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Unexpected: Polo in Haiti

"Animals Garden," by Salomon Jean Belony.  An alternate title could be "Polo Ponies off to Play."  Could be, right?

“Animals Garden,” by Salomon Jean Belony. An alternate title could be “Polo Ponies off to Play.” Could be, right?

Every once in a while, Haiti makes the news for something that is completely unexpected. Today it came to me in the form of a recent article by Carine Fabius in The Huffington Post entitled, “Playing Polo in Haiti.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carine-fabius/playing-polo-in-haiti_b_6419634.html ) And not just playing; the Haitians are winning hardware, having brought home titles from the likes of the San Francisco International Polo Classic in the U.S., the China Open Polo Tournament in Shanghai, China, and the International Master’s Cup in Pilar, Argentina.

Apparently, global participation in the sport is on a meteoric rise, according to the polo-dedicated periodical, “Sideline,” so why not in Haiti? Haitian Polo Team Captain AND President Michel Martely’s recent appointee as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Claude Alix Bertrand is spear-heading the effort revitalize the sport in Haiti. It had reportedly enjoyed some popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, but lost ground to football (soccer) in the ensuing decades. Bertrand is hoping to change all of that by leading the Haitian national polo team and winning big. So far, so good on that score.

He also hopes to make polo more accessible to Haiti’s (generally underprivileged) youth. He proposes to do that by helping to develop a world-class polo resort. The five-star 8,000 acre vision for Cote de Fer on Haiti’s southeast coast includes a polo grounds and school, golf courses, a marina for sailing, and a track for Formula One racing.The resort project is favored by some impressive financial backers includ Audi Sportscar Experience, Duty Free America and Digicel; it also has a healthy working relationship with the Ministry of Tourism in Haiti. (This was the same office that brought ice skating to Port-au-Prince in 2014. See blog https://www.itscactus.com/blog/2013/08/30/port-au-prince-the-chill-factor/ ) “Haitian youth will have access to polo like never before, says Bertrand, “because they will not be required to have club memberships to learn and play. All they’ll have to do is pay for their lessons, which will include instruction, gear,

This cenotaur would be SOME polo player!  "Man and Horse" by Edward Dieudonne.

This centaur would be SOME polo player! “Man and Horse” by Edward Dieudonne.

horses, and time on the practice grounds.”

In a Bay Area news telecast in October, Bertrand told the interviewer that a single polo lesson in San Francisco costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $120. Now, I am sure there is a certain price adjustment to be made from the Bay Area to southeastern Haiti, but in a country where the minimum daily wage is right around $5 and forty percent or the workforce is not employed at all, that seems like a bit of a financial stretch.

Nevertheless, hope springs eternal. Bertrand should certainly be applauded for bringing pride and success home to Haiti. His sport is a great one, combining outdoor exercise, spirit of teamwork, competition and camaraderie, and working with animals. All positives, to be sure. Why not polo in Haiti? Maybe it will work, who knows?  It’s just a little unexpected.


Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

New Book on Gerard Fortune

Gerard Fortune outside his home in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince

Gerard Fortune outside his home in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince

About 2 years ago, while in Haiti on a metal sculpture buying trip, Casey became aquainted with the folk art paintings of Gerard Fortune. Following quickly on the heels of her acquaintance were unbridled enthusiasm and acquisition. She purchased a piece for her personal collection and then set about to meet the artist himself with the idea of carrying his work at It’s Cactus.

"Fox Couple with Pet by Gerard Fortune

“Fox Couple with Pet by Gerard Fortune

Gerard Fortune has long been on the Haitian naif painting radar, and is considered to be one of the greatest living folk art painters in Haiti today. Having said that, however, doesn’t mean that finding his atelier was any small task. It required asking alot of questions in several places around the outdoor art markets of suburban Port-au-Prince and finally offering $20 to a kid on a motorcycle to lead her there. Done and done! The connection was made and now, several wonderful pieces of his work are available on our website.
But that’s not all! A friend, Tony Fisher, who has a wonderful folk art shop in Philadelphia, has sourced a newly published book of Gerard’s work. It is the first and only in-depth study of his life and art and it is BEAUTIFUL! You can order it from him.

The book, “Gerard” does a superb job of tracing his 37-year career, with dozens of full-color photograhs that capture his broad, visionary character of his art. In addition, it tells in words and photographs, the story of Gerard himself, inasmuch as the story of an enigma can be told. What is clear is richness of expression in the life’s work of a talented, gentle soul.

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

The Rhythm of Life in Haiti is Jazz






Dave Brubeck, an accomplished jazz pianist of international acclaim was quoted once as saying, “Jazz is the voice of freedom.” What a great analogy. Jazz is free-form. Jazz is listening, attention, and focus; it is the creation of musical opportunity, allowing each musician to enrich the sound of the whole.

It’s a little bit like Haiti, actually. Very free-form. There is a certain way in which things fit together but it’s not rigidly written, as notes on a score. While visitors to Haiti often give in to despair at their sense of chaos, Haitians watch, listen, sense, and create a space for themselves in their society. They hear their note. They find their harmony. The rhythm of their lives is jazz.


"Angel Boy With Drum" SM174 by Winzor Gouin

“Angel Boy With Drum” SM174 by Winzor Gouin

How appropriate, then, that this Saturday marks the beginning of the 8th Annual Jazz Festival in the

"Angel with Saxaphone REC277"

“Angel with Saxaphone REC277”

Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. For the next seven days, in venues across the city, jazz musicians from 14 different countries will be performing in concerts, many of which are free. Additionally, there will be “after hours” jam sessions as well as jazz workshops for aspiring young Haitian artists. (A full schedule of events is available here.) http://papjazzhaiti.com/

One of the local headline artists is Thurgot Theodat, who, according the Festival website, plays “voodoo jazz. (Listen here.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhHnDi6O9jA Just as an entire line of our recycled metal sculpture at It’s Cactus is “Voodoo Inspired” https://www.itscactus.com/catalog/VOODOO_INSPIRED-121-1.html Haitian jazz music can be too. And whyever not?

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

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