Our typical headlines on Haiti are anything but cheerful. From America’s central media sources, we know a few things: Haiti is poor, faces political violence, and is devastated by natural disasters. But here’s a Haiti headline that isn’t tragic: Donna Karan, fashion designer and one of the leading forces behind the public charity, Urban Zen, recently held a luncheon for its Haiti program at Tutto II Giorno restaurant in NYC’s TriBeCa. Some big names were in attendance: Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, journalist Alina Cho, and Louis Vuitton North America Chairman, Pauline Brown.
Through the media, Haiti has come to be defined by its adversities, a circumstance perhaps more tragic than the struggles themselves. The Donna Karan luncheon marks some of the first steps to improve Haiti’s image.
Urban Zen helps Haiti by nurturing its image as not a tragic place, but as a place of latent riches: a goldmine of art, culture, and craftsmanship. Urban Zen promotes Haitian craftsmanship rooted in the country’s materials and culture. Horn and bone are shaped into jewelry, metal barrels are converted into sculptures, vases are textured with tobacco leaves, cardboard boxes are fashioned into bright beads and necklaces, and marbled indigenous wood is sculpted and lacquered into handsome bowls and platters. The artisan products are highly refined while maintaining an organic quality, reminiscent of the hands and people that crafted them.
Urban Zen’s Haiti Artisan Project showcases these impressive products around the world to potential consumers, whose contributions will bolster the country’s economy and support its culture.
Hopefully steps like these will help materialize a brighter future for Haiti. As its image is promoted and redefined by its unique riches, perhaps the world will look past its struggles.
Text by Paige Gittelman
Images via www.urbanzen.org