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Exhibit revisits Haiti devastation

Published: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 10:42 a.m. CDT
(Andrea Azzo –
The band Jan Sebon and Friends plays Haitian music Friday at Nothern Illinois University's Anthropology Museum during the exhibit opening of "Fragments: Haiti Four Years After the Earthquake."

DeKALB – Since the 2010 earthquake, people don’t really hear about Haiti anymore, said Northern Illinois University graduate student Karl Kohler.

Kohler attended the grand opening Friday of the exhibit, “Fragments: Haiti Four Years After the Earthquake,” at NIU’s Anthropology Museum inside Cole Hall. The event included many speakers and Haitian music from the band, Jan Sebon and Friends.

The exhibit highlights the current conditions in Haiti, a poverty-stricken nation still recovering from the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people. It also focuses on the 280,000 people still living in tents.

“After the earthquake, it’s like Haiti doesn’t exist anymore,” Kohler said. “It’s great that Dr. [Mark] Schuller is bringing attention to it.”

Schuller spent about a decade studying and traveling to Haiti and helped organize the exhibition.

Those who visited the exhibit saw a display of hundreds of water bottles, each of which represented one death attributed to cholera. News reports indicate United Nations workers who visited Haiti brought cholera to the area, which killed at least 8,000 people.

The exhibit also featured stories of survivors. One of them, identified only as Marie-Jeanne, was on her way home from work when the earthquake struck. Concrete blocks knocked her unconscious, and she spent about 40 minutes trapped under the rubble before she was pulled out and sent to the hospital.

“Only then I saw that it was everywhere,” Marie-Jeanne was quoted as saying. “That really struck me. That was very sad.”

About 1.5 million people lost their homes because of the earthquake, and 86 percent of those homes were 20 years old or less, according to the exhibit.

NIU President Doug Baker attended the grand opening and spoke about the importance of learning about these historical events.

“I can only imagine, barely, what it was like to go through that earthquake,” Baker said. “This museum helps us understand and learn about it.”

NIU student Shelby Devitt, a post-baccalaureate student pursuing a certificate in community leadership and civic engagement, learned that there is no public education in Haiti, leaving families to pay to have their sons, rather than their daughters, attend school.

“To me, as a woman, I’m interested in women’s rights,” Devitt said. “It’s really disappointing.”

Tracy Brindle, an NIU graduate student in history, said people should see the exhibit because it would make them more open-minded and understanding.

“Sometimes, we live in a world where we’ve got our blinders on,” Brindle said, “but if we see how everyone else experiences the same world around us, then it moves us to reach out to different parts of the world.”

If you go

What: “Fragments: Haiti Four Years after the Earthquake” exhibit

Where: Anthropology Museum hours of operation:

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The program series will feature guest speakers on Feb. 24, March and April.

Information: Visit

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