Mountains Beyond Mountains

Restoration Liberation
2019 Ghetto Biennial

Katelyn Alexis + Getho Jean Baptiste + Wesner Bazile + Rossi Jacques Casimir + Noel Edgard aka Papouche + Lee Lee + Mimi Sheller + moira williams

We are exploring historic connections between Maine and Haiti with a series of workshops and performances; looking at the entangled mobilities between plant-human and non-human relationships held sacred by indigenous communities. We will consider the role plants played through the Haitian revolution and how plant-based practices in both geographies may inform each other as we navigate our way through food sovereignty, sacred/medicinal relationships and rewilding
efforts. We are interested in counterpractices that push against industrial agriculture and hybrid seeds.

I :: White Pines from Dawnland
The tall, straight trunks of Maine’s white pine trees were marked and severed from the landscape by French settlers to build ships that carried lumber to Haiti. Hawthorn trees were equally struck from the land, stripped of their thorns then used as nails in the same ships to Haiti (Hawthorne is resistant to rot unlike pine). Both Pine and Hawthorne trees carry sacred/medicinal relationships with indigenous people. Additionally, both trees were used to construct plantations that in turn, served as frameworks against which the Haitian revolution took place. Our project begins with tracing the ghosts of White Pine and Hawthorn trees. We will travel rural areas to find their traces, look at the functional differences between in-tact plantation grounds versus fragmented land passed down equally through generations of families after the revolution. We will connect these ghosts to the sacred/medicinal microgardens found in the pots and doorways of Port-Au-Prince through recorded conversations, knowledge sharing and movement.

SEED Barn - Blue Hill Falls, Maine
The SEED Barn was crafted by boat builder, John Cheever in 1835. Here it is seen with a schooner under construction in mulatamicuwon, now known as Conary Cove in Blue Hill, Maine

II :: Mountains beyond Mountains
The indigenous Arawak people met the first free Africans in Ayiti (Haiti), during the 1800’s. Ayiti means ‘mountains beyond mountains’ an expression from and of the land. Both cultures recognized one another’s interconnected, sacred relationships with the land. As a result, the Arawak shared their knowledge of the land and the medicinal qualities found in Haiti’s endemic plants with the Africans. Plant, food and soil knowledge continues to be cultivated, interwoven with multiple cultural nuances, as interventions of restoration and liberation throughout the tightest corners of urban Port-Au-Prince. These same plants are grown in microgardens around the Grand Rue.

III :: Control
Moringa trees provided Haitians essential nutrients during the petrol revolts this year. Moringas were brought to Haiti from Africa as seeds and thrive in areas where little else can grow. We will plant more Moringa trees, save their seeds to establish a nutrient dense Grand Rue – if you control food, you control people.

Confronting the failures of our work in the previous biennales, we will install a functioning SEED library at SAKALA. They have the capacity for preservation and are interested in seed saving due to food security threats from hybridization. Informed by the progress of SEED work in Maine with the Halcyon Grange and Blue Hill Heritage Trust, we will call on Haitian organizations to maintain a preservation ring. Potential SEED library branches AJDHVD network of school gardens, Minister of
the Environment, Botanic Gardens, SOIL & Lambi Fund farmer networks.

IV :: Restoration
In response to concerns that urban youth are being severed from the land, traditional plant, soil, health and cultural knowledge, we will weave aspects of re-wilding into our SEED work to promote
a whole-body ecologic revolution. We will do this with seed saving workshops and a combined art, citizen science, movement
workshops in the Grand Rue and SAKALA (SAKALA has a “wild” field). We will provide a school bus and invite the Grand Rue TiMoun to participate.

2019 installation:
Accidental Migrants


2020 update

Because of the revolts over the course of 2019, we decided to elongate this effort by drawing out programming to support workshops on a month to month basis. We started with open source images of Ruby-throated hummingbirds & cedar waxwings printed for the installation for the 2019 Biennial. Both birds are considered ‘accidental migrants’ from the northeast. The woodworking community that makes up Lakou Basile are carving representations of these photographs on a workshop platform with neighborhood youth to learn relationships of flowers with pollinating hummingbirds & fruit dispersal through birds. The woodblocks will be sent to the SEED Barn and used to demonstrate printing techniques of Ukiyo-e style of woodblock printing during the 2020 season. In hopes this exchange ignites consideration of the ecologic and historic geographic relationships we maintain with lands which host migratory wildlife enjoyed throughout the Maritime region during the summer.

