Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Payas, Haiti



Payas, Haiti






Payas is a painter of religion. Pierre Sylvain Augustin, known as Payas, was born in 1941, years before the violent dictatorships of the Duvaliers, a time of Duvalierist hegemonic ideology that
had defined all in Haiti, including Voodoo.

What is he painting? He is painting religion in a society of good and bad, poverty and wealth. He is painting Haitian voodoo deities, in a technique that uses multiple colors and shadows to explain the power of this deity. His paintings are like a pantheon of these deities, whose characteristics / powers are passed down orally from generation to generation. Though many of these deities (not all) are African an origin, their functions were quickly adapted to first French colonial then to Haitian society. It is their function that Payas paints as his backgrounds, and their bodies in the foreground.

Payas is a member of the Baptist church in Haiti, but like most Haitian Christians, also delves into Voodoo. This Voodoo that is Christianity, Christianity that is Voodoo, manifests itself as crosses on some of his paintings, but also as spirits without form, the stuff of dreams, like many painters of Voodoo. This Voodoo is analogous to Christianity where saints and deities, deities are saints, etc..


In a country wherein hunger reigns, Payas has produced extravagant beauty that expresses the country but can also speak to any audience. His art, true to both Haitian ideals and sentiments, participates in the construction of a vibrant “us,” by reflecting “it” or the infamous Voodoo religion that underpins Haitian society.

Adolf Alzuphar