Charlot Lucien – Artist of all
By Ella Turenne
New York – Charlot Lucien can
truly call himself an artist. Hearing that title may lead one to
believe that Lucien can only pick up a paintbrush, but in fact, he
is talented on many levels.
Painter, poet, storyteller and
cartoonist, Lucien has an impressive formal artistic career that has
spanned close to two decades. The current co-director of the
Assembly of Haitian Artists in Massachusetts has been an influential
force in helping to bring Haitian art to the forefront, especially
in Boston and its surrounding suburbs where the Haitian population
Born in des Cayes, Lucien came to the US as an adult in
the early 1990’s, having spent time in Canada after leaving Haiti.
While in Canada, he was already making waves with his satirical
cartoons in publications such as Le Nouvelliste, Haïti en Marche,
Haïti Libérée and Information Libre.
Lucien says he began
drawing and writing when he was only six years old. He would
reproduce cartoons from books that came from France. This behavior
was definitely not accepted by his family, but he continued to
pursue it, despite the sometimes unfavorable repercussions.
arriving in the US, Lucien has been busy, not only with the
activities of the Assembly, which includes close to 50 Massachusetts
artists within all arts disciplines, but he is also editor of the a
newsletter he founded entitled Bulletin Communautaire Haïtien du
Massachusetts, and can be seen regularly in Boston’s
Haitian-American newspaper, the Boston Haïtian Reporter as well as
TANBOU TAMBOUR, an online magazine. Not limiting himself to print,
he can also be seen on Télé Kreyol a community access television
show on Boston Neighborhood Network.
Perhaps the most interesting
achievement thus far is the release of his second CD of stories, Ti
Cyprien Doktè ya Bezwen anecdotes if you will, mostly about the
Haitian experience. Interesting because it is rare in this day of
Konpa-fanaticism that people are willing to sit and listen to a
story. Most people would rather shake their bon-bon’s as Ricky
Martin puts it. Or are they? The success of Lucien’s CD is proving
that people are more open to storytelling that one might
What began this love affair with storytelling? Lucien
credits his father, who traveled a great deal in Haiti and took
Lucien with him everywhere.
“I could be in one area of Haiti
with officials speaking French. The next day, [I] could be on the
countryside.” Lucien was interested in the contradictions in Haitian
society, where you could formality in one are in informality right
next door. He was an observer, and the observations he experienced
fueled his storytelling.
“[A] sense of observation served me
well as an artist. Some of the things I describe in my stories are
things that I actually saw.” Besides this kind of inspiration, there
are others factors involved in developing his stories and cartoons.
“[If] something that [people] are doing intrigues me, I do
something about it – either I tease people about it or I annoy
people. The cartoons are rarely funny to the victims. The
storytelling sometimes makes some people uncomfortable. It never
comes back to me in a very clear way. It’s a way to wrap some humor
around some contradictions so they can swallow the
Lucien’s CD offers a range of very comical and thoughtful
anecdotes in French and Creole. They deal with issues including
being a “Dyasora,” someone who has left Haiti and comes back to the
country for a visit, to a historical anecdote about Capois La Mort,
a famed Haitian hero. One story, Sonson Moun Fou, speaks tells the
story of a man thought to be crazy. In a hilarious twist, we learn
that the crazy people are not necessarily those who are pegged so by
Lucien’s deep and articulate voice draw the listener in
and his tempo make each story a joy to listen to. He has a skillful
knack for character voices, which only serves to make each story
better-rounded. Lucien has so take the story-telling world that he
is being compared these days to the likes of Maurice Sixto, a
well-known Haitian storyteller. How does Lucien handle being
compared to such a legend?
“Compared to Sixto? Scared. He was a
master storyteller and performer.” Lucien says that when people
starting making this connection. He actually waited before releasing
his first collection of stories. “[I] took the time to recraft text
and words. I wouldn’t be able to break free from his heavy presence
if people just started to refer to me as such. After the first one,
that’s how people embraced it.”
Being compared to such a legend
is not such a bad thing, especially if you are legitimacy good at
what you do, and Lucien. His stories are something that the whole
family, for generations to come, will enjoy.