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Maia Ruth Lee shares her impressions of the colorful life and rich decorative tradition of Haiti. On her recent trip to collaborate with Emma Allen’s Fait la Force and a ceramic workshop in Port au Prince, she found a blend of the austere and the vibrant.

The city of Port au Prince seems dry, dusty and desperate. But the splashes of colors from hand painted signs, the elaborately custom-painted public transportation vehicles that reference soccer players decorate the bleak reality of Haiti with such vitality and vibrance. Kids walk the streets in colorful uniforms, the sophisticated patterns on welded fences and balcony railings are stunning. Haitian Evangelical gospels blast from small radios attached to motorcycles and bastardized versions of Western logos and images of pop stars are everywhere. But what sticks out to me most is the intensity and spirit of the Haitians and the gentleness they possess. Kreyol, the Haitian language, sounds playful and friendly. “Bon bagay”—which means good thing, beautiful place, awesome, great is how I would describe Haiti in the short span of time we were able to experience it.