Nathalie Jolivert is among the artists whose work will be on exhibition at Haiti Cultural Exchange’s Haitian culture extravaganza Selebrasyon. The Rhode Island School of Design graduate has a degree in architecture, but she’s not only known for her grand concepts of spectacular buildings. Her paintings which are highly inspired by her Haitian background have also caught attention.
Kreyolicious: At which moment did you have your first epiphany that being an artist was going to be a huge part of your life?
I knew I would evolve in a creative field ever since I was a child. There is one story I will always remember. One day I drew all over the walls and furniture in my house and instead of scolding me, my parents looked closely at my drawings and decided immediately to put me in art classes.
Kreyolicious: Was parental support heavy when you made your intentions known?
My parents have always supported me. In Haiti, parents rarely encourage their kids to pursue a career in the visual arts… unless they are artists themselves. My mother is a doctor and my father was a civil engineer, yet they made sure I could have access to art classes while growing up. As a young kid, I was lucky to take classes with artists like Yolette Hazel and Tiga. I also loved taking classes at the Musée du Collège Saint-Pierre. Especially because I could see the artwork exhibited there for inspiration. I am very lucky to have parental support for what in Haiti is viewed as an “unconventional” career path but these days when you look at the many challenges we’re facing we ought to encourage more “uncoventional”approaches which usually lead to more innovative solutions to problems. I hope that we will have more programs that can foster youth talent in economically challenged neighborhoods and countries. All it takes is one person believing in the youth for great things to happen.
Kreyolicious: Did you ever have to struggle between being an artist and pursuing something else?
At the moment I am working on finding a balance between my painting and my architecture work. I use my artwork to investigate and find answers to problems. It is a great observation tool and ice-breaker into conversations about politicized architectural projects.
Above: Nathalie Jolivert’s vision for downtown Port-au-Prince.
Kreyolicious: What do you usually do when you have a creativity slump?
I like to communicate about my art. If I feel that I am challenged, I look up to mentors for advice. I love to connect with people for inspiration. Access to museums, galleries, libraries and bookstores is also important to me. When I feel that I need headspace because a project is overwhelming, I like to walk out in a park. This is difficult to do in Haiti but thankfully we keep a nice garden in which I can find respite.
Kreyolicious: Have you been to Haiti? What was it like?
I grew up in Haiti and left for school. Went back in 2012 after graduating at the Rhode Island School of Design. It’s been a challenging and rich experience. I have been able to tackle many subjects I have dreamt to in the arts, architecture and urban design fields. Being constantly aware of issues of poverty and power makes it overwhelming, but I am really grateful for the amazing exposure I’ve had to projects that are of global interests.
Kreyolicious: What do you wish you had known before launching your career?
I have always had a flare for entrepreneurship and wish I had looked out for more classes of the sort while in college. I realize how important it is to know how business works, in order be truly sustainable in a field in which you can get very easily under-paid or misled. Now, this is something I keep my eyes opened for. That and signing legal forms when getting involved in projects. It’s very important as a freelance professional.
Kreyolicious: If you were to make a short list of books that have changed your life…what would make the Top 5?
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I read this book in high school for a Creative Writing class in which we were always challenged to “Show” and “Not Tell” in our writing assignments. This has become a motto for life in my artwork and my actions. This book also introduced me to the caste system in India through an intimate story that hit home with the similar situations we face with our distant social classes in Haiti.
A Question of Power by Bessie Head. I read this book during a class on South-African literature in college. It was very interesting to follow the protagonist in her psychological journey as she faces what is right or wrong in South Africa. It is quite an experience to go through her hallucinations and moments of lucidity. Metaphors are strong in this novel, at times very uncomfortable… This book is one of the most memorable I have read of the shared experiences we have as post-colonial nations.
Gouverneurs de la Rosée by Jacques Roumain. This one is a Haitian classic. While the subjects of environment, family, love and patriotism are all I can chant about in this book, what I loved the most was how Roumain wrote the entire novel in a French infused with Creole expressions. You forget that you are reading a Creolized-French until the main character Manuel tries very hard to flirt with Anaïse in French, to impress her. It takes a lot of skills to relay the hard relationship we have between French and Creole in Haiti.
Le Vieux qui Lisait des Romans d’Amour by Luis Sepulveda. I have an interest for environmental issues and this book is one that has marked me about our impact on nature. Set in the Amazonian forest, it follows an old man who is called upon by the mayor of his town to capture a large feline that has killed a white man hunting off-season. Throughout the story, you learn about the old man’s life and essentially why, in the middle of all the mayhem of the Amazonian forest, he enjoys reading love novels.
This is How You Lose her by Junot Diaz was a really poignant read for me…perhaps because of timing and learning to know how I can love and feel hurt and disappointed. Diaz’s writing is truly admirable and the line he coined in the last story of this book is very true: “The half-life of love is forever”.
Kreyolicious: What are some accomplishments that you hope to check off in the next five years?
I would like to become a licensed architect in NY, design and build my personal art-studio in Haiti and simultaneously set up my own line of design.