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Haiti's Artisan Roots: Steel Drum Sculptures

Updated on October 17, 2018
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Steven is a seasoned traveler that has spent considerable time in Mexico and other Latin American countries along the Caribbean.

'Noah's Ark' sculpture fashioned from recycled steel drums.
'Noah's Ark' sculpture fashioned from recycled steel drums. | Source

The Beginning of an Artform

In the 1950s, a Haitian blacksmith named Georges Liautaud spent his long, sultry days banging a chisel with his hammer, making steel crosses for the poor souls buried in Croix-des-Banquets cemetery. At the persistent urging of an American named DeWitt Peters, Liautaud agreed to focused his talents to design intricate, elaborate metal sculptures and the Haitian steel drum art form was born.

Haitian Art is Hand made

The village of Croix-des-Banquets is the birthplace of the Haitian recycled steel drum art culture and walking down any street one can hear the rhythmic sounds of the trade as hammers come into contact with steel chisels. The steady tink tink tink echoes through the city like the beat of an actual heart, pumping life giving income to the local tradesmen and their families.

The steel drums arrive daily in the capital port, Port-Au-Prince, and are loaded onto beasts of burden, hand-carts, modified scooters or onto the backs of laborers, then brought to the artists' shops in Croix-des-Banquet. Oftentimes the artisan's home and shop are one and the same, optimizing the space while eliminating costly overhead associated with maintaining a shop or warehouse.

Skeletal fish sculpture
Skeletal fish sculpture | Source

Haitian steel drum art in Tampa theme park

In recent years, more so in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that decimated the small island, the Haitian steel drum art movement has been publicized, helping to promote the trade and the artisans who create the work. The Busch Gardens Amusement Park in Tampa, Florida has a special display in place in their cultural souvenir shop to showcase some of the most original and artistic designs. As the world sees more and more of the fascinating steel sculptures demand increases and the art lives on. Even in post-earthquake Haiti, art is alive and thriving, filling people that have no reason to be optimistic, with hope for the future.

S.P. Kelly

The art passes from father to son

It has become the custom that a master takes on one to two apprentices and teaches them until they are ready. When the apprentice's work has fully matured, he may branch off and create a name for himself. Today many young men study this honorable trade with the hopes of marrying and raising a family with the skills they have learned.

Birthplace of the Art


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