BEST WESTERN PREMIER OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE WITH MARIO BENJAMIN CASA TUA AL FRESCO DINING IN MONTAGNE NOIRE 4-STAR QUALITY INFUSED WITH HAITIAN CHARM

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1 MAY / JUNE 2014 BEST WESTERN PREMIER 4-STAR QUALITY INFUSED WITH HAITIAN CHARM OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE WITH MARIO BENJAMIN CASA TUA AL FRESCO DINING IN MONTAGNE NOIRE ÎLE-À-VACHE

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3 Dear Readers, Soon it will be five years since I returned home. I am continually blown away by new discoveries. I become more and more enamored with our beautiful country, our slice of heaven. So much so, that I yearn to explore every nook that I hear of, every new cave found, beaches whose sand has yet to tickle my toes, hot springs in the Artibonite, the alluring Ile-à-Rat. This summer, I plan to check quite a few off my list. In this issue, you will discover the varieties of rice grown here in Haiti, you will learn of a new restaurant as well as a franchise. Then, you will be immersed in the rhythms of our drums. Tanbou plays such an important role in our culture that whenever and wherever we hear them or see someone playing, we are drawn to it. We embrace it. It is in our blood. We share the works of several painters and you will meet a woman whose creativity enables her to produce the perfect accessory to any outfit. And mark your calendar, Carnaval des Fleurs in on. Get ready to party til the early morning. As you wind up your stay in our slice of the world, I encourage you take a piece of Haiti home with you. Magic Haiti strives to provide you with a variety of enticing possibilities so that you can take the bull by the horn, carpe diem, just go, discover, indulge, and become another ambassador of this magical island. Experience the vibrant colors, unveil numinous places and characters, immerse yourself in our culture, and emerge enamored!!! Roxane Kerby

4 MAGIC HAITI MAY / JUNE 2014 Haiti by Design Spotlight Diri Lokal For Cultivated Foodies Let s Talk - Ann Pale Fab 5 Heartbeat Hidden Rhythms Executive Editor Roxane Kerby Marjorie Alexis Ode to the Modern Woman 16 Copy Editor Contributors Graphic Designer Angela Galbreath Rachele Viard Kristine Belizaire Christina Jean-Louis Carolyn Desert Regine Theodat Joelle Jouvens Emma Laham Lara Elie-Joseph Clarens Courtois Artmosphere Dominik Ambroise: Abstract Equilibrium Out of the Comfort Zone with Mario Benjamin Lamanjay Casa Tua : Al Fresco Dining in Montagne Noire 24 Epi d Or Pétion-Ville Quality service in a jiffy Escapade Best Western Premier: 4-star quality infused with Haitian charm Why Haiti? Haiti, Apt for the Adventurous Tom Adamson Photographer Printed in Haiti by Publisher Ludmillo D. Pierre Jean-Luc Becquerelle Junior Plesius Louis L IMPRIMEUR SA Le Nouvelliste Advertising / Cover Photo by Carine Bourjolly facebook.com/magichaiti product of

