The Illumaison™ lanterns revive a Christmas tradition that all but died out, along with most of the trade in arts and crafts, after the 2010 earthquake. With the precipitous decline in tourism and prosperity since the 1980’s, many talented Haitian artists have found the markets for their wares all but disappear.
The artisanal crafts are created in Pétion-Ville, Haiti and in Jacmel, a famous artistic community in the southern part of Haiti that is still largely in ruins after the earthquake. Returning to Haiti, I found artists in Pétion-Ville selling their wares exclusively on the sidewalks, because the markets were never rebuilt. In Jacmel, artists created their bright, colorful products in dark and dusty, cave-like ateliers with no electricity. There was little of the Haiti that I remembered from decades past. The tradition of the Noël fanal was dying away, and only a few artists still remembered how to make them. Finding these craftsmen took me on a Christmas adventure in 2017 that involved a lot of investigation: talking to many artists on the street, riding on the back of motorcycles up the mountains, and a hair-raising journey through the Dominican-Haitian border.
It has been a life-long vision of mine, since I was a child, to bring the fanaux to the United States. Now, it is a particularly dear dream since working with artists to create the Illumaison™ fanaux is resurrecting a dying art. The wealth and philanthropic spirit of the Bay Area can help to provide artists, forgotten by economic decline and isolation, with access to foreign markets.
We hope to help stimulate the production of the arts in Haiti.
The Illumaison™ fanaux are created in Haiti in the artists’ home ateliers. We are presenting our product and the artists to the public through an exhibit at the Oakland Cathedral of Christ the Light gift shop. In the first year, distribution will be exclusively in the Bay Area, targeted mainly at corporate, non-profit, and ecclesial accounts interested in unique Christmas decorations and gifts. We will be selling at the Creekside Community Church 15th Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Show on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2018 and at the 2018 German Holiday Market in Mountain View on Dec. 8, 2018.