With its deep-blue skies and waters and the greenest of vegetation, Haiti is the perfect backdrop for vibrant "primitive" paintings. But it's the way the art depicts daily life there, rich in religion and a strong sense of history, that proves so captivating.
Originally inhabited by Indians who fell under the control of the Spanish, the island later became a French colony, and the slaves imported from Africa also brought their religion: voodoo. Contrary to popular myth, voodoo is not an evil form of devil worship, but a belief in one god manifested in many different spirits or lois. To communicate their messages to humans, the lois take temporary possession of a person. This can happen in formal Voodo ceremonies, during which a designated person is possessed, or be a chance encounter.
This deep-rooted belief, coupled with the island's Catholic tradition, strongly influences the untrained artists whose works are now on exhibit here. Andre Pierre's Le Trios Rois," while dominated by a Christian theme, also has the voodoo symbols or zezes painted below the figures.
Everyday life is shown in the joy of a simple peasant wedding, a bustling market-place, a cockfight. High celebration was a different matter: Through his almost surreal painting "Le Carnaval," Andre Normil vividly conveys a total abandonment to celebration during the pre-Lenten celebration equivalent to Mardi Gras. THE WORLD OF HAITIAN PAINTING-Through January 11 at the Inter-American Development Bank, 801 17th Street NW.