Saturday, February 6, 2010

Haitian Steel Drum Art

Tink tink clank tink. The sound of the hammers and chisels that coax the spirit and beauty out of old 55 gallon drums fills the air in Croix-des Bouquet, the center of Haiti’s metal art movement. This art form was born in the town in the early 1950’s by a blacksmith named George Liautaud, who created primitive crosses and free standing statues for the local cemetery. As his art evolved, reflecting his deep seated spirituality in both the Christian and Vodou traditions (see images top left), he inspired an entire generation of artists. Through apprenticeships and exploration, Haiti’s metal drum art continues to grow and capture the imagination of the world while preserving the unique spirit and culture of the Haitian people.

As I learn more about the process of turning steel drums into unique, intricate works of art, I am humbled by what simple tools and bare hands can summon. Barrels are stripped of their tops and bottoms, filled with dried banana or sugar cane leaves, and then burned to remove the residue of the barrel's former life. The next step is to split and flatten the cylinder, by hand and hammer. The design image is then cut out with a chisel and a mallet, and the metal is worked and brushed into stunning creations.

The hammers were quiet for awhile after the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake that toppled buildings and took so many lives. I have read that in Haiti, art is life, and it is through art that healing will happen. A few days after the quake, as the earth began to settle, tables were set up as makeshift workshops, and the hammers and chisels once again began to fall., and once again, the air is filled with that magic, healing sound.

No comments:

Post a Comment