Art As Narrative: Highlighting Machanns In Haitian Culture

By Tadia Toussaint

As a child Frandy Jean drew his designs behind closed doors because his father wanted him to focus solely on his studies.  The now 26 year old just debuted his latest collection of paintings at the art gallery in the Theatre for New City, in time for the 5th anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake.

“I wasn’t really into school,” Jean said. “I’m a self-taught artist.  I used to draw my teachers and classmates while class was in session.”

The earthquake survivor moved from Delmas, Haiti just two and a half years ago, and has since been inspired by the resilience of the Haitian people.

“The only thing I always knew I was good at was art,” he said.

In his latest collection titled Art as Narrative, Jean shares the stories of women, specifically machann (market ladies) and children. Encouraged to show a better Haiti to the public, Jean said his mission is to get others to be open minded about Haitian culture. He believes the significance of the market ladies goes unnoticed.

Hours sitting under the sun, or walking miles trying to make a living, these are the kind of people that Jean thinks deserve exposure.

“They are an essential part of Haiti’s economy and too many times they are neglected.”



In 2006, Jean started to experiment painting with watercolors.  He seized an opportunity to work at an art center in his neighborhood’s orphanage.

“I considered that place my second home because they gave me a space to work on my personal projects and I also helped and taught the kids who showed interest in art,” he said.

Jean explained that in some of the artwork showcased, pencil marks are visible to elaborate his unfinished works.

“It’s to show people, that Haiti is still trying to recover from the earthquake,” he said“I paint to educate people.”

Jean’s art is his main source of income.  Since he moved to the states, he opened his very own art gallery in New Jersey in April 2013. Art as Narrative is comprised of 32 paintings, which took Jean only a year to complete.

“I don’t think my art is for people that like beauty. I don’t paint just for beauty. I paint to get people to have a better understanding about other cultures.”

Remnants of life in Haiti, both before and after the earthquake is evident in his paintings. The combination of colors and aesthetic helps define the stories he chooses to tell in each work.

Frandy will have his work on exhibit at the Theater for the New City at 155 1st Avenue in New York City. The opening reception is scheduled for Feb. 21 from 2 pm to 5 pm. The exhibit will stay up through April 10, 2015.