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Yesterday we drew attention to a public meeting aimed at examining why earthquake-stricken Haiti was the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Now John Tyrrell reveals how the recent devastation has claimed some hitherto unsuspected victims.

The late Professor John Figueroa visited us regularly in Birmingham to talk about and discuss Caribbean art and literature.

Teachers and pupils alike warmed to his enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the subject. He had known many writers and artists of note and I believe there exists an unpublished work on the Nobel Prize winner, Derek Walcott, together with his own autobiography which has also still to find a publisher.

John also possessed a sizeable collection of slides. I remember him saying that if anything Caribbean art was even more remarkable than its literature, although much less well known. On visiting John's house in Milton Keynes you could see a collection of paintings given to him by various artists over the years. I remember him doing a television programme for the Open University in the "Third World Studies" series he prepared for them.

What has been overlooked is what has happened to art treasures in Haiti. In short they were ruined.

Clearly when he comes to human tragedy on this scale it is not the first matter of concern what happens to artifacts and treasures.

Ultimately, though, the wrecking of a nation's heritage does affect the people whose achievements and histories are recorded. We have seen the consequences of war in Iraq to national treasures, an essential part of that nations identity.

While Haiti is known as a "poor" nation in terms of wealth when it comes to artistic traditions it is far from true. Haiti has one of the richest traditions of art in the region. It seems there is little to be salvaged.

As one commentator remarked "we have to start all over again".

To see Haitian art, click here



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