Life and Spirituality in Haitian Art: Hector Hyppolite

Hector Hyppolite (1894–1948)

Considered Haiti’s great master, Hector Hyppolite was born in Saint-Marc. His father and grandfather were houngans (Vodou priests), so he required no special instruction to understand African mystères and their poetic union with Catholic saints. Hyppolite was apprenticed to a shoemaker; however, he preferred to study the prints in the waterfront stores and copy them on postcards for the Marines during the U.S. occupation. For over five years, he left Haiti to harvest Cuba’s sugar crop and described a voyage aboard a freighter to Africa, which he may never have taken, except in his mind. In 1920 Hyppolite returned to Haiti, barely surviving on his painting.

In 1943, DeWitt Peters, the founder of Le Centre d’Arte, was driving along the coast when he saw two doors painted with tropical birds among intricately designed flowers on the front of a bar. A year later, he set out to find the doors’ anonymous painter. He learned that the artist’s name was Hector Hyppolite, a houngan who made a precarious living by painting houses and occasionally decorating furniture with a paintbrush made of chicken feathers. Peters eventually found him and had no difficulty persuading him to move to Port-au-Prince.

Hyppolite installed himself in a palm-frond hut with a dirt floor near the city’s waterfront, where he conducted Vodou rites and painted with furniture enamel. He put up a sign that said “Ici Station Peinture” (Painting Depot Here) and sold his work through the Centre. Hyppolite painted Vodou’s dreams and legends, still lifes, and tributes to sensual women. His unique Vodou-inspired iconography distinguished him among his peers and made him internationally famous.

Source: Rodman, Selden. Where Art Is Joy. Haitian Art: The First Forty Years. New York: Ruggles de Latour, 1988. 47-55


 
Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948)

Hector Hyppolite fèt Senmak, yo konsidere li kòm youn nan pi gran atis Ayisyen. Ni papa li ni granpè li te ougan, poutèt sa li pa t bezwen okenn esplikasyon pou l konprann mistè Afriken yo ak jan yo te makònen ak Sen Katolik yo. Hyppolite se te apranti yon bòs kòdonye; men li te pi pito gade imaj ki te magazen bò dlo yo epi kopye yo sou kat postal pou bay ofisye Lamarin yo pandan okipasyon Ameriken an. Pandan plis pase 5 lane, li te pati kite Ayiti pou l al koupe kann Kiba epi li te esplike yon vwayaj li te fè abò yon bato pou l al ann Afrik. Se pa yon vwayaj li dwe te janm fè esepte nan rèv li. An 1920 Hyppolite retounen ayiti, se apèn si l tap fè ase lajan pou l viv ak tablo l yo.

An 1943, DeWitt Peters, fondatè Le Centre d’Arte la, t ap kondi sou yon wout bò lanmè a lè remake 2 pòt devan yon ba ki te pentire ak 2 zwazo twopikal sou yo epi 2 zwazo yo te nan mitan yon pakèt flè byen desine. Enn an apre li deside al chèche moun ki te pentire 2 pòt sa yo. Li vin aprann non atis la se Hector Hyppolite, se yon ougan ki te konn fè ti kòb li nan pentire kay epi tanzantan li te konn dekore mèb ak penso ki fèt ak plim poul. Finalman Peters te jwenn avè Hyppolite epi li pa t gen oken difikilte konvenk Hyppolite vin ret Pòtoprens.

Hyppolite enstale li nan yon ti kay pay bò lanmè tou pre vil la, atè anndan kay la pa t menm simante, li fè seremoni Vodou nan ti kay la epi l te konn fè tablo ak penti enamèl. Li mete yon pankad devan kay la ki make “Ici Station Peinture” (Isit la nou pentire tablo) epi li vann tablo li yo nan Sant lan. Hyppolite te pentire rèv ak lejann Vodou, sèn sou lavi moun, epi omaj a fi ki anfòm. Desen Vodou li yo te mete tablo li yo nan yon kategori apa konpare ak kondisip li yo epi sa te vin fè li gen renome entènasyonal.

Men ki kote enfòmasyon sa a soti: Rodman, Selden. Where Art Is Joy. Haitian Art: The First Forty Years. New York: Ruggles de Latour, 1988. 47-55


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