Kochon Sa a Lou / This pig is heavy

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Kochon Sa a Lou / This pig is heavy is collage, acrylic, and wood stain on panel by artist Didier William. 

Didier William is originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but currently lives and works in the United States. In his own words, his work is about “living in diaspora and the process of constructing meaning out of history, mythology and lived experience,” a balance that has required careful research into the history of Haiti and the United States, as well as an excavation of his own life experience for visual references.

Kochon Sa a Lou embodies this melding, referencing a specific moment in Haiti’s history with the United States, but also extending into Didier’s own lived experience. 

The work references the African Swine Flu outbreak that in the early 1980’s, spread from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. Fear of this outbreak’s spread, while not deadly to humans, led to the creation of French and American programs that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Creole swine, which were then replaced with American swine.2 

However, despite serious concerns about whether American swine could adapt to life in Haiti, they were used as a replacement anyway. Ultimately, these serious concerns were realized when American swine needed more care than their Creole counterparts and struggled in the hot climate, a change that would go on to devastate an already hurting economy.3 

The title of this work which translates to “this pig is heavy,” is a direct reference to this burden literally shouldered, as we see in the work, by Haitian people. 

However, this work is rich in texture, patterns, and symbols that extend outside of this narrative. When I look at this piece, I feel drawn in multiple different directions: toward the stage at the bottom of the composition, the curtain, and the eyes that seem to swarm on the figures’ legs. 

What is captivating you in this work? 

For me, I wonder about the eye-covered legs that dance on what looks like a stage, with a circus-like curtain. These symbols seem to beckon the viewer to think about the performative aspects of life and how it feels to be looked at closely. 

How do you connect these performative themes with the Haitian history Didier is alluding to in this work? Or alternatively, how do you connect these performative themes with Didier’s lived experience as an immigrant and Black man in the United States?

 - Mallory Schultz, Art Collections & Exhibitions Fellow 2019 - 2020

[1] Raphael Soldi, “Q&A: Didier William,” Strange Fire, December 13, 2018, http://www.strangefirecollective.com/qa-didier-william
[2] Edward Cody, “To Snuff Out Swine Feaver, Haiti Slaughters All Its Pigs,” The Washington Post, April 2, 1983, www.washingtonpost.com; Joseph B. Treaster, “Haiti Replenishing A Most Valuable Asset: The Pig,” The New York Times, October 3, 1984, www.nytimes.com.
[3] Joseph B. Treaster, “Haiti Replenishing A Most Valuable Asset: The Pig,” The New York Times, October 3, 1984, www.nytimes.com