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4 / Ceremony and Society

Carnival au Cap Haitien
Carnival au Cap Haitien
Artist / Origin Rony Leonidas (Haitian, b. 1946)
Date 20th century
Material Oil on board
Medium: Painting
Location Collection of Manu Sassoonian, New York, NY
Credit Courtesy of Manu Sassoonian/Art Resource, NY

expert perspective

Judith BettelheimProfessor of Art History, San Francisco State University

Carnival au Cap Haitien

» Rony Leonidas (Haitian, b. 1946)

expert perspective

Judith Bettelheim Judith Bettelheim Professor of Art History, San Francisco State University

If we are looking at Carnival in the Caribbean, the first thing one does is look to the colonial heritage of the particular countries and then you see historically what the population did in terms of street performance—how they dressed, what was their message in terms of their street performance. And this always involves the particular colonialists, or slave masters, in many cases. So there are very particular histories in any one given place, and then that changes with independence. And then you get people commenting on their own governments, on what’s happening in their own lives sociologically and culturally.

The importance of it, I think, is the fact that you have this commentary going on in public, in a public venue. So you have an audience that could be made up of your neighbors—the people of your country, of your neighborhood, of your district, who understand the performance. And then you have the government who might understand it a little bit differently. So one of the things that has always fascinated me is how these street performances are doubly coded, that you have an understanding on more than one level.” 

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