#photography & visual arts
This project by the duo Joanna Malinowska and C.T. Jasper includes a large-scale film screening of Stanisław Moniuszko’s Halka, which was performed on 7th February, 2015, in Cazale, Haiti. It will be shown at the Venice Biennale.
Cazale is a village in the Haitian mountains north of the capital, where the descendants of Polish soldiers from the Napoleonic legions still live. They were sent there in 1802 and 1803 by Napoleon to help crush the revolt of black slaves in what was then Saint - Domingue. Some Poles – who had generally joined Napoleon’s legions to fight for the independence of their own occupied homeland – turned against their French commanders and switched to the side of the insurgents. In gratitude for this, Haiti’s free constitution granted them special privileges by treating them on equal terms with the black citizens of the republic. The Polish inhabitants of Cazale still call themselves Le Polone and bear Creole versions of Polish surnames: Belno derived from Belnowski, Poto – from Potocki.
Poland will be represented in Venice by the artists C.T. Jasper and Joanna Malinowska, as well as the curator Magdalena Moskalewicz. Inspired by Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo, whose protagonist wanted to build an opera house in the Amazon jungle, they decided to perform Halka in Haiti.
According to the curator of the project, the Haitian presentation of Halka – a Polish national opera, in which the folk themes and Polish-language libretto were a patriotic gesture on the part of Moniuszko in support of his occupied homeland – reveals a common colonial and post–colonial history. One of the objectives of the Halka/Haiti project is to show the little-known Polish-Haitian story to the residents of Cazale. The nature of the production was marked by a clash with the reality of today’s Haiti, a country still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake. Haiti was the first country to get rid of slavery, and yet it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The final version of the production was shaped by collaboration with the local community. It opened with a polonaise performed by the residents of Cazale – participants in dance workshops, who were one of the most important elements of this cooperation. The St. Trinity Philharmonic Orchestra from Port-au-Prince was also invited to take part with a polonaise and a mazurka. The Polish side was represented by the Stanisław Moniuszko Grand Theatre group from Poznań together with the director and the choreographer.
Halka was performed in Haiti by five soloists and a conductor from the opera in Poznań, twenty-one Haitian musicians and eighteen dancers from Cazale. It took place on a road between houses, in the midst of motorcycles and animals, and with the participation of an audience composed of more than one hundred locals and visitors.
Visitors to the Polish pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition in Venice will be able to see a multi-channel screening of a film documenting the staging of Halka in Cazale, together with all the staffage – as seen and experienced by the Haitian Le Polone. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication with texts by Geri Benoit, Katarzyna Czeczot, Kacper Pobłocki and participants from Haiti.
The authors of the project are C.T. Jasper, an artist born in Poland who splits his life between New York and Ulan Bator, and Joanna Malinowska, based in New York. The curator of the exhibition in the Polish pavilion at the Biennale is Magdalena Moskalewicz from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, where she directs a research group dedicated to post-war art from Central and Eastern Europe.
The 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia will take place from 9th May to 22nd November, 2015.
Source: PPA, author: AW, transl. Bozhana Nikolova