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Haitian Studies Association 26th Annual Conference
Migration, Crossing Boundaries, Paths Forward

November 6-8, 2014

Art Exhibits

Haitian Vernacular Art: Fer découpé by Georges Liautaud

Galería América, McKenna Hall
October 27–November 26

This exhibit features 11 notable pieces by Haitian artist Georges Liautaud, known as the “master of Haitian metal sculpture.” A recent gift by Notre Dame alumnus Patrick Nolan ’65 to the University, the collection will be formally inaugurated in conjunction with the Haitian Studies Association annual meeting.

HSAInspired by Vodou aesthetics, each work touches on authentic themes of spirituality, magic, natural and animal imagery, and the syncretism of African and European symbols. The works were selected to complement Notre Dame’s existing collection of Vodou flags, several of which are on exhibit in the Snite Museum of Art.

About fer découpé
The vernacular, recycled art known as fer découpé has its roots in the mid-20th century, when Haitian artists began to refashion discarded steel oil drums to create vivid two-dimensional pieces. The process by which the drums are transformed consists of hammering, forging, and chiseling the flattened iron sheets. Fer découpé (French) or fè dekoupe (Creole) means “forged” or “wrought iron.”

Both the techniques and designs of the ironwork reflect Haitian culture. Inspired by Vodou imagery and the natural landscape of Haiti, artists inventively recycle available materials to make beautiful artwork.

Georges Liautaud (1899–1991), the leader and founder of the fè dekoupe movement, is widely recognized as the “master of Haitian metal sculpture.” Born in Croix-des-Bouquets, a town just north of Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince, Liautaud developed his signature technique creating ornate crosses for a local cemetery. Dewitt Peters, the founder of the Centre D’Art Haitien, took notice and commissioned Liautaud to sculpt new pieces, leading to the artist’s signature depiction of Vodou symbols and the birth of a new genre. Liautaud’s studio in Croix-des-Bouquets became the basis for the fè dekoupe “school.”

Fè dekoupe works by Liautaud, Serge Jolimeau, and other Liautaud students are sought after by collectors and can be found in the collections of many museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, and France’s Musée National D’Art Modern.

View a documentary on Haitian history, life, and art here.

Drapo Vodou—Vodou Art Flags

Drapo Vodou—Vodou Art FlagsSnite Museum of Art

Drapo Vodou is the artistic expression of the religion of Vodou, building on elements from both African and European religious traditions. There are strong design correlations between colonial French military flags and drapo Vodou.

Originally, the flags were used solely for ceremonial purposes but an art flag genre and market began to develop in the 1940s in Port-au-Prince. Joseph Fortine is credited with innovations developed in the 1950s that drew the attention of collectors.

Drapo Vodou depict a wide variety of spirits (lwa) and subject matter. The sources for the central image of an art flag can be Catholic chromolithographs, images from popular culture, Biblical stories and vèvè—an abstract, graphic, and often geometric representation of a particular spirit. A vèvè is a symbolic gate that enables the spirit to enter the human world.

The University’s Snite Museum of Art has a major collection of Vodou flags made in the 1960s and 1970s by the Haitian artists Antoine and Clotaire Bazille. All of the museum’s banners will be on exhibit for the Haitian Studies Association conference. 




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