Biographical Note: The Journey to Conscious Expression ‘I want to say that from my birth on, it was written in the stars for me that I would live my life consciously and living consciously hurts, it really hurts. But I know that there will come a moment of vast education in the Caribbean and that will also mean a vast solution.’ Jean Girigori, Painter Jean Girigori’s life is her art and her art is her life. The painter’s birth on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean sea on January 14, 1948 was a powerful first sign that her life would be dedicated to celebrating the splendor of the islands. The boat first touched land in Anse Sapito in Haiti, but Jean was destined to spend the first years of her life in Santo Domingo with her mother and grandfather. Early Beginnings Jean’s grandfather Chandi was one of the many Curacaons that emigrated to work in the canefields of Cuba and landed in Santo Domingo after the Second World War. They were called ‘kokolo,’ leftovers. The word in the Creole language means the delicious part of the ‘funchi’ (cornmeal porridge) that is left for the children to scrape out of the pot a day later. Jean’s father got a good job with the utlity company and her mother was a well-educated women, handy at sewing. However, her father was a womanizer known in the atmospheric ‘Bar de Cien’ in the neighbourhood of Borojol not far from the Callejon Chandi. Jean’s happy life changed dramatically when her mother met another rman and traded lively city life for the distant coutnryside of Yawati. The ‘princess of the Callejon Chandi’ was reduced to becoming a virtual ‘house slave’ as are so many in rural Caribbean communities. Jean still remembers being forced to walk for hours for water with heavy containers on her head. And having to wash and pound clothes in riverbeds. She recalls grinding corn with milling stones to make the ‘mai mole’ of Haite and ‘chenchen’ of Santo Domingo.
If Jean were a writer, she would have already filled books with tales of the hardship and misery of Caribbean country life. Now we see that very hardship served as inspiration for her work, in the many images where children and masses form the main theme. Critical to the formation of her fight for equality and justice was the rape she suffered at the age of five at the hands of a cousin of her mother’s new man. Birth of the Painter In 1967 Jean went back to Haiti to stay with an Aunt. There she met with renowned Haitian painter Paul Jorge Hector, who became her first husband. Although she had drawn furiously from an early age, her serious life as a painter began with this meeting. At first she began by helping him in his studio but soon graduated to helping to paint with him. After developing her technique she got her first exhibitions Haiti, Santo Domingo and Jamaica. international Recognition When her marriage did not last, Jean left for the Dutch island of Curacao the country of her father, where she was destined to have been born. She had her first exhibition in Curacao in 1978. A scholarship took her to New York to study at the Art Student’s league where she won a prize as best student under the supervision of noted Professor Nox Martin. She subsequently studied in the Netherlands and Latin America. A Protest in Color Much of Jean’s painting can be considered a fierce outcry against the depravation and abuse to which the people and particularly the children of the Caribbean have historically been subjected. This accusation besides making her a productive painter, has also made her a strong political voice in Santo Domingo where much social reform is still needed. Those who know Jean are instantly charmed by her warmth, delightful humor, mischievous smile, profound spirituality and extraordinary charisma. She is still a woman with much to do and wishes to spend the next years of her life creating monumental works that tell her stories and philosophy. The pleasures and suffering of the Caribbean creates in Jean a restless agony of which she is afraid and which she expresses through her paintings and bronze sculptures. knowing that there is no easy solution, no easy alternatives she continues to cry out in outbursts of forceful images of human beings or contained lucidity. For more information and art please visit www.jeangirigori.com Adapted from Jean Girigori, a biograpical note by Frank Martinus Arion, Director Language Institute of the Netherlands Antilles, President of the Foundation for Humanist schools in Papiamentu.