Ide ntity: Lost and Foun d. By Nicole Lozyniak and Janssen Lewis.
By Nicole Lozyniak and Janssen Lewis
Looking closely at the painting, it is possible to see the individual identities coming together as one “Haitian identity.” However, the people have lost their own identity, in this.
Characters in various short stories that we have read have also lost their identities or are searching for them.
“‘What do people call you?’ ‘Lamort…my mother died while I was being born….my grandmother was really mad at me.’ ‘They should have given you your mother’s name. That is the way it should have been.’…. ‘Today, I want you to call me by another name…I want you to call me by her name, Mary Magdelène.’” (The Missing Peace, Edwidge Danticat).
Lamort is in search of an identity. By giving herself her mother’s name she feels as if she will achieve this. Her mother died while she was giving birth to Lamort. Lamort desires to have the strength and character of her mother. This painting, “Tall Spirits” by Levoy Exil represents that desire because the bottom person symbolizes Lamort and the top picture symbolizes her mother and the two are becoming one. Lamort is growing into her mother. The name Mary Magdelène gave Lamort her new identity.
“She’s fled the tropics because the sun darkens her, my friend wants to be one with the snow….I lost my friend somewhere between the strange Continents, my love for the sun and the eternal peace I can only find on my island.” (My Late Friend, Lorna Goodison
In the poem, My Late Fiend, the narrator’s friend is trading her Haitian identity for a “superior” white identity. The narrator, however, is trying to uphold her true identity, which is Haitian. This painting “The Surprise” by Joseph Cantave represents the poem because it shows the gradients of color portrayed through each of the woman’s identities. One friend is giving up her identity to be white and as a result is becoming “less black.”
“Fancy, naming a boy after a bird. A black boy after a white bird-….the car is alive. Throughout, roaming the seats, perched on the running board, spackling the crystal face of the clock, are doves…wreck turned dovecote is filled with their sweet coos.” (Columba, Michelle Cliff)
The story, Columba, is about a little black boy who works for a white family. He makes friends with the white girl that lives in the house. They have this forbidden friendship. The boy is extremely curious of the girl’s life back in America and she shares her stories with him . One day the girl skips school and the two children go exploring. They come across the old car that has been inhabited by the doves.
The doves are significant because they represent Columba’s identity. He is a black boy named after a white bird and so he feels a connection to the doves being that they, like him, are out of place. The doves have found their home in a car. Charlotte, at the end of the story, makes Columba go and kill all of the doves. This makes Columba distraught because in a way Charlotte, his “owner” is having him kill his own identity. Furthermore, Charlotte feels that his name is not appropriate because he is named after a white bird. She decides to Anglicize his name making it “Colin”. Again, she has destroyed part of his identity.
This painting “Tree of Birds” by Fritz Charles connects to the boy in the story, Columba, because it shows the doves being overtaken by the colors in the trees. They are losing their identity. The doves don’t stand out in the picture because our eyes are drawn to the colorful flowers. Columba loses his identity to the white identity. He is forced to change who he really is. The major change take place when he is forced to change his name and then kill the birds, with whom he can relate to.
In the novel Krik? Krak! there is another short story Caroline’s Wedding in which one person is embracing their Haitian identity while another is forgetting it. In her mother’s eyes, Caroline’s marriage is representing her loss of her “true” identity. Despite her mother’s wishes, Caroline is marrying a non-Haitian man. This causes conflicts in identity. Caroline’s mother is holding on to her Haitian identity and wanted her daughters to do the same, however the girls are both “American” and have begun to take on the American identity. Caroline’s mother makes bone soup every night in hopes that it will deter her marriage. This shows her upholding her identity because she believes strongly in her Haitian traditions and wants nothing to do with American traditions like wedding showers.
This painting “Bull King” by Joseph Cantave is representative of the story Caroline’s Wedding because in the face in the picture there are two halves that each represent a different identity. It shows the conflict in identity present in the story. The colors in both sides are contrasting symbolizing the contrast of Caroline’s newly found American identity as compared to her mother’s Haitian identity.
“Ma believed that her bone soup could cure all kinds of illnesses. She even hoped that it would perfom the miracle of departing Caroline from Eric, her Bahamian fiancé.”
The woman in the story Night Women is stuck in between the identity that she currently has and the identity that she wishes she had. She is searching for something else. She wants to no longer have to sleep with men for money to feed her son. She’s torn between the two identities.
This picture, Hope for Happiness by Dorcely III represents the woman because she is looking for her dreams.
Night Women JEAN BRUNO LOUISIUS
“There are two kinds of women: day women and night women. I am stuck between the day and night in a golden amber bronze. My eyes are the color of dirt, almost copper if I am standing in the sun.” (Night Women, Edwidge Danticat).
Throughout Haitian literature and artwork there is a common theme of identity loss and a search for identity. Many characters in the short stories we have read have been looking for an identity or have been caused to lose their true identities, taking on someone else’s. Examples of the characters whose identities are being replaced with another identity are Columba, Caroline and the woman in the poem My Late Friend. Lamort as well as the woman in Night Women is searching for a new identity. They are both stuck in between who they are and who they want to be. Many artworks can be directly correlated with the theme of identity depicting those people who are involved in identity issues. This theme is important because throughout every person’s life there is some struggle with identity. Whether your looking for it or losing it or stuck in between, there is always something.