Affaires de Nuit
Affaires de Nuit
Paintings by Guidel Présumé
Notes by Madison Smartt Bell
These six images were painted in the winter of 1999, during what has probably been the most discouraging period in Haitian politics since the restoration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A fracture in the government which had paralyzed all international aid and development projects for a year and half came to a greater crisis when the mandate of the current Parliament members expired. Current President René Préval dismissed the Parliament and announced his intention to rule, temporarily, by decree. Opponents accused Préval of trying to establish a dictatorship, or of preparing the way for a dictatorship by former President Aristide, who would be eligible to run again in the next Presidential election. Préval supporters countered that his action was unavoidable since the Parliament's term had in fact expired, and the election of new members had been under dispute for the eighteen-month duration of the crisis. In the aftermath of the President's announcement came several assassinations, beginning with a near-successful attempt on Préval's sister. Political maneuverings had become too ambiguous for almost anyone to follow-- just who might be responsible, no one could say for sure. But the general climate of insecurity, instability, mistrust and pessimism had worsened.
More recently, Prèval has succeeded in appointing a new election commission, so the future of the country looks somewhat brighter than before.
At street level, the subtleties of the Parliamentary maneuverings had ceased to matter. The majority of the population had lost faith and hope in the restored democracy; voter participation had sunk to about twenty percent. All ordinary Haitians could say was that their standard of living-- the lowest in all the Western Hemisphere-- had not improved one iota. State terrorism had come to an end, but a spike in entrepreneurial crime had created a whole new set of dangers. Everything looked grim.
Like most Haitians today, Présumé is resolutely apolitical--and the images of the "Affaires de Nuit" series are certainly not political statements of any kind. However, it seems to me that in their dark palette and in their iconography the images do reflect the pessimistic mood of the period-- as well as conserving (as most Haitians somehow manage to do, against all odds) certain sparks of hope.
Les Trois Marassa
Affaire de Nuit
Expedition d'un Message
Interpellation des Demons
L'oeuil de Bon Dieu nous protege
Sous l'oeuil de Dieu: Sacrifice