Sea Shanties & SEED Stories

Celebrating the new gardens designed and built by Lee Lee at the Pendleton House, they set the stage for a display of Haitian artworks and maritime paintings during first Blue Hill Maritime Heritage Festival. In consideration of the historic use of the building to house sailors who needed temporary housing between seafaring journeys, garden plants were chosen because they were considered important enough for early settlers to bring with them across the sea. The plant collection will comprise a collection of tea and medicinal plants tended in these early colonial ‘medicine chests’.

In tandem with exploring what plants arrived here, we are considering the severance of the landscape for the raw materials that became the foundations for colonialism. What systems were set in place that still exist today? What are the long term social impacts experienced by indigenous populations in the Penobscot region as well as the Caribbean and African regions? How is indigenous practice informing the healing of these lands?

Featuring custom painted Maritime Chests and Historical Signs by Robert Jarvis Leonard III, the garden installation included crafts from Indian Island by Penobscot linguist Carol Dana and a selection of Haitian sculptures that offer a poignant reflection of the backwaters of (im)mobilities. An interactive component will invite visitors to share stories of their own relationship with plants and migrations.

Through the festival, songs of the sea will be sung both in the gardens and along the sea across the street at Emerson park. Bring an instrument and join in this Cèilidh style gathering.


ARTISTS on view:
Basile Wesner
Katelyn Alexis
Love Leonce
Jean Frederic
Getho Jean Baptiste
Willem Guillome
Londel Inoocent
Evel Romain
Jean Claude Santillus
Jean Herard Celeur

This exhibition initiates explorations of the historic connections between Maine and Haiti. Encouraging an examination of the entangled mobilities between plant-human and non-human relationships held sacred by indigenous communities, we will consider the role plants played through the Haitian revolution and how plant-based practices in both geographies may inform each other as we navigate our way through food sovereignty, sacred/medicinal relationships and rewilding efforts.

Sculptures by Atis Rezistans members are installed through the gardens around the SEED Barn and will remain on view through the summer. The sale of these artworks will directly support continued restoration efforts in the central urban zones of Port-Au-Prince. The SEED Barn in Blue Hill Falls was built by the ship builder, John Cheever, who constructed tall ships in Conary Cove. It is also located at mulatamicuwon, traditionally used by the Penobscot. The history which has unfolded in this place makes it a relevant platform to explore the ties between seemingly disparate geographies. 

Several members of the Atis Rezistans have work currently on view in the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami as part of PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince, which traveled from Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, NY.

Lakou Jean Claude Santillus

Jean Claude Santillus
Figures sculpted by Jean Claude Santillus watch over the engagements
SEED Sensorium - Pollinate
Observational drawing is paramount to learning. Open source images of indigenous birds and pollinators guide the drawing workshop in Lakou Claude.
Workshops are run alongside a feast prepared with lots of vegetables, from which we save seeds.
Lee Lee demonstrates seed saving techniques for various vegetables
The biggest, most beautiful beans are preserved for planting
Papouche with chili seeds.

Lakou Basile

Basile Wesner
Basile Wesner’s sculpture of a doctor installed next to a newly planted mango, under the medicinal trees that make up the canopy of his garden.
Lakou Basile
Young moringa and mango planted in a pocket garden in the woodcarving community that make up Lakou Basile. The woodcarvers here are able to supply woodchips that have been broken down over time under their lathe operations. This is the site that hosted the first wood block carving workshops of the 2019 Ghetto Biennial: Revolution

