A Brief History of Makandal’s Artist Relief Fund, by Lois Wilcken
(Watch for our new relief effort, Konbit for WaWa, the week of May 13th.)
In early November 2008, I was in Haiti for a meeting of the Haitian Studies Association. After the meeting I visited the neighborhood of Master Drummer Frisner Augustin for several days. Frisner’s sister Marie Lourdes (see photo below) came to see me just before my departure and invited me to come to her home to see a photo. Wondering why she couldn’t bring something so small as a photo to me, I followed her out of the Portail Léogane neighborhood into nearby Martissant.
We could have taken a main route, but Marie Lourdes led me through a labyrinth of small huts and potholed lanes that wound through the increasingly indigent quarter. A woman washing clothes in a gutter stared at me in silence as I passed, but her faced cried, “What are you doing here?” We were mounting a ravine hard hit by a recent series of two hurricanes and two tropical storms.
When we reached the house at the summit of the ravine, Marie Lourdes opened the door with a skeleton key, but the act was symbolic, because one could reach inside the wooden house from a number of breaches left by the storms. Once inside the wind-swept room, my exterior calm gave way, and so did Marie Lourdes’s. “I want you to see something,” she said with urgency, and she opened a back door that revealed the wall of the ravine. Tree roots poked through the eroded surface of the wall, which hung ominously over the house, waiting for one more storm to take the house down.
Marie Lourdes’s story inspired the creation of Makandal’s Artist Relief Fund, which lifted Marie Lourdes out of her precarious circumstances. Makandal has continued to raise funds for both disaster relief and poverty relief, which, we might agree, become increasingly intertwined. Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake and into Carnivals 2011 and 2012, relief included instruction in drumming and dance for children. (See featured photo at the page top and photo to the right.) Our donors have helped keep several children in school, and they sent professional audio equipment to a deejay. Please watch for a new appeal, Konbit for WaWa. And thank you in advance for caring!
Credits (from the top)
Featured Image: Photo by Lois Wilcken of a children’s Carnival band on Ruelle Gabelis in Portail Léogane, 7 March 2011
Photo by Lois Wilcken of Frisner Augustin and his sister Marie Lourdes Augustin at the doorway to her home in Portail Léogane, 17 February 2012
Photo by Lois Wilcken of Frisner Augustin teaching a children’s drumming class on Ruelle Gabelis in Portail Léogane, 2 March 2011