.....................A TRUE STORY.......... It was on a bright sunny day at the market place in Petion
Ville when I first met Bresil. It was during my visit in Sept 1997. As I was buying some local
fruits from a vendor, a small skinny man came to me asked me for five dollars. The man was very
confident he would get the money as he signaled another vendor to wait a minute to get paid.
I looked at the man from head to toes in amazement. Very superstitiously I looked at him not
knowing if he was a spirit in disguised or an envoy of one. For it is well known that a poor
begger in a Haitian market inflicted with painfull infirmities could very well be a great soul
in transit. One scorn, disdain or verbally abuse him at ones own peril. So I immediately I handed
over the money. After he paid the merchant he came back and very politely introduced himself.
He was not a begger or a bocor or an angel, for he was the original Haitian Caribbean painter
Henri Robert Bresil. we were instantly connected. He was very confident of himself and always
refered to himself as Bresil. "I'm Bresil" he would say often. We talk talk and talk..... We
agreed that we were lead by the same star as we both were born uder the sign of Virgo and it was
herald that we artists met here and now. He visited California, Florida, New York, Peurto Rico,
Mexico he told me. He went on and on...... We spend the whole day talking. He spoke fluent French and Spanish but he constantly would introduced Spanish and English words between sentences.
All that plus the fact that all his fingernails were painted in different colors lead me to
the conclusion he was abnormal or not an ordinary person not to say outright crazy. He flirted
and was all over my american girlfriend, so I cannot say he was gay. I had a Haitian art book
with his name listed in it, but did not make much of it. Haiti is a country full with artists.
And I myself is one. Nonetheless I was fascinated by his presence. There was something about him, something very mysterious, something I could not grasp. Anyway he gave me an address and told me to visit him anytime I was in Haiti. I in turn gave him many of my clothes including this Calvin Klein t-shirt you see in the photo. The following year 1998 I went to the address he gave me and the locals told me he no longer live there and that he was ill and went totally mad. I was very
disssapointed, but a few days later I visited Francois Sannon the sculptor who had his studio on
the main road in Kenskoff and as we were talking Bresil name came up and he told me he knew
where he was. So we went to the market place in Kenskoff and there was Bresil sleeping on a mat in the far edge of the market. He looked different. He looked ill and wretched. But he
was so happy to see me. He regarded me like a lost brother. It was like I came to save his life.
He was overwhelmingly happy to see me. He again ask me for money and I gave him $50.00 dollars which suprised him as he looked at me in amazement. He then changed it to Haitian currency and then marched in all 4 corners of the market place. He distributed all the money and in less than half an hour he was again peniless. So I went to an older woman who was selling peanuts and ask her the meaning of the theatrical scene and she told me that Bresil owes everyone in the market place but that they all loved him dearly and he get what ever he wanted from them to survive. She went further and told me that was where he lived. Anyway we had a great time. Had many laughs.
We took pictures like the one below. We ate lots of mangoes and drank many cocoyers.
Then he decided that I should have some of his work. We went to Taumassin where he had family.
In a locked shed in the dirt yard, they came out with 10 paintings all 24"x36". Waterfalls,
plantations and Vegetables which I never knew Bresil painted vegetalbles (larmes Veritables).
The shed was like was a bank account they kept for Bresil, the the uncle told me that they
reserved these paintings in case of emergency. For Bresil was not responsible enough to handle
money. They offered me all the paintings at $400.00 each provided I buy them all. Did you hear
that?... $400.00 each... Eventhough I had the money, I automaticly refused. I told them that I
was not a collector nor was I a dealer. The people were stuned. They told me Bresil never came
with no one here before to ask anything. And that I was very special to have been offered all
the Bresil's paintings for so cheap and that Nader Gallery was selling a single one of that size
for over $1800.00 in those days. Bresil himself was very dissaponted. He looked at me with his
big light brown eyes and told me straightforward that " You will seriously regret it one day".
Well I promessed them I would be back tomorow and get at least one. But I never came back,
I spent the rest of my vacation in Saut D'eau with my family. The Following year when I came
to Haiti I learned that Bresil was dead. The great Bresil is dead. I was shocked, it was if a
part of me died. It was really sadden specially under the circomtances of his death. He went to
the large market place in down town Port au Prince "Mache Croix Bossale" where he was an unknown.
He went and grab something to eat from a local vendor and was beaten to death by a mob.My experience
with Bresil left me heart broken. It left me with with a yearning or search that becameis an ever
ending experience. In Haitian art I long for something that I don't really know what it is.
It have something to do with those words of Bresil when with a very sad face he utterd those
dreadful words " you will seriously regret it one day". Those words comes back when ever I heard
his name. He offered me in his last days all that he possessed and I rejected him. Maybe that
could of been a ticket to redirect his life. I will never know. Since then
to make up for the loss, I met over 100 artists and I have now bought and sold hundreds if not thousands of Haitian paintings by
great and lesser known Haitian artists. For better or for worse Bresil had changed me life.
I now represent more than 30 living and deceased artists. Now whenever I go to Haiti.
My suitcase is full with cell phones, play stations, tubes of paint , canvases, vitamins and
--------Fast forward 20 years later. I finally found what I was looking for all these years. what is it then Joseph Cantave?....Well... What I have been and been continually looking for is my ownself. It is a question that every life faces.....One's identity here and now. .Not the one on the birth certificate That idedntity is the true passport to real voyage one is already on..... My identity, Trying to grasp who am I... or I'am....better yet who is I'am?,,, Well... Have I grasped it correctly? I don't know. /what do you mean? well It is more like a process, a processed-awareness of becoming "I'am" or "I'am" becoming. If that makes any sense. AH AH HA.LOL It comes in stages including degrees of decoupling..... Looking at oneself outside of oneself.
Joseph Cantave 2020.
To be updated in years.
A unique original acrylic painting. 12"x16" with frame 13"x17"
A unique original painting by Bresil. I noticed some fake replicas of this painting on the net. Please know this is the original. 24"x48" acrylic on canvas with frame 28"x52".
A unique original by Bresil. Acrylic on canvas 20"x24" with frame 21"x25".
A unique oringinal painting by Bresil 30"x40". Acrylic on canvas..