SEED :: disperse | Haiti

2017 Ghetto Biennale

Two years after installing pocket gardens in the previous biennial, we examined the gardens of the Grand Rue to assess which plants thrived. We used what we learned in growing plants in a heavily populated area of the city to apply what worked to the areas that did not fare as well. We found that trees fared the best, and that joumou (the local pumpkin) can easily trail along rooftops. At our workshops, we share a meal with joumou, then plant seeds with the youth who in turn tend the seedlings and in time have a product to sell or trade which supports food security. In response to an aggressive program to hybridize Haitian heirloom seeds, we started weaving a network of SEED Stewards across the urban areas of Port Au Prince in order to preserve open source access to traditional seed stock while providing a continued connection to the natural world for urban youth. The Biennial installation included the development of a SEED Sensorium created in collaboration with local youth as well as a collaborative installation with Jean Claude Santillus curated from seed related art works created by members of the Atis Rezistans collective.

Jardin Katelyn

Lakou Basile

Lakou Claude

A visit to SAKALA

Jean Claude Santillus, Haiti
Lakou Jean Claude Santillus: Left – Claude plants a banana tree as part of the 2015 Ghetto Biennial, photo by Rossi Jaccques Casimir – right: a year later the tree is thriving, intertwined with his moringa. photo by Richard Arthur Flemming

Grand Rue Gardens

2015 Ghetto Biennial

The effective revolutionary approach of the Lakou, Vodou and Kreyol have much to offer a wider discourse on preserving traditional farming practices in the face of monumental threats from industrial agriculture. Drawing from the historical importance of agriculture in Haiti, the Sacred Soil project will consist of small permaculture gardens to cultivate nourishment at neighborhood scale. Built from locally sourced materials, oil barrels and tires will be collaboratively transformed into sculpted vessels for the garden containers. They will be installed through the urban Lakou, paired with catchment systems developed to take advantage of intermittent heavy rainfall in order to provide constant access to water so the gardens may be sustained. Working with the most common ingredients used in traditional recipes I gathered while working with grandmothers during the 2013 Ghetto Biennial, planned companion planting will be developed to make high density use of the small spaces. Seeds will be sourced in local markets in Port-Au-Prince, and on the farms where we will also gather soil in a way that supports biodynamic and traditional farming practices of the rural Lakou. Rounding out the project will be a celebratory feast of Tchaka for Lwa Azaka, the well-loved god of agriculture.

Surrounded by auto-workers, the Atis community has easy access to tires and oil barrels coming out of that industry. Here, Papouche works to break one in half to use as a container garden.

Initiated during the 4th Ghetto Biennial, members of the Atis Rezistans artist collective worked with Lee Lee to establish a seed library, plant the foundation for the canopy of an edible urban food forest and build pocket sized permaculture gardens scaled to fit the small, tangled footpaths that meander through the Redzone along the Grand Rue in downtown Port-Au-Prince. The project won first place for foreign artists in the People’s Choice Awards, and the gardens continue to thrive.

Jake Nussbaum & Richard Arthur Flemming produced a multilingual segment on the project for Clocktower Radio as part of Geto Byenal: Radyo Shak which explored how collaborations may effectively work despite differences in spoken language.

Moringa trees, which provide a nutrient dense green are sourced from Sakala, the urban community garden in Cite Soleil.

Chocogout, or Maya Nut trees are being reintroduced to the island as a reforestation project in the severely desertified southeast region by Sadhana Forest. They contributed a set of trees to plant in the Grand Rue neighborhood during a visit to their program.

Compost is sourced through SOIL

The Grow Haiti Seed Collection promoted through Baker Creek Heirloom seeds supports heirloom preservation and seed sovereignty efforts by the Lambi Fund. As part of the next phase of this project, we are collaborating with growers in the US to establish a seed library, which will allow us to return heirloom seeds to collaborators in Haiti. Contact Lee Lee to participate.

2015 Ghetto Biennale: KREYÒL, VODOU and the LAKOU
Forms of Resistance

Tchaka: Exploring the collisions between Haitian food sovereignty & US food policy

Azaka detail, beadwork by Edmond


Immacula Cadet grew up in Port-Au-Prince. When she was young, her family would go to the countryside of Cayes to dance with Papa Loko several times a year. They would celebrate the father of the Hougan priesthood by offering red liquor and cake. The most intricate and beautiful dances are performed for Papa Loko who is very strict about maintaining tradition. Immacula carries tradition forth in her role as Mambo.



