In Her Words: Creating Art in Chaos


Dear Ibu Allies,

I always say artists are the soul of a nation. And in Haiti’s case, the soul is under attack. As a Haitian-American designer working with women in two regions of Haiti, I have seen the struggles and situations worsen over time. 

The gangs have taken over 80% of the capital. Citizens move about with their hands up, all on edge and ready to run as the sounds of gunshots ripple through the air. Children have not been in school for more than 70 days in the past six months. 

Artisan studios are being looted. The National Art Institute has been vandalized. Port Au Prince has been kidnapped.

Haiti Street Scene

People walk past burning street fires started by gangs in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)


Only ninety minutes from US shores, hell is unfolding right before our eyes. No commercial flights have gone in or out of Haiti in over a month. The ports are closed because the roadways to and from are occupied by gangs. And worst of all, the threat of famine lingers because the circulation of goods has become a challenge due to the gangs charging a tariff on the streets for transportation. This is causing prices of everyday necessities like food and medicine to increase and resulting in major shortages. 

Haiti’s current tragic state sounds like a description of Mad Max or an episode of the counterterrorism drama Homeland. And we have been its spectators, watching it build up to this point over the last few years. 

Dayanne Danier and Stephanie Hunt

Dayanne Danier and former Ibu Foundation Board president Stephanie Hunt speaking in Charleston in 2022 on behalf of Bien Abyé artisans. 


Some of you might remember the time I visited Charleston on a fall evening in 2022, where I shared with you how important it was that we move to a new workspace for safety. After receiving Ibu’s grant that helped us establish a new atelier and equipment, I was hoping it would get better from that moment on. It was a dramatic improvement; unfortunately the general situation has only gotten worse. 

With morale so low, one could ask, What is left? The answer: hope, a safe space, and the ability to create art for fashion. 

This month marks two years since the team moved into the new workshop. A milestone event. But our celebration has been put on pause. Survival is the focus now. Madam Dayanne, we have kids, we have to work so they can survive. This is the response the team of women give when I ask, Are you OK? 

Artisans beading

Bien Abye artisans are working on a new collection of beaded handbags, which have been delayed due to the situation.


24 hours is not promised, except when they are in the atelier, where they get to focus on the intricate designs they produce rather than the chaos around them. Thankfully, they have that space to gather and support one another. Art is therapy and the most impactful activity in their lives right now because it provides a living at the same time. 

However, that too is becoming a challenge because with no commercial flights going in or out, we are running out of materials. Trying to come up with new designs with what is left has become an art of survival rather than an art of tradition. Their commitment and creativity are keeping them alive.

This too shall pass is the statement I believe in now. And treasuring the art of the Perle (La Perle des Antille referring to Haiti) will have a new meaning from this point on because Bien Abyé will literally be styles of survival that will share this moment in history.

With Hope,
Dayanne Danier
Founder and Creative Director, Bien Abyé