Encountering Haiti

Integrating Haitian Art into Campus Curriculum, Engagement, and Creative Learning

History, Religion, Cultures and People

Dèyè mòn, gen mòn. (Behind the mountains are more mountains).

– Haitian proverb

The University of Kansas (KU) has many resources for exploring Haiti’s rich history, religions, cultures, and people. This website invites students, scholars, and others to learn about Haiti in ways that move beyond stereotypes and simplistic stories to foster insightful, complex, and meaningful conversations on campus.

Encounters between KU and Haiti have been occurring since 1992, when Professor Emeritus Bryan Freeman—one of the first American scholars to be interested in Haitian Creole language and culture—founded KU’s Institute of Haitian Studies. Another landmark moment occurred in 2012, when the KU Haitian Research Initiative Team (Distinguished Professor of English Maryemma Graham, librarian Bryan Rosenblum and anthropologist Kiran Jayaram) traveled to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake to meet with colleagues and scholars. That same year, KU alumna Mary Lou Vansant Hughes donated a major collection of 20th-century Haitian art to KU’s Spencer Museum of Art, which is now an important repository for Haitian art in the United States.

Building from these strong foundations, the 2018-2019 academic year served as a culmination of these and other important encounters. The 2018-2019 KU Common Book was Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Haitian-American author and MacArthur Fellow Edwidge Danticat. The accompanying Common Work of Art was Marie Laveau (2018), which was painted by Haitian artist Ulrick Jean-Pierre and was featured in the Spencer Museum of Art’s exhibition The Ties that Bind. The University of Kansas hosted The Unexpected Caribbean, a major symposium that provided international scholars an opportunity to explore Caribbean culture. A variety of other performances, events, and curricular opportunities arose in conjunction with these events.

We warmly invite you to encounter Haiti by learning more about these projects on this website and hope that you can use them for your own teaching, research, and learning. To learn more, please feel free to contact us:

Professor Cécile Accilien, Director, Institute of Haitian Studies: cecileaccilien@ku.edu

Dr. Cassandra Mesick Braun, Curator of Global Indigenous Art, Spencer Museum of Art: cmesick@ku.edu