Tiga-Haiti: Reve, Possession, Creation, Folie, 2001

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Director Film Tiga-Haiti: Reve, Possession, Creation, Folie, 2001
Arnold Antonin

Tiga-Haiti: Reve, Possession, Creation, Folie, 2001
doc [A]
50 minutes

Centre Petion-Bolivar
cpb@haitiworld.com --PREFERRED contact
(509) 257-6748

The life and work of Haitian painter Jean-Claude "Tiga' Garoute. TIGA.

At one end of a Caribbean island dominated by madness and chaos, there is an artist philosopher. His dream is to make all the people of this island find the hidden creator within each of them and become free. For that he became one with the madness of the country. He became one with its hallucinations. He convoked Ubu, he looked at Dada, he questioned all the Gods of Voodoo. He wanted to decipher all the signs of his people.

Note: Tiga whose real name is Jean Claude Garoute, was born December 9th, 1935 by accident in Port-au-Prince. Son of Antonine Garoute, he never knew his father. Having grown up in The Grand Anse until the age of six, he was sent to Port-au-Prince. He became attached to the twin brother of his mother, Hamilton Garoute. Father of four children. Occupation: High priest of creation. Characteristics: in eternal change while always staying the same. He has attempted to transform life into a very serious game for everybody of all ages.

It all began with ceramics. Tiga was ten; he traveled with his uncle Hamilton, Colonel in the Army and poet. He discovered clay. He took possession of it and believed he had taken possession of the entire planet. It was the material with which he molded the world. He looked for its magnetic field. He wanted to make ceramics the great art of Haitians, as great as painting. He looked back to the aborigines and reached the creation of Earth and the Universe. He wanted to bring the whole country with him on the trip.

He established schools, he set up a Museum. - He discovered that all arts are connected simultaneously. To have them in his experiments, Tiga, the alchemist sought the help of the mentally ill. He consulted Erasmus; he climbed the central pillar of Voodoo cult. He didn't stop at Calfour. He went to the peasants at Soisson La Montagne.

His companion in this new adventure: Maude Robard.

Tiga became the Great Priest of Saint Soleil; the profoundly earthy alchemist, the lover of clay, turned towards the sun.
Before him, in the same land, another artist had made the sun his pal and turned him into a General. He was punished in an abominable way.

Tiga made the Sun a Saint with its icons, its liturgy and its practitioners. Leroy Exile is one of its faithfuls. Another guru attended in 1976 the birth of this experiment. He is called André Marlaux and he wrote: "The most striking and the only controllable experiment in magic painting in our century."

Tiga tried to save popular Haitian painting from folklore and the condescendence of the West, but Tiga wanted to go back to the original sources.

He was not content to force the future; he wanted to recover the past, the beginning. He wanted to unify time by joining the two impossible ends, Alpha and Omega. He looked for the ADN end of the dinosaurs before "Jurassic Park". For him, the source is: childhood. He gathered the children, sons of peasants or city folks, sons of proletariat or bourgeois.

Tiga carried his experiments far beyond the borders of the end of the island. He exhibited in Senegal, in France, in Belgium, in Italy, in the Scandinavian countries, in the United Stated, Canada, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Martinique, Trinidad, Morocco, Algeria and Djibuti. He theorized as always. The adept of automatism and of spontaneous creation never stopped theorizing.

He made a theory of artistic rotation and the laboratory of creation. Tiga is a volcano, he wants to explode all of the senses and in every direction he explodes. He wants to express the veritable essence of things, beyond reality. He wants to understand and explain the secrets that unite the worlds. He wants to re-invent all the symbols and science of his people, he practices automatic writing. He only believes in spontaneity. He does everything backwards, and the opposite of opposites.

Tiga, after Mata, Lam and Davertige is the last of the great surrealists. Everything is real and possible in America.

He doesn't want to be contained in any mold: " I belong to no school". Tiga believes that we are all madmen who should be liberated. Tiga wants to transform everything into a work of art.

He wants to people his imaginary Museum, which is the whole of this end of the Island. Tiga, the High Priest of improvisation, is also a dramatic artist. Conceives ballets, composes songs and sings.

But his songs and the songs he writes are traditional melodies. He likes, he loves the melodious music of Rachmaninoff. He writes the lyrics to his music. He is hardly at all interested in Gerald Merceron, the composer whose work in the musical field at the end of this island is the closest to that Tiga does in the plastic arts.

Wall painting and collective painting took a special place in the dreams of Tiga. He wanted to have frescoes that the people could appropriate. He went to Place Geffrard, in the heart of the old town. He made a wall mosaic with three hundred and thirty three pieces. Everybody passing by could stop and admire it. But the Plaza has been occupied, as almost all of the country is by street merchants selling anything you can imagine and by the stalls of other sellers. The mosaic was completely covered with worn-out Persian tapestry. You only can see it at nightfall, when the peddlers put their merchandise away and there is nobody there to look at it.

Unless Tiga comes by. Beauty for him is the same as for the surrealists: the descent of the marvelous among us. Surrealism is incarnated in Tiga and became his life. But Tiga is the seeker with his hands and feet dusty from traveling. He keeps on exploring. The volcano has found its perfect spot, from which to have the lava of its eternal anxiety flow out.

They are burned suns, a name that designates the product of his new experiment. It is post-Saint Soleil to indicate that one has to go even farther to transcend the attitude, to carry a torch that will shine at the highest temperature in the very midst of the sun that he wanted to set on fire.

He created clothing for the sunned bodies of the Creole women who haunt his nights and his work. Tiga, Pygmalion, magician, wants to be a total artist.

He has not forgotten Grutowsky, who was his friend. And what if Tiga is quite simply one of the great painters of this epoch?.

The child whose spirit has never been broken in spite of the desertion of his father, in spite of the fact his uncle, Colonel and poet gave the First Prize to someone else at a Ceramic Contest, in spite of the fact that this uncle was kidnapped and brutally assassinated in the jails of Papa Doc-Ubu. This child, protected by endless words about everything and everywhere This child continues to try putting the anxiety of his exploded world on canvas and attempts to unify it.

Every night I told a story to my daughter. It was an episode of the adventures that I shared with an old man, a magician with ebony black skin and a long white beard. Between intergalactic voyages and long visits under the sea, he stopped over when everybody was sleeping. Using his beard as a flying carpet, together we traveled to the mysterious grotto to read the book of his adventures.

One evening, my daughter who knew Tiga very well, suddenly asked me this question: Papa, the old man, isn't he Tiga?.


Haïti, Sur un des bouts d'une île de la Caraïbe, dominée par la folie et le chaos, existe un artiste philosophe. Son rêve: faire que tous les habitants de cette terre trouvent le créateur caché en eux et atteignent la liberté. Pour cela, il prend à bras-le-corps la folie du pays et en assume les délires. Tiga, l'un des plus grands peintres d'Haïti et des Caraïbes, se veut un artiste total. Son nom et sa vie sont intimement liés à toute l'histoire contemporaine de l'art haïtien.

Centre Petion-Bolivar
cpb@haitiworld.com --PREFERRED contact
(509) 257-6748