5 Mrs. Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin Minister of Tourism Dear Readers, The month of May proved to be a time when projects were cemented. A month when efforts that we deployed since the beginning of our mandate were finally realized. Indeed, after almost two years of talks, the World Bank has donated 45 million dollars to Haiti to support tourism in the north. Nearly 35,000 tourist locations in this area will benefit from improved infrastructure, economic opportunities and support of cultural events. Developing the Northern Destination in a sustainable manner is an integral component of the Ministry of Tourism s vision. Increasing conservations regarding our natural and cultural heritage is essential to achieve this goal. I would like to highlight that one of the strengths of the project is the involvement of communities in the preservation of their heritage and the economic benefits of tourism. This month, Haitian and Mexican authorities, through the Ministry of Tourism and the National Fund for Tourism Development in Mexico (FONATUR), initialed on the premises of the Ministry in Port-au- Prince, a memorandum of agreement as part of the 4 July 2012 basic agreement, to strengthen cooperation in the field of tourism. It should also be noted that May 14th marked the anniversary of the Martelly/Lamothe administration s 3 years of progress which was celebrated grandly on the Champ de Mars. It was also the first anniversary of the Institut de Formation Hôtelière et Touristique Sud (IFORHT), established in May 2013, and is a manifestation of the Government's commitment to invest in training. Meanwhile, at the Ministry of Tourism we are working on other projects such as those of Côte de Fer, Ile à Vache, the Jacmel Airport, and a few amenities in the South, and continue to work on the significant project which began two years ago, and has no other purpose than to give a new face to our beloved Haiti, while bringing lots of tourists and thereby strengthening our economy. Another key achievement the Ministry of Tourism is taking under its wings, the Miss Haiti Beauty Pageant. Launched in June, entries have been submitted and registration was extended until June 21st. Th Haitian tourism train and does not want to stop. First of all, we have a lot of goodwill and many competent individuals, fervently driven to see Haiti move forward. Haiti awaits you, tourists from all over, diaspora, and Haitians who never visited all the numerous and beautiful spots that exist throughout the country. Haiti is not discovered in the newspaper, or on the internet. Haiti is lived, tasted, inhaled, and allows itself to be adopted. Come live the beautiful adventure with us. As for Haiti. Se la pou la. Ayiti, Se la Pou w La! Chers lecteurs et lectrices, Le mois de Mai a été un mois de concrétisation. Un mois où des efforts déployés depuis le début de notre mandat, sont enfin récompensés. En effet, après maintenant près de deux ans de pourparlers, la Banque Mondiale a fait un don de 45 millions de dollars à Haïti, pour appuyer le tourisme dans le Nord du pays. Près de habitants des localités touristiques de cette zone, bénéficieront d infrastructures améliorées, d opportunités économiques et d un support aux évènements culturels. Développer la Destination Nord de manière pérenne s inscrit dans la vision du Ministère du Tourisme. Améliorer la conservation de notre patrimoine culturel et naturel est indispensable pour y parvenir. J aimerais souligner qu un des points forts du projet est de faire participer les communautés à la préservation de leur héritage et aux retombées économiques du tourisme. Ce mois-ci, Les autorités haïtiennes et mexicaines, via le ministère du Tourisme et le Fonds national de développement du Tourisme du Mexique (FONATUR), ont paraphé, dans les locaux du ministère à Port-t-au-Prince, un mémorandum d entente en vertu d'un accord de base conclu, le 4 juillet 2012, par les autorités touristiques des deux pays en vue de renforcer leur coopération, dans le domaine du tourisme. Il faut également noter que le 14 mai dernier a ramené l'anniversaire des 3 ans de progrès de l'administration Martelly- Lamothe, fêtés d'ailleurs grandiosement au Champ de mars, mais aussi le premier anniversaire de l Institut de Formation Hôtelière et Touristique Sud (IFORHT), créé en Mai 2013, et qui est une manifestation de la volonté du Gouvernement d'investir dans la formation. Parallèlement, on continue au niveau du Ministère du Tourisme, à mener de fronts d'autres projets tels ceux de Côte de Fer, d'ile à Vache, de l'aéroport de Jacmel, et de quelques aménagements dans le Sud, et en vue de continuer la grande oeuvre entammée il y a deux ans, et qui n'a d'autre objectif que de donner un autre visage à notre chère Haïti, tout en amenant plein de touristes et renforçant par là même notre économie. La dernière, mais pas la moindre réalisation du Ministère du Tourisme, est la prise sous notre aile désormais, du concours de beauté Miss Haïti a été lancé au mois de juin et dont les inscriptions se sont étendues jusqu'au 21 du même mois. Le train du tourisme haïtien avance et ne veut pas s'arrêter. Nous avons à bord, beaucoup de bonne volonté et de gens compétents, animés par la fièvre de voir Haïti aller de l'avant. Haïti vous attend, touristes de partout, diaspora, et nous autres mêmes haïtiens qui n'avons jamais visité tous les beaux coins dont regorge le pays. Haïti ne se découvre pas dans les journaux, ni sur Internet. Haïti se vit, se goûte, s'inhale et se laisse adopter. Venez vivre la belle aventure avec nous. Car Haïti... Se la pou la! Ayiti, Se la Pou w La!

