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Exhibit takes visitors inside life in Haiti

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST
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Four years after a devastating earthquake, more than 200,000 Haitians are still living in tent cities. A new hands-on exhibit at the NIU Anthropology Museum gives visitors a glimpse inside day-to-day life in one of these camps.

DeKALB – A new exhibit at the Northern Illinois University Anthropology Museum, “Fragments: Haiti Four Years After the Earthquake,” invites visitors to explore the lives and living conditions of Haitian people living “under the tents” since the 2010 earthquake.

Visitors can enter a tent like those provided for people displaced from their homes by the earthquake and view artifacts of tent life. Reproductions of a dwelling in one of Port-au-Prince’s shantytowns, a school room, and a cot invite visitors to experience life as a Haitian today. Visitors will also meet Haitian activists trying to make a difference.

The exhibit opens Jan. 24 and runs through May. An opening reception is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 24 in the museum, inside Cole Hall. NIU President Doug Baker and Vice President Ray Alden will speak at 7 p.m. There will be live Haitian music and several Haitian speakers, including Lesly Conde, the Consul General from the Haitian Consulate in Chicago, Elsie Hernandez, director of the Haitian American Museum of Chicago, and Cook County Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste, co-founder of the Haitian American Congress.

The earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, was one of the top five deadliest disasters in history. Four years after the earthquake, media attention on Haiti has significantly diminished. And yet, living conditions there are still among the worst in the world: 280,000 people are still living under tents in scores of camps.

“We hope that this exhibit will truly help people understand, to come to understand Haiti’s reality today and contribute a little bit to unmasking the lies told about Haiti,” Patrice Florvilus, a human rights attorney from Haiti, said.

The exhibition is based upon a decade of research by Mark Schuller, assistant professor of anthropology and NGO leadership development at NIU.

“This exhibit has the potential to move people in ways that only a hands-on experience can. Putting it together has been inspiring,” he said.

The museum will host an international speakers series in conjunction with the exhibition. on Feb. 24, Florvilus and Baptiste will speak about housing and human rights in Haiti. In March, journalist Ben Depp and activist Alexis Eckert will explore life “under the tent.” In April, Malya Villard-Apollon, the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year and associate director of KOFAVIV, Commission of Women Victims for Victims, will speak.

For more information, visit www.niu.edu/anthro_museum or call 815-753-2520.

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