The visually daring and technically innovative works of Bahamian-born artist Lavar Munroe in Strength and Struggle: Haiti Continued explore the struggle and suffering of the Haitian people in the aftermath of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. Through his raw but complex images, Munroe calls the viewer’s attention to the difficulties inherent in rebuilding the Haitian nation and the religious tensions between Christianity and Vodou. Chickens become an important symbol in Monroe’s work, referencing cockfighting, the plight of the Haitian people, reincarnation, food issues and Vodou. He also makes use of religious symbols, various animals, and architectural elements to further illuminate his narrative.
Munroe’s method of working, which combines traditional drawing that is then scanned and digitally painted, also references the contrast between the lives of citizens in industrialized nations versus those striving to create basic infrastructure. The works are tough and at times disturbing, yet the singular color palette, beautifully rendered drawings, and complex compositions delight the eye. The works are a delicate balance of contradictions and chaos, both compositionally and allegorically. The many overlaid images, colors and line work contrast with the smooth printed surfaces of the paintings, adding yet another layer of contradiction.
In addition to working digitally, Munroe has combined collage elements and paint in the “Awakening Spirits” series. Throughout the “Awakening Spirits” series Munroe’s anthropomorphized chickens impart serenity and strength. The texture of the paint, harmonious colors and repetitive visual elements all add to the expressiveness of the works, transforming violent and disturbing imagery into something which is simultaneously strikingly beautiful.
Curator, Dadian Gallery
Having lived in the Bahamas, a community inhabited by thousands of Haitian migrants, for the majority of my life, my knowledge and understanding of Haitian people is abundant; their way of life familiar. As an artist, I have an inner urge to help Haitians continue to be heard. I feel that it is especially important now, as the media frenzy has ended, that their stories continue to be inscribed on the hearts of the world for generations to come.
Months before the Haitian catastrophe, I was inspired to produce work based on the Haitian experience and chose the cockfight as my vehicle. This was inspired by a visit to my home in the Bahamas where I witnessed an organized cockfight in progress. The handlers were mostly of Haitian heritage; for them, the fights were a gamble and money was involved. Though fascinated, I quickly realized the cruelty involved. Before then, I had heard about the cockfight epidemic in the Bahamas, but never witnessed it. My intention was to make a statement against cockfighting worldwide; however there was a sudden shift in the earth, which resulted in a shift in my work and the demise of Port au Prince, Haiti, a great 7.0 magnitude earthquake. With the earthquake came the media, skeptics, critics, death, and a demonstration of the resilience and faith of the Haitian people.
The work editorially examines and tells a story of the Haitian people, their faith, culture and spiritual beliefs, of both ancient and modern day. In this body of work, I address critics, both Haitian and International, who claim the tragedy is a punishment from God. I find it my duty as an artist, to engage the public in aspects of Haiti, such as faith, religion and culture, areas which have caused controversy due to bad stigma, lack of knowledge, and incorrect perceptions. This is done through vast symbolism and allegory throughout my work. Through this body of work, I hope to uplift a nation, rich in beliefs of both ancestral taboo and modern day norm.
Educated at The Savannah College of Art and Design, I studied illustration, obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts (summer 2007). From then until now, I have entered many competitions and exhibitions both in the illustration and fine art fields; most of which have proven successful. I currently have two bodies of children's book illustrations on travel exhibit via the annual Associazione Culturale Teatrio Children’s Book Competition hosted in Italy every year. The Teatrio travel exhibit began in Chioggia, then went on to cities in Japan, the United States, Mexico, Ethiopia, Portugal, and Finland. This is just one of the more important of my awards and accolades.
My work has also been exhibited in fine art galleries in the Bahamas, Atlanta GA, Savannah GA, New York, New Jersey, Raleigh NC and most recently in Chicago. I am currently based in St. Louis where I live with my lovely wife and daughter.