6 Sufal Hot Dates Carnaval Champs de Mars des JULY Watch out! A wave of colorful verve will infect Portau-Prince this July during the third annual Carnaval des Fleurs. Yes, from Fleurs the 27th-29th, the pulse of the capital will be racing as throngs of merry revelers descend on the Champ de Mars for three days of merriment. Care to join? Consider this your invitation! But, be advised: this outbreak of contagious gaiety incites vigorous waving of hands, fits of joy, and in some cases spontaneous gyration. Your chances to dive in stretch around the clock. The daytime fun starts when elaborately costumed Carnaval Queens accompanied by street performers and dance troops proudly entertain the people. Each queen is dressed by one of Haiti s top fashion designers. Competition is friendly, but stiff, for the most beautiful float. Then, as the sun rolls beyond the sea, the effervescent party blasts off. Our bands have been training for months to get their voices and even their physiques in shape for this 4 MAGIC HAITI MAY / JUNE 2014

7 event. Various Haitian groups will take over a float and play their meringue. Microphones and instruments in hand, they engage the crowd all night long with light-hearted lyrics, hilarious jokes, and irresistible base-lines. The sun comes up, and everyone goes home for a nap before it starts all over again. So, come ready to celebrate Carnaval as only Haiti can - at Full Throttle! The party is allinclusive, so forget any ideas about staying on the side lines. From the sponsored stands to the crowded street, literally everyone is smiling, singing, and dancing. It s Carnaval fever and it s coming July 27, 28 & 29! MAY / JUNE 2014 MAGIC HAITI 5

8 Heartbeat By Joelle Julien Photos by Jovan Julien As I entered a classroom at the Matènwa Community Learning Center on Ile de la Gonâve,, I found Dieuseul Jean, the tanbou instructor, clearly in his musical element with a student. With his eyes closed deep in concentration, he would repeat this phrase: Feel it to remember it. The phrase would pull the student back to focus whenever she lost her place as she performed the kompa piece. This seems like a vague instruction, but to Dieuseul, a well-known drummer all over the island, playing the tanbou is not about memorizing notes or even rhythms, but rather about viscerally experiencing the melodies. It s about becoming aware of your relationship and connection to the drum. It is about passion rather than raw talent. He feels that beating the drum is the palpable and sincere manifestation of an often hidden gift bestowed upon all Haitians. When asked where his love of the tanbou originates, Dieuseul could not isolate himself from the whole. It is in Haitian blood; Haitians love drums. It is a beautiful thing. In this country it is difficult to ignore the ever present use of music, and especially the tanbou, as a form of communication and a symbol of unity. To any drumming enthusiast or even casual listener, the beat of the tanbou is distinguishable and tantalizing. It is unique to Haitian music, people, and culture and unequivocally tied to the social history of the country. From the beats that signaled the beginning of the 1804 slave revolt that brought about Haiti s independence, to the halls of vodou, protestant, and catholic places of worship It is in Haitian blood; Haitians love drums. It is a beautiful thing. 6 MAGIC HAITI MAY / JUNE 2014

9 today, the tanbou is a unifying element within Haitian society. Listening to music, all I can hear is the beat of the drum. It transports me to a place of comfort and pleasure, exudes Dieuseul, who comes from a family of drummers. Although the tanbou is typically associated with vodou, Dieuseul found his love of the tanbou through the network of catholic churches on the island. He began to seriously practice the tanbou at the age of eighteen when a priest from Africa visited Ile de la Gonâve and taught rhythms outside of those played at vodou ceremonies. With the priest s guidance he also learned rhythms such as contre dans, yanvalou, and nago. The tanbou rhythms used in vodou ceremonies specifically incorporate African elements, but are distinctly Haitian. The types of drums and rhythms played in vodou ceremonies vary throughout Haiti, with each region of the country having a distinctive flare and style. However, the Petwo and Rada pulses are the most common throughout Haiti. Many rhythms MAY / JUNE 2014 MAGIC HAITI 7

