Baron Kriminel is a spirit in Haitian Vodou tradition that is considered to be the Saint of all Criminals, but also considered a spirit of justice and custodian of the cemetery. He is closely related to other Guede lwa including Baron Samedi, Baron LaCroix, and Gran Brijit, but he is also much more feared due to his violent and unpredictable nature. Those who know Baron Kriminel, however, would suggest that there is no reason to fear him unless you are guilty. The innocent never have a reason to experience Baron Kriminel’s fierce brand of justice. He is often called upon only when our worldly systems of justice fail and more extreme measures are required. When Baron Kriminel shows up he forces everyone to question what is right and what is wrong, who is truly guilty and who is innocent? In his presence it’s harder to identify who are the good guys and the bad guys and what separates them.
He is a lesser known spirit who is often considered to lurk in the darkest shadows of the culture. Because Baron Kriminel is so mysterious by nature and so seldom expressed in visual form in contemporary culture, he appealed to some friends of the Jacmel Arts Center as the subject for a unique project that over 30 of our member artists have participated in over the past two years. The group of SAJ patrons from Washington DC commissioned many of our artists to interpret this character through their own artistic style and each artist came up with a truly unique perspective, some creating multiple depictions. The result is a diverse collection of almost 50 paintings, no two looking alike, but all with the same source of inspiration. While most of the works feature Baron Kriminel directly, others also show his guede spirit friends from the cemetery and others even create hybrid imaginary spirits based on specific requests. This prompt pushed a lot of our artists beyond the comfort zones of their usual subject matter and drew a new sense of creativity from them.
In the slideshow below you can view the images of what the artists created. Most paintings are 16″x20″ with a few variations. These works now belong to the private collections of our friends in Washington DC that commissioned them.
If you have any creative ideas for projects like this for our artists to take on, please contact us to discuss possible collaborations or commissions.