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CCCADI explores Black futures through Black history, anchored in Haitian culture

Yvena Despagne (on the left), curator of BYENVENI, takes students on a preview tour of the exhibition at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute. In the background, you can see Steven Baboun’s installation and photography artwork, part of the exhibition. Photo by Mario Rubén Carrión

From Caribbean Life

Paintings, photography, multimedia installations, audiovisual pieces, and more are set to fill the walls and halls of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), at 120 East, 125th St. in Harlem, as the organization publicly launched its latest exhibition on Feb. 15.

The exhibition, curated by Yvena Despagne, is entitled BYENVENI, meaning Welcome in Haitian Kreyòl, and features the work of 11 contemporary Haitian Diasporic artists who explore the concept of home.

Despagne told Caribbean Life on Monday that the exhibition is part of the organization’s yearlong theme, Lakay se Lakay (Home is Home), that aims to celebrate the legacy of Haiti.

She said BYENVENI particularly explores key tenets of Haitian culture, as it examines the meaning of Lakay to the entire African Diaspora

Despagne said the exhibition features galleries  dedicated to the concept of Vodu as a spiritual home, to land and living rooms as the places that are considered home in the physical sense, and to lakou, known as the specific method of living in community.

“My grandfather was the first from our family to migrate from Haiti to the United States in the late 1960’s, chasing the promise of ‘The American Dream’ in hopes of establishing a stable home for his family and setting up an allurement of opportunities that would await his wife and four children,” she said.

“Although I grew up in Harlem, I was raised in the home as a Haitian child, Sheltered and cradled in the likelihood of holding fast to my Haitian culture,” added the curator-at-large. “As I continue to grow a fondness for an understanding of who Haiti is and who I am as a Haitian, organically, I continue to feel a closer connection to my homeland and, in this sense, I feel welcomed.”

Tania L. Balan-Gaubert’s “Promise,” forms part of the BYENVENI exhibition which revolves around the theme of home, or lakay in Haitian-Kreyòl.
Tania L. Balan-Gaubert’s “Promise,” forms part of the BYENVENI exhibition which, revolves around the theme of home, or lakay in Haitian-Kreyòl.
Photo by Mario Rubén Carrión

Despagne said the show offers an “immersive experience, including an intricate and vibrant fabric installation by Steven Baboun, Laurena Finéus and Madjeen Isaac’s elaborate oil paintings, an interactive component from Nic[o] AzizMetrès Riva Nyri Précil, Natacha Thys, and Oyasound Project, photography by Daveed Baptiste, along with reflections of sculptures by Tania L. Balan-Gaubert, Fabiola Jean-Louis and Tasha Dougé.”

“Home for us is a spiritual sanctuary carried across time and space,” said Melody Capote, CCCADI executive director. “Home is a cultural mosaic, a fusion of traditions, and a testament to our strength and our determination to thrive.

“Through this exhibition, I welcome our community to find here a cultural sanctuary, a place of remembrance and preservation, a statement that we (re)create and hold on to home wherever we go, whether it is the Caribbean, Latin America, Southern US, Europe or El Barrio,” she added.

The opening reception for BYENVENI will be held on Feb. 15, 2024, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., at 120 E 125th Street, NY, NY 10035. There is no cost to attend. Registration is at the door.

BYENVENI gallery hours begin Feb. 27 – Nov., 14, 2024: Tuesdays 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.; Wednesdays 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.; and every 3rd Saturday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Guided student tours are available: Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

A Curatorial Talk with Despagne and featured exhibition artists is scheduled to take place at the CCCADI on April 18, 2024 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

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For more on this story go to: Caribbean Life


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