10 require three drummers; for example, Rada rhythms are always played with three drums including the Manman, Segon and Boula, with each drum playing a specific role from leading the rhythm, to providing the baseline, to propelling the rhythm forward. Although Dieuseul is a well-known musician on the island, and could be playing in jazz bands in Port-au-Prince, he shares that his true passion is unearthing the hidden musical gifts of those who are eager to learn his craft, and that his home will always be Ile de la Gonâve. He began teaching at Matènwa Community Learning Center in 2011 during the expansion of the school s extracurricular programs. The administration recognized his musical as well as didactic talents, not many great artists have the ability to teach. Monday through Thursday, 200 students from pre-kindergarten through the ninth grade spend 45 minutes with him in his music classroom. Throughout his two years at the school he has loved witnessing the evolution of his most passionate students. These days he stands proud on the sidelines of all school assemblies where his advanced students serve as the lead drummers in musical selections. Although he loves working with all the students at the school, he especially loves working with those students who regard playing the tanbou as a joy rather than a task. The expert drummer s two years at Matènwa have propelled him to believe that playing the tanbou is not only a form of religious expression, but also represents freedom. Tout sa ou konnen, li ede w demen. (Everything you know will help you tomorrow). He hopes that his students drum skills will enrich their lives. The lessons they learn with him and the disciplined rhythms of Haiti s national instrument may help them pace in a positive direction in the future. 8 MAGIC HAITI MAY / JUNE 2014

11 MAY / JUNE 2014 MAGIC HAITI 9

12 Lamanjay By Lara Elie-Joseph Photos by Jean Luc Becquerelle Al Fresco Dining in Montagne Noire All indeed starts with a dream. Some of us spend a lifetime dreaming while others harness all of their courage to realize their dream. I was fortunate enough to meet such a woman who dreamt and who dared to jump: Elizabeth Laham (best known as Manna). Manna dreamt year after year of having her very own restaurant and then she did it! Since November 14, 2013 she s been officially sharing her love and passion with all of us through Casa Tua, offering fine Italian dining in Montagne Noire. Manna was inspired by sojourns in Italy. Once, she spent two years between Rome and Naples where she pursued studies in Fashion Design. There she allowed her palate to discover every flavor, every spice. She was so curious and fascinated with Italian cuisine. Manna channels her zeal into providing memorable 10 MAGIC HAITI MAY / JUNE 2014

13 Plésius Junior Louis culinary experiences to her clients. The restaurant's name is no coincidence. Casa Tua translates into your house and that hospitable spirit which she was born with in Haiti is exactly what Manna transmits. She offers an inviting space, where diners always feel welcome. Casa Tua even serves clients as a Bed and Breakfast, very much in the same spirit as the restaurant. Casa Tua provides a delightful setting, able to accommodate every mood. A little romance, a moment shared with friends, or fantastic time with family, enjoy it all eitheral fresco in the garden, or in a cozy room filled with warmth. The soothing background music adds another dimension without overpowering conversation. Manna sure is the owner of this little oasis, but even better yet, she is the chef. She is assisted by her daughter Thalia who graduated with a degree in culinary arts. Manna s natural talent coupled with Thalia s technical savoir-faire results in explosions of flavor. While the ladies cook up a storm in the kitchen, Jehanne and Emma, Manna s other daughters, take care of the service, event planning and accounting. A solid team, united to make you happy! The menu entices, with a delicious thin crust pizza- their best seller, complimented by other dishes such as seafood spaghetti, penne alla putanesca, penne pancetta and so much more. Available is an extensive wine list to accompany your meal. You will never feel bored because the menu changes every month offering dishes that are just bound to please you. So, next time you feel like indulging, think Casa Tua! Casa Tua is located at 20, route de Montagne Noire Pétion-Ville. For reservations, call L IMPRIMEUR S.A. Official printer of Ouvert 7/7 Open 7/7 Abierto 7/7 Lun / Mon / Lun-Jeu/ Thr/Jue Ven / Fri / Vie Sam / Sat / Sab Dim / Sun / Dom Fériés / Holidays / Vacaciones 8h a.m. - 4h p.m. 8h a.m. - 5h p.m 10h a.m. - 4h p.m 12h a.m. - 5h p.m 10h a.m. - 4h p.m Place des Héros de l'indépendance, Port-au-Prince, Haïti Tél.:(509) MAY / JUNE 2014 MAGIC HAITI 11

