Lakou NOU 2021
Photo of Guerdley Cajus’ site specific dance performance by Emily Schiffer
Haiti Cultural Exchange’s Lakou NOU artist residency program provides artists of Haitian descent with the opportunity to create and present new work by connecting their skills and talents to historically underserved Brooklyn neighborhoods, home to generations of Haitians and Haitian Americans: Crown Heights, Canarsie, East Flatbush, and Flatbush. Lakou NOU artists develop collaborative community engagement projects that address neighborhood issues and highlight community assets.
This exhibition explores what it means to be Haitian American—to belong to two cultures, two worlds—and to be Black in America while also staying true to your heritage. It integrates performance and visual arts through pop up live performances, and links audio and video work.
Unlike traditional art-making, where an artistic creation amplifies a sole artist’s perspective, Lakou NOU residents generated this work collaboratively with community members—weaving participants’ collective creativity into a rich and nuanced depiction of the struggles and triumphs of the Haitian American journey. Created with urgency during the first 15 months of the pandemic, this work claims power in vulnerability and healing in human connection.
The Lakou NOU artist residency program is made possible in part through the funding support of Ford Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council.
About The Artists
Daveed Baptiste is a multidisciplinary maker working in fashion design, photography, and textiles. His migration from Haiti to America inspires all of his work. As an immigrant and queer person, his work examines the multidimensional identities of the Caribbean diaspora living in the United States. Through collaborative projects and various mediums, his work aims to decolonize notions of race, gender, and class within the Haitian community and greater Caribbean diaspora. He is a recent Parsons graduate with a BFA in Fashion Design. His photographs have been published in The New Yorker and VOGUE, and he has exhibited at Red Hook Labs and Aperture.
Daveed’s Lakou NOU project, Between Lands (East Flatbush) centers Haitian-American youths’ migration stories. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no graduation ceremonies in 2020. Daveed partnered with The Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project and Rogers Tilden Veronica Garden to create graduation portraits of newly arrived Haitian youth. Daveed collaborated with each senior to create a backdrop that represents their personality and aspirations. His textile collages delve further into each individual’s dreams and imaginations in America.
Guerdley Cajus is a Dance Movement Artist whose work is inspired by the medicinal magic of movement. Her credits include Grammys Recording Academy, MTV Music Awards, Vice Media, New Balance, BET, and much more. Guerdley is also a Social and Emotional Arts Educator and Certified Meridian Therapy Practitioner, whose practice is centered around helping people clear the stuck energy of trauma from their bodies through movement and dance. To learn more visit Guerdley.com
Guerdley’s Lakou NOU project, Body Poems (Crown Heights) confronts the ongoing erasure of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) voices by placing a lens on the untold stories of Haitian people. Guerdley spent her residency interviewing participants and leading workshops, in which individuals’ stories inspired movement that reclaims power and facilitates healing. Additionally, Guerdley danced at locations in Crown Heights where the brutalization of women took place—to honor those women, cleanse those spaces, and claim Black female power. The culminating event features images from those performances and a dance video examining how erasure takes up space in the Black body.
AnJu Hyppolite is a Brooklyn-born, Queens-bred award-winning actor, writer, director, and educator who works at the intersection of the arts, technology, and social equity. She facilitates theater arts, improvisation, devised theatre, and playwriting workshops with NYC public school youth and community members.
AnJu’s Lakou NOU project (Canarsie), Project Unearth explores the multiplicities of identity within the Haitian-American experience. AnJu spent the past year in conversation with Haitian-American women. Her storytelling workshop produced a script that describes moments of strength, power, vulnerability, learning/unlearning, and self-actualization. The women used their voices to stand in their truth, bravely and vulnerably, as they shared their experiences.
About The Organization
Haiti Cultural Exchange is a nonprofit organization established to develop, present, and promote the cultural expressions of the Haitian people. We seek to raise awareness of social issues and foster cultural understanding and appreciation through programs in the arts, education, and public affairs.
Our programs and services seek to support emerging and established artists, promote cross-cultural exchanges, preserve our cultural heritage, and encourage dialogue around contemporary social issues.
During the past decade HCX has worked with dozens of partners to present Haitian art and artists to both Haitian Diaspora and broader audiences through exhibitions, film screenings, musical performances, multidisciplinary festivals, artist talks, and educational programs. We have fostered artistic exchanges between Haiti and the U.S., bringing Haitian and Diaspora artists together in mainstage and community venues. HCX has presented over 450 artists to approximately 5,000 audience members each year.