Rising from the rubble: Haiti’s art treasures

Some good news of restoration of the murals from the rubble of the earth quake that leveled the Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. From the NY Times:

Susan Blakney, a paintings conservator from New York, scrambled up a mound of rubble left by the collapse of the Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral here, searching for small shards of the cathedral’s murals.

The cathedral is a cherished part of this country’s cultural heritage and most of its murals were destroyed in the earthquake that struck here in January. Two from the north transept, though, one depicting the Last Supper and the other the baptism of Christ, remain largely intact.

“It looks like there are some chunks underneath here,” Ms. Blakney, 62, yelled to colleagues working with her last Thursday in an effort to save thousands of works of art damaged in the quake.

The rescue is being organized by the Smithsonian Institution, which is to open a center here in June where American conservators will work side-by-side with Haitian staff members to repair torn paintings, shattered sculptures and other works pulled from the rubble of museums and churches.

Haitian artists and cultural professionals have been conducting informal salvage operations for the past four months. But the Americans are bringing conservation expertise — there are few if any professionally trained art conservators in Haiti — and special equipment, much of it paid for by private money


In other news of the Episcopal Church in Haiti At the interfaith service held at St. George’s Cathedral at the weekend, Archbishop Dr Thabo Makgoba, made the following remarks to an inter-religious congregation.

‘Three vivid memories/pictures are deeply ingrained in my mind, soul and body, following my visit to Haiti’ said Dr Thabo Makgoba.

Received: Tue May 11 11:14:30 2010

Restoring Hope for Haiti- Africa for Haiti

It is almost 4 months, since the January 12th, 4:53 pm overwhelming devastation by the earthquake that hit Haiti. Yet, the people still live in tents. People still beg for food. Classrooms are not rebuilt and for some ,their dearly departed loved ones are decomposing, under yet to be removed rubble, if removing the rubble should be the focus after such devastation.

You will recall that close to a quarter of a million people are said to have died, 300, 000 injured and millions left homeless.

Behind these numbers lies human tragedy on an almost ungraspable scale. Some of what we saw is almost impossible to put into words and on the last several occasions when I had an opportunity to do so, words just overwhelmed me. The devastation is overwhelming.

Today, I speak as one of the Patrons of Africa for Haiti. Our resolve is to Rebuild Hope in Haiti through some of the following: get Africa to care in practical way, loving and Ubuntu way: Africa to be committed to long term reconstruction projects, such as infra-structure, economic activities and journeying with Haitians over a long period of time, beyond the current crisis intervention.

There are however, serious immediate needs, which if not attended to, will compromise the credibility of any long term plans. The people of Haiti need food now, they need shelter now, they need water now and need our solidarity now. That is why we are here today, and we are very grateful to Gift of the Givers and our partnership with them in attempting to bring help now.

I travelled to Haiti, with Dr Sooliman and Revd Butterworth, early in March. I have never seen such devastation in my life before. All was lost, all gone. The emotional pain of knowing and seeing your loved one buried in a precariously supported building, smelling his decomposing body every day, stabbed my inner most part. It was sore.

These are the 3 vivid pictures ingrained in my body, mind and soul:

1. A group of 8-10 year olds, dressed neatly, their parents dead – and these girls, posing as if saying, we are ready to be adopted and rescued from this mess. These children are crying for help: they want to be children, play and learn. Their schools are gone. University students want to learn, yet their universities are gone and their friends are buried in rubble or mass graves at entrances of the university.

2. The second picture is of when I addressed a group of disabled children, they too touched me most. Most of them are in wheel-chairs, living in small tents in a church yard, after their children home fell. Some were killed because they could not rush quickly to their wheel-chairs while others did not mentally comprehend the urgency to do so.

3. The third picture is that of Hope. Everywhere we went, it was the same, devastation, pain, distress .Yet, if you cared to look deeper and closer, a thin line, but deep ray of Hope was evident even in the midst of such hopelessness and loss. In some, the devastation was like a severe extension of their existential reality. They knew that as with corrupt leaders and previous devastation, this too, though not to the same extent, will also pass, and they will return to the ‘normal’ challenges of living in Haiti.

As we know, no amount of evil, darkness and devastation will annihilate good, light and hope. Let us help the Haitians rebuild. Yes, we have our fair share of poverty, our hunger and disease in Africa but we must care beyond ourselves. We must reciprocate, for we have been recipient of the world’s love, compassion and resources. We must share in the spirit of Ubuntu, especially corporate Africa, which benefits from our rich soil.

We can do more; especially in longer-term reconstruction. Because creating much out of little is the area where we have worked so hard within our own countries in Africa. Building capacity, developing skills, growing expertise – these are the stuff of life on so much of our continent. Many individuals have given from their pockets, please continue to do so, but now the time has come for Corporate Africa to come to the party in a big way. The call is especially to African multinationals.

In summary, I am asking:

1. Give money to relief agencies such as the Gift of the Givers

2. Give Money to Africa for Haiti and support its continental efforts and events.

3. Corporate Africa, think of investing in Haiti; Multinationals in Africa, give in a big way to the efforts of individuals, churches and Africa for Haiti.

4. Here in Cape Town, and individual priest is heading an innovate program of rebuilding a classroom in partnership with our Anglican schools please support her.

5. The Anglican Church of Southern Africa has adopted a theological student to study, free of charge at our theological college. We need to raise travel and subsistence money.

6. The devastation is immense; any little contribution goes a long way. I encourage each one of us to seize the opportunity to make a difference for others, especially those who will not repay us when we will not receive personal returns – for that is the core of sacrificial giving.

Thank you for coming here and listening. God bless

Kind regards

Sisanda Majikazana

Office Administrator

Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Cecil Makgoba

20 Bishopscourt Drive, Bishopscourt

Claremont, 7708, South Africa

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