14 Why Haiti? By Regine Theodat Photos by Ludmillo Pierre General Director of an industrial manufacturing plant by day, librarian by night, and yoga-loving outdoor enthusiast on weekends, Tom Adamson stays busy. In 1982, the Canadian engineer came to Haiti to conduct a feasibility study of rural feeder roads for an Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) project. Twenty years later he is still in Haiti, well beyond his IADB contract s expiration, 12 MAGIC HAITI MAY / JUNE 2014

15 doing something totally on the opposite end of the spectrum producing mat la (mattresses). It only took Adamson two years to get hooked on Haiti; by 1984 he was married to a Haitian woman and getting ready to start a family. When describing why he loves Haiti so much, he notes Haiti s positive growth. Many Haitians like to refer to Haiti as tè vyej, a place that is undiscovered and primed for opportunities because it is at the upswing of its development, you can be part of something bigger than yourself here and make a mark. Adamson is also enthused and attracted by the culture, music, people, and art. And, he loves the cuisine. Especially diri djon djon (rice made with dried mushrooms), fried green plantains and griyot (fried pork shoulder chunks). Adamson s current day-job started out when he joined a sisal processing plant that grew to include the mattress manufacturer, MICAMA. The company sells in all corners of Haiti a diverse line of products- a foam mattress, a soon-to-be released pillow top, and a sturdy box spring mattress to name a few. MICAMA recently expanded in partnership with Fonkoze, a company who provides financial and non-financial tools primarily to women so they can lift their families out of poverty. With this partnership he will distribute solar panel lights and chargers. Tom and his colleagues hope to increase access to light and telecommunications in remote parts of the country. This is what MICAMA considers their high-social impact product; it just recently marked the sale of 100,000 lamps! Adamson likes to shake things up by exploring and enjoying the topical diversity of Haiti. In the morning you can be cold in the mountains and by the afternoon, enjoy the sun s warmth by the beach. Adamson s preferred hiking trail is the brisk mountain side of Kenscoff, a 40 minute commute from Pètion-Ville. Adamson and a friend have taken up kayaking to see the many sites of Haiti. With the assistance of Google Earth, he s mapped and kayaked the Artobonite River, and the coastlines of Cap-Haitien, Gonaives and Jacmel. This rugged outdoorsman prefers the ocean s dynamismto the calm rivers of Haiti for the workout and diverse scenery. Adamson also enjoys the company of his many friends through yoga classes, a bridge club and the English-language library at the Pétion-Ville Club. The latter was started by wives of Marines during the U.S. occupation of Haiti in 1924 and its members enjoy bi-monthly wine soirees. Periodically Adamson even serves as the librarian. Adamson relishes the many quirky and atypically exciting things about Haitian culture and invites others to do the same. Just as he paddles joyously over ocean waves, he follows with joy the wave of progress in his adopted home. To purchase your own "matla", call MICAMA at , visit the Colony Club English language library at Route de Bourdon at the Pétion-Ville Club and ask for Tom or Jacqui. MAY / JUNE 2014 MAGIC HAITI 13

