Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh was once asked “What do we most need to do to save our world?” His answer was this: “What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.”
But once one has heard these sounds, it is necessary to share them with others. So when the Earth cries, artists are the ones who most often take up the challenge of bearing witness; of making others see through their eyes the suffering and salvation, the transformation and transcendence of tragedy. In the deepest moments of devastation, there is always the possibility of creative action: artists’ reflections can move the public toward compassion and action, their creations can stir moral conscience and provoke the discussions needed for fresh visions and strategies.
Director of “Artists without Boundaries” and renowned playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith offered several Haitian artists a forum for such a discussion on Tuesday May 4th, 2010. Deavere-Smith who teaches at NYU convened with Professor J. Michael Dash, visual artists Vladimir Cybil Charlier and Didier William, poet Patrick Sylvain, poet and artist Michèle Voltaire Marcelin and jazz vocalist Pauline Jean, at Cooper Square to discuss the role and the power of art in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, and the ways in which their latest work was informed by this tragedy.
Vladimir Cybil Charlier, Erol Josué, Michèle Voltaire Marcelin
Michèle Voltaire Marcelin and Pauline Jean
Patrick Sylvain, Jocelyn McCalla of JMCStrategies, Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, Lily Sutton of “Artists without Boundaries”
Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, Professor J. Michael Dash and Mrs. Dash
Michèle Voltaire Marcelin bearing witness with her poetry :
” Let the earth bear witness
Let the wind bear witness
Let the art bear witness…
They shall be remembered forever…”
“The earth shook, buildings fell, but the Haitian spirit remained indomitable. Imaginative aftershocks have become the source of a survival strategy for Haitian artists.”
Professor J. Michael Dash
(Illustration: Michael Marmor and James Ravin’s book cover)