Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph: art that banners

Exhibited at the Cartier Foundation in Paris last autumn, Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph is an unusual artist, twisting traditional embroidery techniques to create works with a bittersweet beauty.
Born in 1967 in Bainet, in the south of Haiti, Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph worked from a very young age with artisans in the region, first as a blacksmith, shoemaker and weaver, and then assisting an embroiderer of wedding gowns. Since 1991, he began creating voodoo flags and continues to develop the series today. In Haiti, voodoo flags are traditionally used to decorate spaces and dress the participants of ceremonies, the sparkle of the sequins and pearls used thought to attract the spirits called Iwa. The flags represent vèvès — voodoo figures — through a range of traditional scenes.
Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph
From the beginning, his original style assured him a certain success: to the manual pearling technique he adds an innate sense of composition, his creations sometimes leaving the background material exposed and involving a large variety of embroidery techniques.
Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph sold his original flags for 450 dollars in the souvenir shop of the Haitian Art Museum. Today his creations are exhibited and sold in galleries across the world. His atelier employs numerous artisans, but the technique remains the same: first a design is traced on the reverse side of velour toile. Then the toile is positioned on a frame to embroider and paste the sequins one-by-one. Between 5 and 12 kg of sequins and pearls are used to create a single flag, and it takes between one and three months of work for the most complex motifs.
Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph
Over time, Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph has taken more and more liberty with traditional patterns to more closely reflect current events. After the earthquake of 2010, he created multiple Phoenix that represent the rebirth of Haiti and the force of its inhabitants. The work naturally fits in the field of contemporary art, these creations joining ancestral techniques and an original artistic vision.
Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph
Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph
All visuals courtesy of the artist.