16 Spotlight By Angela Galbreath Photos by Regine Theodat Picture this, I m out for pizza with a friend in Les Cayes. After we put away four or five hearty slices each, she calls the waitress over. Surely for the check, I think. But no, I m impressed when I hear her ask for a plate of diri kole or white rice intermixed with engorged beans. This marks an epiphany in my education concerning all things Haitian. Noted: A meal without rice is no meal at all. You see, I m from Kentucky, where bluegrass hills reign over vast tobacco fields and dishes heavy with corn and potatoes provide starchy sustenance. Living here in Haiti, I have discovered that this other staple is well, the bee s knees, if I may. Yes, those elongated grains that represent 20% of human caloric consumption worldwide can be transformed from the occasional bland side dish I knew as a kid, into the tastiest of meals. And just as not every rice dish is created equal, so every variety has its virtues. Viv Diri! And all the blessed Haitian hands who know how to do it up right (no offense, Mom)! Before I get carried away with all the mouthwatering methods of preparation, let s take a step back from the table and have a look at just how this delicious grain lives and how we live with it. For this, we must go to the source. The Artibonite Valley. In the not so distant past, the Artibonite Valley was a veritable Garden of Eden producing enough rice to satiate this country of rice enthusiasts and then some. Bright green abundance continued into the mid 1980's when international trade agreements and migration into cities ushered in an unfortunate decline in local food production. The decline coincided with widespread unemployment and nutritional deficits. Apparently, not only does locally grown rice taste better, it also packs more nutrients than its homogenized cousins. Thus, nutritional programs favor national production and locals prefer Sheila, Shelda, TCS, and La Crête over diri Miami despite price disincentives. The Artibonite farmers blame insufficient access to credit, uncontrolled imports, and misguided donations for inadequate supply. But folks, for one who wasn't around to see the glory days of Haitian rice, I can tell you that the lowlands surrounding Haiti's largest watershed are looking pretty darn lush. Today, 14 MAGIC HAITI MAY / JUNE 2014

17 Diri kole * This recipe can be followed using black beans, red beans, pigeon peas, etc. 4 cups lima beans 1 garlic bulb 3 large onions 1 bunch of fresh parsley 2-6 scotch bonnet peppers 3 tablespoons tomato paste, for color 4 cups of diri lokal 1 pat of butter - boil four cups of lima beans with garlic, onions, scotch bonnet pepper, salt and black pepper in eight cups of water until the beans are soft. - remove beans and set the water aside; throw away solid spices - using a mortar and pestle or blender, pulverize fresh onions, garlic, parsley, scotch bonnet peppers, and tomato paste, salt and pepper to make roughly a half a cup of flavorful mush - heat up oil in a large pot and add mush plus a handful of cooked lima beans and stir - add 8 cups of the lima bean water and bring to a boil - add 4 cups of diri lokal and cook until nearly all the water has been absorbed - reduce heat, add a pat of butter, and cover tightly until excess water disappears fields stretch out in all directions like a luxuriant shag carpet for giants. When I actually stepped foot in (not on) a rice patty at the Habitation Bertrand St. Trouin near Bocozelle, the sensation was however, far from a soft tickle. I learned from Jean Robert Ulyse, the farm's manager, that while rice will grow on a hillside, it's much easier to inundate fields to discourage weeds and pests. That s why Artibonite farmers divide land into plots of 25 paces squared with mud walls and use irrigation canals to convert them into a handsome tapestry of shallow ponds. The economy of motion astounds when synchronized hands are out there poking grains into the mud. After several weeks pass, teams of farmers will work together to transplant sprouts to less dense plots where they will mature after another four months. The ladies take over on dry land to detach the precious grains of energy and spread them out to dry for 24 hours. Then, a mechanical huller removes the husk, bran and germ and voila, white rice! Byproducts are fed to pigs and transformed into charcoal. The tropics allow for year round cultivation, so these food producers enjoy the occupation of their fathers and their fathers fathers continuously, although they informed me that Haitian winter is the most productive season. At 10:00 a.m., a wheelbarrow carrying a cauldron of steaming diri kole parked under a mango tree at Habitation Bertrand St. Trouin. Farm hands gathered round with plates in one hand and miniature bottles full of rum in the other. I settled in with a plate of gratin, the crunchy good stuff at the bottom of the pot. It was well seasoned and satisfying. Evidently, we were eating TCS which looks and tastes just like every other rice. Not so! objected my companions that day. More research was obviously in order. If only insurmounta b l e logistics didn t prevent me from inviting everyone who has taught me about rice and everyone presently reading about it to join me around some giant table (preferably close to a lovely beach). We could repeat an enlightening taste test. First we would prepare the spices. Green onions, garlic, scotch bonnet peppers, and parsley we would mash into a delectable paste. Dropping the heaping spoonful into four different pots, we will let them simmer for a minute. Then we add water and bring to a boil. One pot each for Sheila, Shelda, TCS, and my favorite, La Crête. Alas, I will have to leave it to those of you curious enough to discover for yourself the obvious differences in aroma and taste. Once you have recognized your grain of choice, then you re ready for a whole new level. Yes, then it will be time to grab the hand of a trusted expert who can teach you the complexities of diri kole. Bon Apetit! facebook.com/magichaiti MAY / JUNE 2014 MAGIC HAITI 15

