Ghetto Tarot

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The Ghetto Tarot is a photographic interpretation of the well-known traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Set in the Haitian ghetto, these fresh scenes were inspired by those originally created in 1909 by the artist Pamela Colman-Smith. The scenes were replicated by Alice Smeets with the assistance of a group of Haitian artists called Atis Rezistans using only material they were able to find or create locally.

While Tarot originated many years ago when the circumstances within the world seemed very different, they still resonate today with timeless symbols that can be applied to our busy modern world. And not just our modern, Western world, but also to any other continent, country or culture, including the Haitian Ghetto. So here comes a contemporary, provocative and vivid tarot deck!

The photo project aims to reach beyond cultural boundaries of prejudice and ignorance to achieve a much-needed transformation of the collective conscious perception of the ghetto whilst discovering the power of our own thoughts. Therefore the Haitian slum is presented in another light and the pictures highlight the creativity and strength of its citizens.

Alice Smeets is a Belgian photographer, filmmaker, artist and teacher. Her documentary photographs from Haiti are fairly well known and have won her several awards including the Unicef Photo of the Year Award 2008.

For a long time, she wanted to interpret the Tarot Deck with her photos, but taking ordinary pictures of the scenes seemed too simple. Her aim was to create a very personal deck without loosing the different spirits of the cards. Then the idea entered her mind to combine three of her passions: the spiritual world, the Haitian culture and people as well as the philosophical reflections about the dualities in our world; in this case rich and poor.

Since 2007 she has been a regular visitor to Haiti and has lived in the country for 2 years. Its complexity and spirituality have played a big role in her life. The observations of the Haitian society have brought answers to many of her questions.

So taking the tarot pictures in the ghetto of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince was the obvious choice to create a very personal deck: moving away from the cliched images of poverty, illustrating the spirits and meanings of the cards with a touch of humor in the middle of the slum and showing colored people on the traditional, old European cards to break stereotypes.

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