Robed in pristine white dresses, the mambo move to the infectious rhythm of the drums. Their ample bodies weave through the close knit group, hips undulating so that their skirts take on the graceful flutter of butterfly wings. Papa Loko is known to move on the wind like a butterfly; nothing is unknown to him. He cannot tolerate injustice. Haitians have long been subjected to the impositions of outsider worldviews while suffering severe injustices by economic globalization. Awareness of this is channeled through the keepers of tradition. Rituals serve as a conduit, connecting participants to countless generations who have maintained fortitude in the face of external and dominating forces. They survive as the only nation born out of a successful slave revolt.



Flying between her ancestral lands and the land which has shaped the history of her nation, Immacula moves between Port-au-Prince and Boston, where two of her five children have joined the diaspora. She assumes the traditional role of grandmother by cooking for her family and taking care of her eight grandchildren. She loves to cook more than she loves to eat.



Food is expensive in Haiti. Traditional farming practices have steadily eroded as peasants are increasingly marginalized by exploitive industrial schemes. External structures of globalization have unraveled the social fabric of rural communities and caused an ecological disaster across the country. Heavily influenced by the World Bank, the ‘American Plan’ instigated monoculture production of exotic export crops, extending a model first implemented during the colonial era. Profits flow out of the country with the exports, benefitting multinational corporations and the oligarchy they support. Displaced peasants migrate to the cities where desperation forces them to work for rock bottom wages which is exploited by assembly industry largely owned by US companies. Further degrading the economic fabric in Haiti, an external framework for production offers little connection to local economies because raw materials are sourced from abroad and products are sold to foreign markets.[i] The earthquake of 2010 levelled even this frail economy as foreign companies fled. Abandoned by the schemers who decimated the foundation of local food production, people in Haiti can no longer feed themselves. Food is expensive because globalization has replaced localized economies. There is no food security, so Haitians rely on imported grain and food aid. The supply of food aid profits none other than the US agricultural sector which is deeply enmeshed with the corporations who debased food security in the first place. In the twisted ghetto alleyways along the Grand Rue, residents are fortunate if they get a single meal in a day.



They live in tiny houses pieced together out of corrugated metal and tarps, which have been propped up against cinderblock walls half tumbled by the earthquake. The dwellings consist of single rooms shared by a whole family. Much living takes place along the twisted dirt pathways and in the streets. At the suggestion that people there may be happier with a bit of private space, the response is that it would lessen the strength of community. At the suggestion that people may be satisfied with more material goods, the response is that it would reduce the value of the few items in their possession. Haitians maintain a strong sense of pride.



In the mornings little kitchens appear, tucked into the corners of the footpath scaled alleyways, and the women begin preparing traditional Creole meals. Food prepared slowly, with love, offers comfort and empowerment to those who are nourished by it. It is a cultural foundation which acts as a strong glue that holds community together in ways that maintain an important sense of identity. The little kitchens consist of a few five gallon buckets which act as tables or a sink, a large bowl that gets propped upon a bucket, a charcoal stove, a couple of large stockpots, a knife and spoon and a large wooden mortar and pestle. A piece of the pervasive rubble is often pulled up as a stool on which to sit during the long hours of preparation.



Immacula has set up a little kitchen in Andre Eugene’s lakou, the courtyard which acts as a nexus for the creative community of the Atis Rezistans. As sacred Veves are drawn with cornmeal around the courtyard in preparation for a celebration, we prepare Tchaka. This stew honors Azaka, the hardworking God of Agriculture.