18 Haiti by Design Ode to the Modern Woman By Kristine Belizaire Photos by Jean Luc Becquerelle Women most definitely see their handbags as prized possessions. And they carry them almost everywhere. Our purses have our most useful stuff: make-up, keys, etc. They allow us to complete an ensemble and punctuate a fashion statement. There 16 MAGIC HAITI MAY / JUNE 2014

19 is always a perfect handbag for every woman and every outfit. In Haiti, a country that is highlighted for its artistry and crafts, we find designers who continually employ their imaginations and creativity. One such designer is Marjorie Alexis who uses her gift of style to design handbags that fuse Haitian culture with high fashion, one unique purse at a time. When I met Marjorie Alexis, the first thing that caught my eye was the brightly sequined suede handbag she carried. I immediately commented on the design and texture of her bag and was delighted to hear that it was one of her own pieces. As we sat together, surrounded by the trees and the cool breeze at La Reserve restaurant, the elegant woman recounted her stylish story. She attended the Ecole Supérieure des Arts et techniques de la Mode (ESMOD) the first fashion school established in France. After graduating from the prestigious Parisian fashion school, Marjorie Alexis began her career as a designer, specifically men and women s clothing and uniforms. Upon her return to Haiti in 1986 she promptly opened her own dressmaking shop. Then, six years ago, she branched out and forged her own line of handbags: Marjorie Alexis Collection. Marjorie approaches her work with great passion and pays attention to even the most minute of details. At her studio, she designs the ideal bag over and over again, which her employees then produce. Her handbag collections are one of a kind, a rare combination of sophistication and elegance. The mixture of quality materials she uses for her sumptuously curved bags is always eye-catching. I take rich and noble materials such as leather, and transform them into something magical, Marjorie divulges. She often accentuates a bag with a wooden handle or a piece of cut metal, adding a touch of brutality to an exquisitely refined fabric. There is just something about raw materials that I love, especially the way that they change the entire look of a handbag, shares the determined artist. When examining her bags, I find that the fusion of an expensive material like smooth suede with something as basic as wood or metal adds character, depth, and even en element of surprise to the bag. Her bags are well known in Haiti and the designer has participated in Women in Production fairs in Miami, as well as events such as Runway Haiti and Haiti Fashion Week. She also exposes her bags at Artisanat en Fête, the largest arts and crafts fair held in Haiti. In addition, her bags can be found at many clothing and accessory stores in Pétion-Ville, such as Hype and Karma. Balance is important in my line of work, Marjorie concludes thoughtfully. I am constantly seeking to strike a balance, a harmony in my bags. Marjorie Alexis Collection pieces are chic yet functionalperfect for the elegant working woman. For more information about Marjorie Alexis Collection, MAY / JUNE 2014 MAGIC HAITI 17

20 Escapade Best Western Premier 4-star quality infused with Haitian charm By Kristine Belizaire and Rachele Viard photos by Ludmillo Pierre & Junior Plesius Louis The Best Western Premier is located in Pétion-Ville and since it opened its doors in 2013, it has become the go-to lodge, offering splendid accommodations showcasing the richness of Haitian artistry everywhere you look. Best Western Premier is owned by a local group of investors, Carabimmo S.A., and

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