One of Haiti’s best known intellectuals and artists, Franketienne went from the anonymity of a poverty stricken childhood in a small Haitian village to UNESCO Artist for Peace, Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters, and a Nobel Prize candidate.
Speak the name of Franketienne anywhere within the Caribbean, and you will be greeted with instant recognition. The 80-year old is one of Haiti’s most renowned artists and intellectuals, commanding admiration from all who are familiar with him.
Today known as ‘The Father of Haitian letters’, his beginnings were humble. Born Franck Etienne on the 12th of April 1936, in the small village of Ravine-Sèche, he was abandoned, early on, by his father, a rich American industrialist.
It was left to his mother to support him and his seven siblings. Their existence was one of poverty and struggle, with the matriarch of the family forced to work as a street merchant in the Bel Air neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince.
Despite this, Franketienne’s mother managed to scrape together enough money to send him, her eldest and most gifted child, to school. Today, with the brilliance of her son clear to see, her sacrifice is one that the country as a whole undoubtedly appreciates.
Franketienne is a tremendous talent. Continuously at the vanguard of artistic thought throughout the Caribbean, he is an author, poet, playwright, musician, and painter, famed for his works in both French and Creole.
His creations embody such exceptional brilliance that ‘The Father of Haitian letters’ is all too well deserved.. He is a man who writes incredible tales and plays, paints works described as miraculous, and yet still manages to masquerade as an activist in his spare time.
His ingenuity has not gone unnoticed, and he is not only one of the most recongised authors in Haitian history, but also one of the most decorated: a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009, a Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters, and UNESCO Artist for Peace.
His best-known works are just as diverse, ranging from novels to plays to poems to paintings. Author of some 40 works in French and Creole, including his 1972 novel Ultravocal, and his 1975 novel Dezafi, about life under the Duvalier regime, his numerous literary prizes and distinctions only attest to his phenomenal talent.
Yet, his benevolence is perhaps even more remarkable than his brilliance, hence the award of his UNESCO accolade in 2010. Embodying his commitment to promoting the agency’s ideals, it is perhaps the finest testament there could be to a man who has not only used his influence, charisma, and prestige to the benefit of the country, but is an emblematic figure of Haitiain culture itself: the Father of Letters, the Founder of ‘Spiralism’, and the outspoken opponent of dictators. Franketienne has weaved a legacy to be proud of.