Hardworking Azaka is well loved in Haiti. Great respect is given to this representation of a gentle peasant, as great respect is given to the hardworking farmer. Referred to as Kouzin, this ‘cousin’ offers a reminder of the importance of family, including deceased members who stay present with those who remain. Haitian peasants would bury their deceased family on their plot of land, weaving together a bond of ancestry to the land. It is a representation of the significance of land ownership which had been won by their forefathers through the ousting of the colonists. Even when displaced to urban areas, Haitians maintain a strong connection to the land.[ii]



Another neighborhood grandmother, Rose Marie, arrives to help prepare the Tchaka. She pulls out a bundle of discarded plastic cutlery with which she lights a charcoal fire. This type of fire starter is plentiful because the Haitian government doesn’t recognize profit in trash collection, so they only do it once a month. Trash piles up on corners, clogs drains and fills the footpaths that weave through these densely packed neighborhoods. Ghetto dwellers have quite literally been thrown out with the trash by an elite who is more concerned with maintaining a tight grip on their own wealth than building the infrastructure of their country.



Rose Marie pours water that had been treated with chlorine into a large stockpot and places it directly on the coals. After the earthquake, UN workers brought Cholera to a country who had never had to worry about the water borne illness. The problem of water borne illness is exasperated by the loss of natural filtration systems offered by trees and undergrowth as it is removed with deforestation. Ghetto residents share the leaks that have sprung out of industrious hacking into a civic plumbing infrastructure to which they are not given official access. They know to add chlorine so it will not make them sick.

Immacula washes a single green onion, peels the dried outer leaves and feeds these to the fire growing in the charcoal stove. She throws the whole onion in the stockpot which she covers to let the water warm. Haitians have an intricate understanding of their history and maintain a strong sense of identity that is deeply rooted in African traditions. In describing trans-Atlantic connections, Moyo Okediji describes the daily creative acts of women from his homeland; “Just as the cooking pot is central to the Yoruba concept of family, the pot is central to the way Yoruba women define themselves – it is a voice, a mind, a meeting point, and a vehicle of transition.”[iii]



Immacula finds a chair, and sits upon it as if on a throne. Slowly, she picks through 3 cups of cracked yellow corn, throwing the brown pieces to the hen and her three chicks who are scavenging about the urban yard. After washing the broken corn, she drains the water by splattering it across the cement, cooling it from the pounding tropical sun. She adds a small spoon of Baking Soda to the warmed water in the stockpot, then throws the corn in by the handful. Adding enough water to the fill the pot two thirds full, she covers it to boil for about an hour as the coals slowly die down.

Haitians remain sensitive to the neo colonial powers that displace them from traditional lands in order to exploit them in an abusive labor system. They are not blind to how they echo the colonial structures that brought their ancestors to this land as slaves. As much as they are able, they fight it. Peasant farmers have recognized the abuses of the Monsanto Corporation in the way that they tie farmers into a system that is dependent on purchasing yearly supplies of engineered seed instead of the traditional methods of saving and replanting seed. They know that from this system grows a disastrous debt that peasant farmers in other countries have suffered. They recognize the health as well as the environmental impacts of the chemicals necessary to grow the modified seeds. So when the industrial giant offered a donation of genetically modified corn seed after the earthquake, there was a widespread call by the Peasant Movement of Papay to burn the huge piles of seed.[iv] Their call was heard, but officially heeded by the government for only a year.[v]

While the corn is simmering, the grandmothers pick through three cups of red kidney beans by the handful, throwing out the brown and deformed ones. After washing and draining the beans, they add them to the stockpot. Rose Marie replenishes the charcoal, replaces the pot, and covers it to bring to a soft boil. The stew cooks gently for 45 minutes as people start to gather, drawn to the lakou by rich smells emanating from the pot. The grandmothers continue by peeling half of a medium pumpkin, removing the seeds and strings. Leaving it in large pieces, the orange flesh gets added to the pot.



She then adds a pound of thickly sliced viande conchon, which is like bacon on steroids. Azaka loves the fat in this dish, so Rose Marie splashes in a bit of extra oil as well. The pot continues to simmer for an hour.

