Omaj pou Ayiti

Literary Festival Re-Emerges In Haiti

Literature in Haiti lost an ambassador and icon when Georges Anglade was killed, along with his wife, in the January 2010 earthquake. Anglade was a geographer — a profession outside the U.S. that has a much broader meaning than cartography — who served as an anthropologist of ladoyan folktales as well as an editor of numerous books. He was also the first president of PEN Haiti.

Two years after Anglade’s death, PEN Haiti announced its re-emergence on the international literary scene with full fanfare last weekend. I recently returned from its fantastic Liberez la Parole! (Free the Word) festival, which took place in the towns of Port-au-Prince, Gonaives, Verretes, Marchand Dessalines, and Saint Marc. Panel discussions ranged from topics such as “Free Expression in Times of Crisis” to “Women and Free Expression”. Literary giants and journalists from inside Haiti and from abroad participated in the lively discussions, demonstrating the fluid nature of the Haitian diaspora. The speakers identified a range of troubling issues, not least the disdain and enmity President Martelly has shown towards journalists, at precisely the moment that vigorous reporting on rebuilding the country is more necessary than ever because of the hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.

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