Haitian culture is reflected in the originality of its art and music. Artists and musicians, drawing from the rich history and vitality of the people, have created unique works and sounds.

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  Arts & Culture

Haitian paintings classified as naïve or intuitive are characterized by vivid, raw colors and use of proportions that don't follow rules of modern aesthetics, revealing spontaneity, freedom of expression and freshness.

One art form that is unique to Haiti is the sculpting of wrought iron from oil barrels into beautiful works of art. These pieces are hand cut and often reflect images from nature. Artists also produce embroidery, works in paper-machée, and wood, as well as stone and clay sculptures that are distinctive to Haiti.

Visual Arts

The Carrier

Painter Frank Louissant was born in Aquin, Haiti in 1949. He is known for his street scenes and paintings of rural life. Louissaint may be categorized as a pivotal painter, having made the transition from the style of painting termed naïve to the more stripped-down hyper-real painting.

A la Campagne

Philomé Obin was born in 1892 and is considered one of the founding fathers of modern Haitian art. He was one of the painters who painted the famous murals of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince.

Scene Rural

Claude Dambreville was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1934. He is renowned for using flat colors, “strong light and deep shadows” particularly to depict his favorite subject - women of the markets.


The expressiveness of the Haitian people is also evident in their rich oral tradition, which includes storytelling, proverbs, riddles, songs and games. Storytelling in Haiti is a performance art. The storyteller uses a different voice for each character in the story, and may sing songs as part of the narrative. Haiti has also produced some great literature.


Haitian music is an original blend, containing elements of African drum rhythms and more contemporary sounds. Styles of Haitian music range from the relaxed sway of konpa , the roots beats of misik rasin , Twoubadou's sweet ballads and the energy of Zouk . Whether listening to the big band Haitian Jazz of the 50's or to today's young hip hop artists, song lyrics often courageously question authority and voice the concerns of a struggling people.

In rural Haiti, song remains an important part of daily life. Farmers sing to make work go by faster. Women sing as they walk kilometres to market with heavy baskets of goods balanced precariously on their heads. At community work projects, know as konbit, contagious rhythms drive men to prepare a field for planting in a single day.

During the Easter season of Lent, the rhythmic beats of rara can be heard at night just about anywhere in the country.  Rara bands are processional street musicians that merge with onlookers forming a sort of moving community festival. Participants sing chan pwen or sung points that weave social and political messages into songs that tease, taunt and reprimand.  

Rara season leads up to Kanaval (Carnival) in Haiti, a four-day street party where popular bands play and compete for the Kanaval song of the year.   Carnival is often deeply political and has even contributed to overturning governments.

The military regimes of the late 80s often targeted popular bands, attempting, often through violence, to silence them. Boukman Eksperyans was a group whose songs were often officially banned. They were still played on pirate radio and illicit tape duplication went on despite the official edict. In 1990, Ke-m Pa Sote (I'm not afraid) had been banned from radio transmission for its defiant message. It quickly became the hymn of the protest movement which led to the downfall of the ruling General, Prosper Avril.

Rara, 1985

Gerard Valcin was born in 1924 in Port-au-Prince and died in 1988. His father was an artist who encouraged Valcin to painting in 1946. Originally a tile-setter, Valcin began painting at the Centre d'Art in 1950. His art reflects an eloquent interpretation of Haitian reality, mainly religious (Vodou) but also in scenes of rural life.


Wilson Bigaud is considered one of the great masters of Haitian art. He was one of the painters who painted the murals in the the Holy Trinity Cathedral. He was obsessed by the fear of losing his gift as an artist, and struggled much of his life with depression.


Tiga was at the origins of what was called the Saint Soleil experiment. In the early 1970s. Tiga, already a famous painter, who rejected the prevalent primitive movement, wanted to create a community of artists whose inspiration stemmed from pure, unadulterated Haitian sources. Tiga and a group of artist friends bought a property in the mountains where they distributed art materials to a group of peasants who had never painted. The results were spectacular.


Philippe Dodard was born in 1954 and first worked as a layout artist in an advertising agency. His work as a graphic artist comes through in the angular aspect of the subjects he fits into a space without perspective.

In Italian, 1983

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American of Haitian decent. In his short life (1960-1988), he came to personify the New York art scene of the 1980s, with its merging of youth culture, money, hype, excess, and self-destruction. His paintings and drawings conjured up marginalized, urban black culture and black history, as well as the artist's own conflicted sense of identity.

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