44. Made of Metal

The Hand of Fashion - - CONTENTS -

Chloé Mukai: How old are you and how long have you been work­ing in fer battu (met­al­work)? Mick­er­son Jean: I’m 30 years old and I started when I was 12 years old, so it has been 18 years. What led you to this pro­fes­sion? I learnt out of cu­rios­ity. I’ve al­ways lived here, in Croix-des-Bou­quets. My fa­ther died when I was 6 years old and my mum when I was 11. From when I was about 12, I started com­mut­ing back and forth from the Croix-des-Bou­quets area, and this is when I no­ticed there was lots of fer battu work go­ing on here. Were all th­ese ar­ti­sans al­ready work­ing here back then? Not as many as now, but there were many al­ready. I got my face known by some of the ate­liers and started spend­ing time watch­ing their work. Then, I started im­i­tat­ing what they were do­ing and this is how I came to love this work. Who taught you in the be­gin­ning? At first I learnt alone, out of cu­rios­ity, by just ob­serv­ing. But then love for this work pushed me to in­te­grate a work­shop. I was lucky: one of the best ar­ti­sans in Croixdes-Bou­quets, Serge, helped me to re­fine my skills. So Serge (Serge Jolimeau, the god­fa­ther of fer battu) was like your men­tor? Yes, although I was part of sev­eral work­shops, the key work­shop - the one that helped me be­come the per­son I am to­day - was the Serge Jolimeau work­shop. He is the old­est guy around and rep­re­sents the fer battu sec­tor here in Haiti. I’ve learnt a lot from him, not just his skills but also his be­hav­iour, how he acts with clients, his open-mind­ed­ness etc. He has been a great in­spi­ra­tion to me in so many ways. What do you like about fer battu? I like it be­cause I live thanks to it, and of course I en­joy the process of de­sign­ing and pro­duc­ing metal pieces. Could you ex­plain the whole process of work­ing with fer battu? In or­der to pro­duce one piece of fer battu, there are 7 cru­cial steps. First of all the pur­chas­ing of the raw ma­te­rial: oil drums that we buy in Port-au-Prince. Then, you must burn the empty drums to re­move the colours on them, be­cause bar­rels are al­ways coloured (yel­low, blue, brown etc.) and we can­not work on them when there are colours. Then we cut them in half and make them flat and clean them to make sure there is no metal dust left on them. After this, it’s time to draw the de­sign – from a sam­ple or from pure in­spi­ra­tion, onto the flat­tened, half-pieces of metal. Fi­nally, we can start with the cut­ting: take the “neg­a­tive” out, this part is called “débour­rer”. But the rich­ness of the de­sign is not only about the cut-outs, but also about the tex­tures we put into the metal that we em­boss with dif­fer­ent tools. What tools do you use? The punch and chisel are im­por­tant. We use a ham­mer to bend the drums and sand­pa­per and var­nish for the fin­ish­ing. Do you mostly work for peo­ple like Stella Jean, who ask for spe­cific items? Do you still make your own cre­ations? I work for peo­ple like Stella who want spe­cific things, but also from my own in­spi­ra­tion. My spe­cial­ity is

Haitian met­al­work artist Mick­er­son Jean talks to Chloé Mukai about learn­ing his art in Croixdes-Bou­quets, his re­spect for fel­low artist Serge Jolimeau, the dif­fer­ence be­tween spir­its or ‘Iwas’ and signs or ‘vévés’ and above all else, his pas­sion for work. Pho­tos: Romel Jean-Pierre

masks. Do you re­search them, or do your ideas come out of imag­i­na­tion? I re­search about masks and about voodoo re­li­gion, be­cause I link the masks with voodoo. I re­search African masks to see what they pro­duce there, es­pe­cially since my masks orig­i­nate from Africa. My work is dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional African masks, but they in­spire me. Are there no masks in Haiti? There are, but I don’t want my work to be like what we al­ready have in Haiti. I don’t want to make what I see in Africa ei­ther. But it is my in­spi­ra­tion: I ap­pre­ci­ate African masks, es­pe­cially those from Congo. So do you do re­search on the in­ter­net, in books? I re­search a lot on the in­ter­net. There is this French guy who buys my masks and one day he brought me a book about African masks. I avoid mak­ing ex­actly the same thing, but try to get in­spired by th­ese pho­tos. I also feel the link with voodoo. In re­al­ity, Haitian and African voodoo have a lot in common. When you see Haitian voodoo, you can also see Africa, be­cause many of our lwas (the spir­its of Haitian voodoo) come from Africa. This is why there is a very strong link be­tween the two. Voodoo in my work is mostly per­cep­ti­ble in my masks and in the vévés (re­li­gious sym­bol com­monly used in voodoo), be­cause each of our lwas has a vévé il­lus­tra­tion. So the vévé and lwa are two sep­a­rate el­e­ments? The vévé is the sign which des­ig­nates a lwa. When we see a vévé, it is the sym­bol of a lwa, like Agwé, Am­bala, Simbi. So for ex­am­ple when we see this vévé (points at a small met­al­piece), we know that it rep­re­sents Simbi. Whereas this one (points at another piece) is a Kuze­saka, the spirit of cul­ti­va­tors. Now let’s talk a lit­tle bit about you. What can you share about your­self asides your work? Not much… I work all the time. Even when I’m not work­ing, work is on my mind. It’s a slightly crazy idea but I wish I could die at work. Some­times I lis­ten to mu­sic and I oc­ca­sion­ally drink a beer, but never two. Do you have chil­dren? I have two: a boy of 11 and a girl of 3. Do you think your son will work here? Would you like him to? I can see in him the abil­ity to be­come an artist of some kind, be­cause he likes to draw. I would like him to work in fer battu, here or else­where. I love my job so it would make me proud to have him follow my steps.

Above: Mick­er­son Jean, fer battu ar­ti­san, in his work­shop Top right: Serge Jolimeau, one of the most re­spected met­al­work ar­ti­sans in Haiti Bot­tom right: 3. Fer battu ar­ti­sans trans­form metal drums into in­tri­cate de­signs

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.