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Port-au-Prince: The Chill Factor


Surprised Angel (on silver skates, executing a perfect triple lutz)

Imagine this as Surprised Angel on silver skates, executing a perfect triple lutz,

Usually, when I write a story for Beyond Borders, I try to tie it into the art that we carry.  And usually, this is not a problem; our metal sculptures range greatly in theme and design and I can always find something to fit.  In fact, it is not unusual for me to I start with the  sculpture and build a story around it. However, this time is different, and I’m going to beg your forbearance and ask you to use your imagination as you ponder the attendant photos because the story is at once so absurd and intriguing that I can’t NOT write about it.  The story is about ice skating in Haiti.

The idea for bringing a professional ice skating performance to Port-au-Prince began when Haiti’s tourism minister, Stephanie Villedrouin, met Francois Yrius of Super Canal Prod, a Guadeloupe-based exhibition company at a music festival last year. Using what must have required nearly every persuasive technique in her arsenal, Villedrouin convinced Yrius to put aside his reservations and produce an international ice show spectacular.

It may come as no surprise that there were a few setbacks along the way, starting with Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent state of emergency that was declared last November, when the show was in its formative stage.  In fact, the opening had been cancelled more than a dozen times for various reasons, many having to do with the difficulty of keeping the ice frozen. At first, Yrius tried to hold the event outdoors, but organizers finally surrendered to the heat and moved into a gym. Now that the heat of the long tropical summer has set in, the electricity to run the generator that keeps the ice solid costs a whopping $1,600 an hour. It might give one pause to contemplate such expenditure in a country so monumentally afflicted by poverty, but the ice was made, the Haitians were skating on it, and the tickets had been printed, so one is left merely to shake one’s head in wonderment.

If you close your eyes and concentrate, she becomes Child Angel with Stars on Ice.

If you close your eyes and concentrate, she becomes Child Angel with Stars on Ice.

At long last, the show finally, FINALLY did open on Monday of this week.  The skaters, including Fernand Fedronic of France, and Shawn Sawyer of Canada, performed to a light, but enthusiastic crowd.  The costumes were elegant, the torch routine was anything but, and Sawyer’s backflip was fearless and flawless. (Watch the highlight video here: http://www.haitianinternet.com/articles/newsletter/video-haiti-on-ice-it-is-finally-happening.html ) Is ice skating destined to become Haiti’s next national obsession? Well, let’s just say, it might be a slow go.  They did, at long last, get the ice to freeze.  That was a start.


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus


The Art of Michee Remy Lives On

Angels by Michee Remy

Angels by Michee Remy

Two years ago, one of the most highly acclaimed active metal sculptors in Haiti died at the age of 41.  Michee Ramil Remy began his artistic career at the age of 14 in the workshop of his stepfather, master craftsman Gabriel Bien-Aime.  Over the next 28 years, he honed a distinctive style and level of expertise that generated international awards and accolades. From the first invitation to participate in the Haitian National Arts Exhibition in 1993 to attending the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival as a guest artist the following year, Michee’s talent became widely recognized.  He was on the radar; busy and with an ever-growing demand for his work.

His association with Beyond Borders extends back to the mid-nineties.  For fifteen years, we purchased and carried Michee’s work consistently, though almost always as one-of-a kinds. Throughout that time, he collaborated with Beyond Borders on only two catalogue pieces, preferring instead to produce single pieces of his art.  It was a decision that founder Casey Riddell to this day acknowledges was for the best.  “Some artists should never go into production.  Their work is pure. It is uniquely their own and should stay that way.  Michee is one of those artists.”

Fast-forward to 2009:  Michee’s participation in the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe attracted the attention of the Clinton

At Michee's workshop in Croix-des-Bouquet

At Michee’s workshop in Croix-des-Bouquets

Global Initiative.  He, along with Serge Jolimeau, another Haitian metal artist of distinction and Toyin Folorunso, a skilled metal artist from Nigeria, were commissioned to create sculptural awards for the Clinton Global Initiative’s Global Citizen honorees. Said Robert S. Harrison,  Chief Executive officer of the CGI, “These men are not only talented artists, but they have become leading social entrepreneurs – creating jobs, invigorating the art community and training new generations of artists to pass along their traditions.” This selection brought further opportunity, in the form of a joint exhibition for Michee and Serge, originating at the North Miami Museum of Art and travelling on to the Clinton Presidential Library, where it was featured for several weeks.

In March of 2011, it all came to an abrupt end.  Michee had battled numerous health issues for years; it was a battle he was not to win. Beyond Borders is both proud and fortunate to carry many of his remaining works.  In them, the memory and creative genius of Michee Ramil Remy live on.


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

Cupping coffee

IMG_2075 (640x480)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Haitian coffee and where to get it in the United States.  At that time, I rather brashly suggested a taste-test and promised that one would be forthcoming.  So for those of you who have been waiting for me to do that, you may at this point be suspecting that I have been stalling.  In that assumption, you would be correct.


Let me tell you about taste-testing coffee.  First of all, isn’t a taste test, it is a “cupping.”  And it’s fairly complicated, no less so than wine-tasting.  There are protocols to be observed, such as evaluating the aroma of freshly ground beans, and then dampening a precisely measured amount of grounds in a precisely measured amount of water heated to a degree that must be consistent from cup to cup and, yes, precise.  Furthermore, to achieve a reasonable level of accuracy you would do this three times for each type of coffee that you cup. See for yourself, bearing in mind that it is only a ROUGH procedural guide.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5vz7sxlkQI Lord knows what the serious cuppers do!


Then there is the lingo.  I listened to some reviews of other coffees and the reviews included phrases like, “raspberry notes, “and “jasmine overtones, with a long, hazelnut finish.” While I was doing my level best to be attentive to taste and smell as I sampled the coffees separately over a week of breakfasts, I kept coming up with “herbal,” “smoky” and “oaken,” which lead me to the following observation about myself:  I write for a living, but I don’t taste for a living. My vocabulary is fairly sophisticated, my palate is not.  This then begged the question, “Should I be doing this???”


I believe the answer is no, to tell the truth.  So this is what I’m going to do.  I will tell you that, after sampling, Rebo’s “Melange Gourmet,” La Colombe’s “Mare Blanche” and “Lyon” and Just Haiti’s “Kafe Solidarite,” on successive mornings, the latter, Just Haiti’s “Kafe Solidarite” is what I have been drinking ever since.  It is smooth, not bitter, and I like it. Plus, they are a small fair trade company and they stuck a “Freshly Roasted Coffee for Linda” label on the package.  Nice!  So if you want some “Kafe Solidarite” freshly roasted for YOU, here’s where you can get it:  http://justhaiti.org/


Bottoms up!


Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus


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