Haïti was the French name originally given to the whole island of Hispaniola. The name comes from the Taino word meaning "mountainous land." In Haitian Creole the country's name is pronounced Ayiti.

The colony was officially incorporated in the early 1600s, and by 1697, with the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick, the French were given the western third of the island, which they named Saint-Domingue (a gallicization of the Spanish name, Santo Domingo.) During this French colonial period, the colony earned the name "La Perle des Antilles" ("The Pearl of the Antilles") due to its economic importance.

With the declaration of Saint-Domingue's independence on January 1, 1804, following the Haitian Revolution, Revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines restored the Taino name as a symbolic gesture of defiance against Spanish and French rule.

In 1925, Haiti was lush, with 60% of its original forest covering the lands and mountainous regions. Since then, the population has cut down all but an estimated 2% of its original forest cover, and in the process has destroyed fertile farmland soils, contributing to desertification. Erosion has been severe in the mountainous areas. Most Haitian logging is done to produce charcoal, the country's chief source of fuel.

The plight of Haiti's forests has attracted international attention, and has led to numerous reforestation efforts, but these have met with little success to date.

Despite numerous environmental crises, Haiti retains a very high amount of biodiversity in proportion to its small size. The country is home to more than 6,000 plants in which 35% are endemic and 220 species of birds in which 21 species are endemic. The country's high biodiversity is due to its mountainous topography and fluctuating elevations in which each elevation harbors different microclimates and its own endemic fauna and flora.

The country's varied scenery include lush green cloud forests (in some of the mountain ranges and the protected areas), high mountain peaks, cactus-strewn arid desert, mangrove forest, and palm tree-lined beaches.

The January 12, 20120, 7.0 earthquake, which is estimated to have killed over 200,000 people and left over a million homeless, reminded the world that Hispaniola is located in a seismically active area. Haiti's last large earthquake 150 years ago destroyed structures and claimed lives in Cap Haitien, but Haiti has suffered so many calamities, both natural and man-made, in the ensuing century that disaster preparedness has been virtually non-existent. Haiti is still experiencing a high incidence of cholera and is still struggling to re-house the large homeless population.

Haitian Art

Brilliant colors, naive perspective and sly humor characterize Haitian art. Big, delectable foods and lush landscapes are favorite subjects in this land of poverty and hunger. Going to market is the most social activity of country life, and figures prominently into the subject matter. Jungle animals, rituals, dances, and gods evoke the African past.

Many artists cluster in 'schools' of painting, such as the Cap Haitien school, which features depictions of daily life in the city, the Jacmel School, which reflects the steep mountains and bays of that coastal town, or the Saint-Soleil School, which is characterized by abstracted human forms and is heavily influenced by Vodou symbolism.

In a country of political oppression, one tends to speak in fables. Artists paint in fable as well. People are disguised as animals and animals are transformed into people. In an illiterate land, symbols take on great meaning. For example, a rooster often represents Aristide and the red and blue colors of the Haitian flag often represent his Lavalas party.

Paintings by Carlo Valtrain

Painting by Carlo Valtrain

Welcome to Haitian Art Online where we offer for sale paintings from Haiti by artist Carlo Valtrain. Carlo and his family were fortunate to survive the devastation of the January 2010 earthquake that destroyed significant portions of Port-au-Prince and neighboring communities, although the rented house where Carlo's older children were living was rendered uninhabitable, and they have still been unable to find permanent lodging over a year later.

Haiti's economy has long been stagnant, and tourism was virtually non-existent before the earthquake, but the plight of artists like Carlo and the galleries that used to feature their works has become even more difficult in the past 18 months. Haitian artists rely on overseas art shows and online publicity to market their wares and as a real lifeline for their families. Subscribe to our mailing list for updates.

Carlo Valtrain was born on October 26, 1959 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and began drawing and painting at age eight. He sold his first painting at age 14, and at 16 he left school to begin work as a full-time artist.

A versatile artist, Valtrain has worked in different media although he is best known for his paintings. Unlike many Haitian artists who maintain one style in all their works, Valtrain's themes and styles vary. He paints intricate foliage, colorful birds and wildlife, abstracts, landscapes, and social commentary scenes depicting the difficulties of life in Haiti.

A widower with seven children, like all Haitian artists, Valtrain struggles to live by his art and to share his creative vision in a country that has little tourism or economic vitality.

If you want to buy Haitian art through the site then the best thing is if you go to the detail page of the partcular piece that interests you and then click on it - that brings you directly to the Contact form with information already filled in which specifies what it is you are most interested in.