Josh Brolin’s first trip to Haiti left him devastated. “There were piles of trash 30 to 40 feet high. Children were playing in the sewers that ran through the slums. The Haitians are truly the forgotten people.”
Amongst all the misery, Brolin found what he calls “the involuntary artists, those people who have the need to create something positive out of all the poverty.
“They take these old 55 gallon oil drums, cut them open, burn the paint off, cut them in half, then pound them out so they’re straight pieces of metal,” explains Brolin. “Then they take their carving tools and create aluminum sculptures. These were mind-blowing. These people made beauty from junk. And they didn’t have anybody to sell the art to.”
Brolin wanted to help the artists become self-sustaining.
It was in that small village of Croix des Bouquets that the idea for the Brandaid Project was born. The org helps artisans to develop their marketing skills. “The funds are distributed to create more art,” Brolin explains. “Once we get into profit, it will help to build the community and the economy.”
In February, Brolin and director Paul Haggis, long a supporter of Haitian causes, joined forces to officially launch Brandaid. A silent auction was held for sculptures of Haitian artist Serge Jolimeau and others. “We sold 80% of the art,” says Brolin. “Eventually, we want to splinter out to other developing countries.”
The art of business
Serge Jolimeau’s art is inspired by his life and the cultural traditions of the Haitian people. “I create many mythic creatures from our ancestral teachings: angels, gods and forces of nature,” he explains. “For many Haitians, life is unbearable. Our road is unpaved and very dusty. Our dream is to pave it with blocks.”
Brandaid is Serge’s biggest customer. “Our Hollywood friends understand that we have a Haitian identity as well as needs. They help by buying large orders of our work, which supports our life. I have two children in high school. I want them to be able to go to college.”