During the night of August 14, 1791, the catalyst for the Haitian revolution grew out of the ritual slaughter of a black Creole pig by a wild haired Mambo who embodied the lwa Erzilie Danto at the Bois Caiman ceremony. The congregation was called into a pact of resistance by the Vodoun Priest, Boukman Dutty.[vi] The insurrection began eight days later, and within a week the northern plain was in the hands of the former slaves.[vii] Beyond these symbolic ties to a proud part of their history, the Creole pig was an essential component to rural life. They offered a strong foundation to the rural economy because they provided a large cash return on an initial investment. Furthermore, they provided a substantial value in the overall system of sustenance farming. Inexpensive to keep, the pig rid farms of waste which included weeds and pests like the May beetle larvae which was particularly destructive to crops. Their nitrogen rich excrement then provided free fertilizer for the crops. It contributed to the cycle of harvest by following its rooting nature and digging up the fields after the food was taken in, which prepared the earth for the next planting. Like Haitians themselves, they were survivors who had adapted to some of the most miserable living conditions in the world. [viii]

In the early 1980s, the United States led a massive eradication program of the Creole Pig. There had been an isolated outbreak of swine flu in the Artibonite Valley that had come down the river from the Dominican Republic. The US felt threatened that it would reach our shores, even as the Creole pigs proved to be resilient to the disease as they had acquired a strong natural immunity to most endemic disease. Not only did they exterminate the pigs throughout the Artibonite Valley, the US government extended the geographic area to annihilate pigs throughout the country. They would fly over the mountains, killing wild pigs from helicopters. After failed efforts to replace the pig with American breeds, French and Chinese breeds have been introduced. However, it will take many generations for these pigs to develop the same sort of resistance to the harsh living conditions that made the Creole pig so hearty. Meanwhile, the rural population turned in desperation to charcoal production, speeding up the deforestation and desertification that plagues Haiti.

Into the large wooden mortar and pestle that had been lathed in this woodworking community, Rose Marie throws three cloves of peeled garlic and mashes them into a smooth paste. She then cracks a coconut by throwing it on the cement floor. Draining the water into a bowl, the drink is shared amongst friends. The meat is extracted, washed and grated on a repurposed coffee can punctured with nail holes. Immacula pours two cups of water over the shredded coconut meat and massages it to extract the milk. She pours some into the pestle to rinse the garlic, which she empties into the Tchaka pot along with the rest of the strained coconut milk. Repeating this processing, coconut milk is added to fill the pot. The chickens eagerly receive the coconut shreds. Rose Marie rinses a handful of Grand Saline salt with a flourish and throws it in the Tchaka; as if the movement is an expression of the belief that salt is life, and will keep zombification at bay. A bouquet garni made with parsley and thyme brought ages ago by the French colonists adds that portion of their history to the pot, while three habanero chilies bring with them the flavor of the Caribbean region. By this time, the beans are bien cuit, tender. They take out the large pieces of cooked squash to pulverize them in a sturdy bowl. Thinning the mash with broth, the liquid is returned to the pot through the strainer, working the pulp through the mesh with the pestle to thoroughly extract the smooth flesh from the stringy strands. The stew warms to a boil as Rose Marie adds two tablespoons of butter and three Maggi chicken stock cubes. Immacula throws in a handful of the cornmeal used to draw the sacred Veves. Just before serving, the Tchaka is finished with juice from one sour orange.



As the pot is taken off the fire, the coals are quickly whisked away to feed another smoldering stove in the neighborhood. Charcoal production is by far the largest contributor to deforestation which leads to soil erosion and desertification. Monoculture production of exotic crops for export was established by the colonists in the most fertile areas, and continues to be supported by a global system of agriculture. A marginalized peasant population was pushed into marginal areas up in the mountains, where they have eked out subsistence farms to feed the country. As economic pressure mounts due to things like the decimation of the Creole Pig, so does desperation, and making charcoal eases the hunger that results from a system of exploitation. Forests bring rain, when they are cut down the rain is not pulled down and the land becomes parched. During the monsoon seasons, too much rain washes away the precious top soil which is no longer held in place by tree roots. The cycle of desperation deepens. It is said in Haiti that “the mountains have grown old. You can see their bones poking through their skin”[ix] because in places, severe erosion has exposed the bedrock. Food security is intricately linked to environmental sustainability. After many outside organizations have attempted sustainability programs, it ends up that traditional farming techniques are the most effective in maintaining environmental balance. The organizations who respond to the requests of the farmers for native trees over exotic export crops yield the highest success rates. The farmers know that multipurpose trees have always been the foundation of a homestead, providing wood, fodder, medicine, shade and food for the farmers. Working in harmony with the land, traditional Haitian subsistence farmers rely on a diversity of crops grown using biodynamic, polyculture growing methods. For a population who has grown wary of the systematic subjugation to an elite supported by outsider structures, it is essential to base assistance on collaboration and participation through working with the traditional knowledge maintained by the elders of rural areas.[x]



