Suffering is a reality for us all, and yet for some it is overwhelmingly greater than the civilised norm. Often suffering occurs at the hands of others which in a way is the worst kind. The malicious or avoidable kind of suffering leaves individuals feeling helpless and diminished. Emotional pain can linger and manifest through our future behaviours which is why people choose to talk about their ordeals in therapy or with friends. Another way of communicating our suffering and emotional history is to make art.
This is where we meet Paul Junior Casimir. Accused of arson and jailed, as an ex-convict from Haiti, he has a big story to tell about the appalling conditions he and others were forced to endure. Casimir grew up around art, as his father was a painter, so it comes naturally to him to create art in a way to express his anguished tale. He had also held down a job at a puppet show, assisting artists and helping behind the scenes. This gave him the knowledge he needed to create a multidimensional expression of the suffering he has known.
Casimir knows that the Haitian justice system needs a lot of changes, and that because of its failings many people are going through misery. Many convicts die in jail or have records disappear so they never get released. The conditions are cramped and basic with people crammed into small spaces like battery animals. During this period behind bars, Casimir began to form catastrophic images in his mind about death and illness. He became plagued with images of horrific echoes of what he lived with every day. Unable to escape from the torments of the jail, only the letters received by a kind French pen pal kept him together.
The 35 year old has created an exhibition that communicates the emotions and feelings that he feels about his experience in the Haiti prison. It involves paper mache figures clinging on to iron bars, men cooped up in coffin sized cells with no room to move. There is a puppet show that re-enacts some of the scenes that has stuck in his mind. The show has already enjoyed a time at the French Institute and was given a glowing reception from the Haiti Bureau of Human Rights. After the massive 7.0 earthquake in the nation a few years ago, the main prison was never repaired and yet still holds thousands of inmates. This desperate plea for justice from one of the lucky ones who got out is now installed in Haiti's National Library.
Via City Lab.
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