Halka/Haiti: Return to Vilnius

30.01 – 13.03.2016 Halka/Haiti: Return to Vilnius

The Contemporary Art Centre (CAC Vilnius)

artists: C.T. Jasper, Joanna Malinowska
curator: Magdalena Moskalewicz
organizers: Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius and Zacheta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
collaboration: Culture.pl
coordination: Neringa Bumbliene (CAC), Joanna Waśko (Zachęta)

168 years after its premiere, in Vilnius, the Polish opera Halka returns to the city—albeit in a very particular form.

A tragic love story composed by Stanisław Moniuszko during Russian occupation of Poland-Lithuania, Halka was recently staged in Cazale, Haiti for ‘Le Polone’—the descendants of Polish soldiers who fought for the Haitian Revolution in early 19th century. Sent to Saint-Domingue by Napoleon to put down the slaves’ rebellion, the Poles—who had joined Bonaparte to fight for the independence of their own country—are believed to have united with the local insurgents. As a result, the Poles were granted an honorary status of blacks and settled in Haiti, where their descendants still live today in a mountain village of Cazale.

A collaboration between Polish opera singers and Haitian dancers and musicians, this unusual performance was documented on film, and is now shown in Vilnius as a large-scale projected panorama. The project was originally created for the Polish Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, where it was presented as an inquiry into the power of traditional artistic forms in constructing national identities—especially in a complex postcolonial context.

Bringing Halka/Haiti back to Vilnius adds a post-imperialist element to the story, further complicating the image of the national identity that the opera was supposed to represent. Considered a fiasco after its 1848 Vilnius premiere, Halka only achieved critical acclaim in Warsaw, a decade later. Now, the Polish national opera returns to Lithuania via Haiti—a rather unexpected twist in the complex, interwoven histories of the two neighboring countries.

The film Halka/Haiti is now in the collection of Zachęta. In 2015, it was shown at the Krasnoyarsk Museum Biennale, the exhibition Imagined Communities, Personal Imagination in Budapest, and the Göteborg International Biennal for Contemporary Art. (GIBCA). The exhibition in vilnius is the first solo presentation of the project since its premiere at the Venice Biennale. In May 2016, it will be a part of a group exhibition at Zachęta curated by Magdalena Moskalewicz, titled The Travelers.

Artists' works in the Zachęta collection

  • Zdjęcie pracy Halka/Haiti 18°48′05′′N 72°23′01′′W
    Halka/Haiti 18°48′05′′N 72°23′01′′WC.T. Jasper, Joanna Malinowska2015
Related media
  • Grafika obiektu: Halka/Haiti
    mediateka / books
    18°48'05"N 72°23'01"W C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska (in English)
  • Publikacje Zachęty
    80,00 złHalka/Haiti 18°48’05"N 72°23’01"W (EN)


Halka/Haiti: Return to Vilnius
30.01 – 13.03.2016

The Contemporary Art Centre (CAC Vilnius)
Vokieciu 2, LT- 01130 Vilnius, Lithuania
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exhibition partners: The Polish Institute in Vilnius and The Erasmus+ Programme