I first went to Haiti in January 1974. The sign pictured above was made of small electric light bulbs and ran for perhaps 100 feet along the Rue Capois, near the Palais National in Port-au-Prince. Jean-Claude Duvalier was President-for-Life. Like so many things in this wonderful country, this did not quite work out.
After a few days in Port-au-Prince, I headed for the North coast and took up residence in a peasant hut in the remote beach village of Labadie. I stayed there, living the life and photographing my neighbors, until my funds ran out at the end of March. By that time I was completely in love with the Haitian people. I returned to Haiti a couple of months later and by the end of 1974, in the company of friends, had opened the first Macondo store in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. The shop was not unlike a stall in the fabulous Iron Market of Port-au-Prince; crammed with wood carvings, baskets and of course, Haitian paintings. It soon became apparent to us that selling Haitian merchandise was an excellent way to go bankrupt, so one by one, my partners peeled off into other professions and soon I was the sole proprietor of Macondo. By 1979 I had moved to Pittsburgh where Macondo evolved into an eclectic boutique that featured clothing, jewelry, accessories and gifts and of course, Haitian Art.
I have been fortunate to make more than fifty trips to Haiti over the years. I speak some Creole and interact with Haitians at all levels, but especially with market people and artists. I have met and sometimes known well, many of the great artists, from Philome Obin to Stivenson Magloire, Zephirin and Pascale Monnin. And I have enjoyed the hospitality and insights of some of the major art dealers in Haiti.
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©Bill Bollendorf -1998/2012