Rony Elistene’s passion for vodou and art

Rony Elistene, 21, from Haiti, gets the inspiration for his paintings from vodou and nature. Vodou is the spiritual lifestyle of all Haitians. Although the Western world has a negative view of this, the deeper meaning of Vodou for Haitians is loving rather than mean.

The barons

Rony Elistene, Baron Samedi, acrylic paint on canvas, 2021.

Elistene: “I am vodou, but I have no contact with shamans when I paint. When I’m sketching, it’s like the ghosts of Haitian vodou are in my head.” An important loa (spirit) is Baron Samedi, who is usually depicted as a skeleton wearing a black suit and a top hat. “He is the loa of the dead and master of the cemetery with his other incarnations the Baron Cimetière and Baron La Croix.” explains Elistene.

Baron Samedi, the most famous of the barons, usually finds himself at the crossroads between the worlds of the dead and the living. When someone dies, he digs their grave, greets their souls after they are buried, and leads them to the underworld. Death is not scary, but a party if you ask Baron Samedi. When someone dies, there is a celebration and also around All Souls’ Day at the beginning of November there is a big party in the cemeteries. When Baron Samedi appears at a ceremony, he drinks rum, smokes cigars, makes dirty jokes and dances horny with ladies present. Sex, death and rebirth are symbolically linked here.


Meeting of the spirits Rony Elistene
Rony Elistene, Special meeting of spirits, acrylic on canvas, 2021.

This year Elistene made a beautiful painting titled Special meeting of spirits. “It is a special meeting with the queen of time, the goddess of the occult and the mother of life at the foot of the dangerous Mapou. The two women above pray to give meaning to life and to protect people. They bless those who know the existence of ghosts and what they represent in their real lives.” explains Elistene. Watch the video where the young artist is working on the painting.

Mapou is a district in southeastern Haiti, a remote place on the mountains. It lies within sight of the ocean and the mountain peaks and is so remote that the Red Cross never even reached this region. On May 23, 2004, heavy rainfall hit the southeast of the country, killing more than 2,500 people. Mapou, along with the communities of Bodary and Fonds-Verrettes, was one of the worst affected areas.

Study trip

Rony Elistene has the ambition to become a successful artist: “I have already participated in an artistic project The cartography of Haiti, but have not yet participated in an exhibition. I would like to exhibit at the Institut Français. Or in a gallery in my country, in the art center or the Aurora gallery in France, in Europe and also in America. In addition, I would like to have my own gallery and studio in the future so that I can educate children in the arts, like my teacher Lesly. I like Lesly Pierre Paul very much and he is also my role model. I love him because he likes to help people and he always encourages me to work more. He is very talented and he is also very generous to people.”

The young artist will also go on a study trip to Santo Domingo, as soon as enough money has been raised with the crowdfunding. “I’m curious how the artists work there and I’m looking forward to visiting the galleries. I will have a good time with my classmates and friends!” he says.

Would you like to order one of Rony Elistene’s beautiful works of art? Please contact him via Facebook or Instagram.

The students of the New Vision Art School in Port-au-Prince don’t have enough money to go on a study trip. Some money has already been raised, but it is not yet enough to cover the costs for visas, accommodation, transport and entrance. Please support them and donate an amount via the link below:

Read more articles about Haiti and crowdfunding here.