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In Haitian Town, Artists Honor Dead With Rubble Art

In the southern town of Jacmel, Haiti its all about art. Last year’s earthquake changed the way Jacmel’s artists view their craft

In Haiti, the southern town of Jacmel, one of the country's creative centers, is all about art. Last year’s earthquake changed the way Jacmel’s artists view their craft. The quake inspired them to tell stories, but not in the usual way.

A pretty beach in Jacmel. And a good place to remember the dead. Phoenix Junior is honoring the lost souls of the earthquake by drawing on the rocks that crushed them.

It's called rubble art says rubble artist Phoenix Junior. “Sometimes I use like people breaking arm or people crying. But you always feel sadness in my art. After the earthquake, all my art has become sad,” he said.

Jacmel too has become sad. It was hit hard in last year’s earthquake. But its artists are striking back.

At the art center that almost collapsed, artists are using rubble to do something that, to them, makes sense. Rubble art has become popular here like the town's other artistic productions, such as its famous paper mache creatures at carnival time.

Children are learning to be the paper mache masters of the future. But they also want to be rubble artists. George Metellus directs the Art Creation Foundation for Children. “They say ‘let’s do something to let people know that Haiti will not perish, that we will survive after the earthquake,’” said Metellus.

And that's what they did, by making a mosaic wall beside the sea. It's made partly from the fragments of a destroyed city.

Rochmond Domond, a young artist who helped build the wall, had to relive dreadful memories. “People were with me at four when the earthquake happened - and then they were dead,” he stated.

Joseph Stevenson is Phoenix Junior’s friend. Rubble art is about dealing with memories, but he doesn’t go to the beach to remember the dead. He comes here, to where a school once stood. “The first rubble art rock I sold, I took from here,” he said.

It’s a tragic place but inspiring for some.

Jacmel’s artists have turned these rocks into very powerful things. They’ve been used to remember lost friends - or to say a last goodbye to them. They’ve been used to store Haitian hope and Haitian pride. And in this way, they’re helping to rebuild a country.