Concert funds exhibit on Haitian experience

DeKALB – The 2010 earthquake in Haiti was one of the top five deadliest disasters in history, claiming as many as 316,000 lives. International media attention helped raise $2 billion in private donations and $5.6 billion in official funds in the two years following the earthquake.

“The big question is, where did that money go? The short answer is, we don’t really know,” said Dr. Mark Schuller, a Northern Illinois University anthropology professor who has done extensive work in Haiti.

Three and a half years after the earthquake, media attention on Haiti has significantly diminished. And yet, living conditions there have improved only slightly and are among the worst in the world: 279,000 people are still living under tents in scores of camps. Schuller said a lack of coordination and long-term planning among groups receiving aid funds are at least partly to blame.

“In Haiti today, there is progress, but it’s not universal,” he said. “Roads are being constructed, there is some effort to bring in tourism and investment. But the prices for food are going up. The prices for daily needs have gone way up.”

The Anthropology Museum at Northern Illinois University will present a benefit concert on Friday, Sept. 6, to help fund the installation of an exhibit, “Fragments: Haiti Four Years After the Earthquake,” set to open in November.

The evening of Caribbean culture and music will begin at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at The House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb. The concert will feature performances by the NIU Steelband, Haitian artist Jan Sebon and Friends, Todd Donnelly from Mr. Myers, live auctions and more.

Tickets are $20 for general admission and $10 for students. Receive $3 off for reserving tickets in advance by calling 815-753-2520.

“Fragments: Haiti Four Years after the Earthquake” explores the life histories and living conditions of Haitian people living “under the tents.” Visitors will be able to visit a wind-and-sun battered tent from Haiti and view artifacts of tent life. To understand the increasing risks of life in a tent village, the exhibition includes the charred remains of a tent burned by armed paramilitaries carrying out forced evictions. Reproductions of a typical shantytown dwelling, a school room, and a cot invite visitors to experience life as a person in Haiti’s poor majority.

“Haiti had poverty and inequality before the earthquake, but the camps made it visible to the world to see. Now things have gone back to being invisible,” Schuller said. “This is about giving people a personal, experiential way to understand these issues and inspire them to get involved.”

Guests can bring a bottle of water to contribute to a representation of the more than 8,000 victims of cholera, a disease accidentally carried to the area by United Nations troops. Visitors will also meet Haitian activists trying to make a difference and will be able to learn about and take action on cholera, forced eviction, housing rights, and aid accountability.