It wasn’t until a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti that people around the world began to take notice of the poor nation that is home to more than nine million people. Luckily for Jean Dornevil, a Haitian native, he had moved to Naples, Florida with his family before the quake struck; but that didn’t take away the heartbreak of knowing that many of his people, and much of his island and its culture, were destroyed.
“After I moved to the United States, I could not stop thinking about the Haitian provincial culture that I had experienced for most of my life,” said Jean.
Watching the destruction of the earthquake on national television didn’t ease his worries or concern for the people living in Haiti. As it became a regular occurrence to see Haiti on the news or through benefit concerts from celebrities and local communities, it hit Jean that the media was only showing the negative or destroyed aspects of Haiti. When someone mentions the island of Haiti, people mostly remember the tragedy that occurred in 2010.
Jean wants to change this perception. He is on a mission to change the media’s influence on Haiti’s condition, because regardless of the earthquake and other natural disasters Haiti has vast areas of beauty—areas that need to be shown for the sake of a surviving country.
Jean’s plan is to showcase this beauty through his paintings. As a child, Jean would watch other painter’s begin with a blank canvas and create magical artwork. He wanted to do the same. So when he was given his first set of art supplies, he spent all the time he could replicating what he saw in his surroundings.
More than a decade later, Jean has painted dozens of pieces. His artwork has been showcased in Marco Island Art Center, The Lady from Haiti in Naples, Friends of Art special gallery show, Charleston South Carolina, Mary Brogan Museum in Tallahassee, FAMU Art Gallery and is currently showing at 1020Art in Tallahassee.
“I have felt that I need to paint these memories [of Haiti] so they do not fade away from my mind’s view, and I am so glad these inspirations stuck with me,” says Jean.
Now, Jean is moving on to a greater cause—to paint an art series entitled “Haiti that the Media Never Shows” containing 30 to 35 paintings ranging from 8×10 to 4ftx4ft. The series will serve as a first phase to launch a nonprofit organization to raise money for Haitian students (anticipated to launch in February, 2014).
To meet his goal of raising $3,000 for painting supplies, Jean has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo where he hopes others with a similar vision will be more than compelled to help change the perception of Haiti as a destroyed nation to one of a culture full of color and beauty.
You can learn more about Jean’s mission at www.haitianart.weebly.com or visit his campaign: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/haiti-in-the-media-a-painting-series-to-change-public-perception-of-haiti.
Nicole Avenue writes from Tallahassee, Florida.