On January 12, 2010, Haiti experienced one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. More than 100,000 people died and a million became homeless when a strong earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince. The quake spurred an unprecedented relief effort in a country long plagued by underdevelopment and political corruption. But as the months went by, much of the international community’s promise to help Haiti “build back better” proved illusory.
It was in this climate that Port-au-Prince graffiti artist Jerry Moïse Rosembert came to prominence as one of Haiti’s leading social critics. When many of the neighborhoods where he’d painted before the earthquake were reduced to rubble, Jerry took to the walls of Pétionville, an affluent area home to the Haitian elite and to many foreign NGOs. In dozens of murals around the city, his artistic focus shifted from pop culture caricatures to upbeat portrayals of Haitians and of Haiti’s future, bearing slogans like “I love Haiti” and “Haiti will not perish.” As it drew crowds in the street, Jerry’s work attracted the unlikely admiration of police officers and condemnation by a prominent politician. It became, for many Haitians, a rare symbol of resilience and strength at a dark period in the country’s history.
Jerry’s talent for visual storytelling earned him contracts with groups like UNICEF and Catholic Relief Services, who used Jerry’s art to bolster health education campaigns. But in his own work, he did not shy away from critiques of foreign aid and of Haiti’s post-quake political squabbles, depicting the corruption that weighed on the aid effort and the deadly cholera outbreak inadvertently caused by UN peacekeepers.
In this short video, Fusion travels to Port-au-Prince to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the earthquake, and to look back on Jerry’s emergence as an artist during that pivotal moment in his career.