Since 2007, award-winning photographer Alice Smeets, who we discovered on Supersonic, has been traveling to and living in Haiti, documenting the country and its people. Moved by Haitian spirituality and a group of artists in the slums of downtown Port-au-Prince known as Atis Rezistans, Smeets collaborated with the group to create a stunning photographic version of the tarot deck. Replicating scenes from the popular Rider-Waite deck with found objects and original works of art, featuring the Atis Rezistans as models, the artists titled the series The Ghetto Tarot.
In a video describing the project, members of the Atis Rezistans — artists who create works from discarded objects, “driven by economic necessity combined with creative vision and cultural continuity” — describe what “ghetto” means to them. “Ghetto is sharing, to live as a family, we share what we have. Even if it’s difficult we still manage to share and stay family,” says one artist. Others call it a “brotherhood,” stating that it’s “just like any other neighborhood.” Another artists believes the ghetto is “a school, because [they] learn a lot from it.” Smeets explained the group’s intention behind the provocative title:
Our idea behind choosing the term “Ghetto” as a name for the deck, is to provoke a discussion around the topic, to have people question their own assumptions about what the ghetto really is and to change the often negative connotation that the word implies in our culture into a positive one. The name of the Ghetto Tarot is inspired by the “Ghetto Biennale”, which is an invitation by Atis Rezistans to visiting Western and non-Western artists to come to Haiti and create art in collaboration with them to produce a show at the end. Atis Rezistans use trash to create art with their own visions that are a reflection of the beauty they see hidden within the waste.
The creativity and ingenuity of the Atis Rezistans offers an unforgettable, avant-garde interpretation of the tarot that speaks to Haiti’s rich culture.