell

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