During the ritual for Azaca, the Tchaka is offered to the spirits for about 20 minutes before the rest of the gathering shares in the feast. During this time, any of the family may partake in sharing the pot. There is a set hierarchy of how people eat in the ghetto as well. The grandmothers sit above their pot and ceremoniously dish up the porridge, passing it first to the leaders of the community, before working their way around to serve those who have contributed most to maintaining the tight weave which has given this neighborhood strength. From these heaping servings, the community leaders eat their fill and pass off their plates to the next member of their families. The plates end up being passed off three or four times so that those with ties to the community fabric are nourished.

This meal was prepared as a collaboration between Immacula Cadet, Rose Marie & Lee Lee during the 3rd Ghetto Biennale – Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Find the Tchaka recipe here



[i] Haiti Info, Haiti’s Agricultural Production, 1996

[ii] Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn

[iii] Moyo Okediji, “Returnee Recollections – Transatlantic Transformations,” Catalog for the exhibition, Transatlantic Dialogue, Contemporary art in and out of Africa, Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2000

[iv] Beverly Bell, Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds, The World Post, 5/17/10

[v] Beverly Bell,

[vi] H. Pauléus Sannon, Histoire de Toussaint L’Ouverture, 1920

[vii] Stéphen Alexis, Black Liberator, 1949

[viii] Bernard Diederich, Swine Fever Ironies, 1985

[ix] JM Smith, When the Hands are Many: Community Organization and Social Change in Rural Haiti, Cornell University Press, 2001

[x] Nathan C McClintock, Agroforestry and sustainable resource conservation in Haiti: A case study, 2003

Diri Djon Djon

Djon Djon is a type of mushroom that grows in the mountains of Haiti. This rice dish is often served as an accompaniment for Poulet Légumes

  • 2 habanero chilis, stem removed but seeds in tact
  • 1 green onion, white and green parts, cut into 1″ segments
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each
  • 2 cups fresh Pois Congo, shelled
  • 1/2 fresh coconut: meat extracted and finely grated
  • 3 T tiny dried shrimps
  • 2 T butter
  • 3 lbs djon djon (black mushrooms found in Caribbean markets) or 3 condensed djon djon bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely sliced
  • Whole sprig of thyme
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • 3 T rock salt to taste
  • 2 cups rice, picked through and washed

In a large wooden mortar and pestle, pound one habanero, green onion, garlic, chicken bouillon cube and cloves until a rough paste forms. Add tomato paste and mash to combine. Heat oil in large pot. When hot, add paste until fragrant. Add fresh tomatoes and Pois Congo, stir and let simmer partially covered for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make coconut milk by adding 2 cups of water to shredded coconut. Massage the meat through your fingers, extracting the milk from the coconut. Strain the liquid through a fine meshed strainer, squeezing the meat to extract as much liquid as possible. Repeat this process two more times, using one cup of water each of the following extractions. Add coconut milk, tiny shrimps, butter, djon djon, green pepper, one whole habanero, parsley, thyme and salt to the Congo beans. Cover and bring to a low boil over medium high heat. Simmer until the beans are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add rice, stir, cover and bring to a boil slowly. After about 15 minutes, stir again. Rice is ready when all the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with Poulet Legumes.


This recipe was performed by Rose Marie Paul at the 3rd Ghetto Biennale in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Charbon - Charcoal vendors at the Marcher Salomon, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
Charbon – Charcoal vendors at the Marcher Salomon, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti