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Now 20, Festival Quatre Chemins unveils its « magic formula » for longevity


The venture celebrates twenty years, in a country where institutions come, make a splash and die, quickly

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The fall out from Haitian current events seem to have no hold on the Quatre Chemins Festival, which for the twentieth consecutive year is setting course for a new edition with a pertinent theme: « Dare, dream, country ».

The longevity of one of the Caribbean’s biggest festivals stands in stark contrast to a country where institutions are struggling to stay afloat as their staff migrate en masse to less hostile and violent shores.

From November 20 to December 2, 2023, Quatre Chemins will be bringing a mixture of dance, discussion and theater to Port-au-Prince, in person and online. « The only magic formula is the involvement of young people, » Guy Régis Jr, artistic director of the festival, tells AyiboPost.

Guy Régis Jr, Artistic Director of the Quatre Chemins Festival. | © Henry Roy

The initiative, « a formula for resistance in the face of obscurantism and fear », is backed by a solid institutional machine, with some members having worked together for almost a decade.

See also : Le festival Quatre Chemins se poursuit, malgré l’insécurité et la pénurie de carburant

« I saw the festival grow with young people in the first decades, and I took it over with these same young people who became actors, » says Guy Régis.

As a « space for reflection where the country’s social and political problems are discussed », the festival offers young people the hope of being part of a productive adventure every year. « Mediators, volunteers, show technicians, logisticians… all of these fine people work, » says Guy Régis.

The longevity of one of the Caribbean’s biggest festivals stands in stark contrast to a country where institutions are struggling to stay afloat as their staff migrate en masse to less hostile and violent shores.

Daphné Menard is part of the team. A singer, choreographer, cultural engineer and stage director, this year marks his 9th year with the festival, which he joined as an intern while still studying communications and the arts. Today, he assists the artistic director with festival logistics.

« Young people arrive most of the time as volunteers, » Menard recounts. « They take part in an event, but find themselves involved in a structural dynamic that enables them to broaden their professional horizons and train, » explains the cultural engineer.

The singer © Daphné Menard on stage in December 2019, during the Concert « l’Appel » at the Quatre Chemins Festival.

Some arrive in the festival galley in search of recognition. In 2016, Kettia Naissance joined the team because of her « dynamism » and her desire to be « recognized in cultural mediation ».

Currently in charge of communications and press for the festival, Naissance feels confident, as her workplace is like « home »: « I work with people I can count on, for me it’s an unexpected gift », declares the graduate in heritage and tourism from the Institute for African Studies and Research (IERAH\ ISERSS).

In the foreground, Kettia Naissance during the activities of the © 19th edition of the Quatre Chemins Festival in 2022.

This year, the festival honors Jean Guy Saintus, a great Haitian choreographer. Discussions will focus on the successful dreams that led the country towards development, and those that failed and plunged Haiti back into darkness.

« Quatre chemins is not just a theater festival, it’s a festival of the living arts, » explains singer Mide Steffi Médard.

The artist has been under contract with Quatre Chemins since 2017 as a programming assistant. Based on her seven years’ experience with the initiative, she believes that « resilience and willpower are two powerful formulas that allow the structure to continue to exist ».

According to Médard, the festival is facing major financial difficulties despite its success. « Before, we could have 80 activities programmed, but we’re down to around 60 now » and « we can no longer receive foreign artists, » she reveals.

Mide Steffi Médard, singer and programming assistant at the Four Paths Festival. |  © Valerie Baeriswyl

Guy Régis confirms the financial difficulties. « We spend the whole year chasing funders, » laments the actor, whose ambition is to reach a minimum of 500,000 people with the festival.

Beyond its longevity, Quatre Chemins is also emulated. Members and former collaborators of the festival have created initiatives such as En lisant, Handicap et cultures, and the feminist organization Nègès Mawon. For Guy Régis, « it’s extraordinary, especially in a country like Haiti. »

By Tchika Joachim

English translation by Sarah Jean.

Cover image: « Dechouke lanfè sou latè » show at Yanvalou in December 2022, during the 19th edition of the Festival Quatre Chemins | © Carvens R. Adelson

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Journaliste à AyiboPost depuis juillet 2023, Tchika Joachim fait des études de Lettres modernes à l’École Normale Supérieure de l’Université d’État d’Haïti.