Art is Medicine: Jocelyne Bonhometre Talks About Her Paintings

Born in Haiti, Jocelyne Bonhometre came to Buffalo as an immigrant after the earthquake in 2010. Bonhometre is a courageous and hard working woman. The first time I met her was at the Educational Opportunity Center’s (EOC) event, “International Day.” I was in awe when I saw her at the event reading a poem in front of other ESL students.

After learning she was an immigrant and an artist, I approached her to seek an interview. She showed me her paintings she made in her country and some she made here.

She lost a lot of paintings in her home country, and she misses them along with her friend. Not only did she attend the School of Art in Port-au-Prince, but she use to be a teacher of high fashion in Haiti.

“I was teaching high fashion to young and old folks and working at the International Academy of Art Leases,” she said.

In 2010, at least 220,000 people died and over 300,000 were injured in the earthquake in Haiti; over 1.5 million people became homeless. Life had been a struggle for all of the people who experienced this tragedy, and Bonhometre recalls very well what happened.

“I remember that morning vividly; I went to the church and after that I went to the restaurant, feeling that something terrible was going to happen.”

Bonhometre went to school but, unfortunately, only three of her students showed up and she had to cancel her class.

“I was going to take a shower, and when I was about step in, the house started shaking, and it felt like the house was about to fall on me. I heard a lot of noise outside and many people screaming, so I went outside and left for a few days,” Bonhometre said

After one month of this disaster, Bonhometre came to Buffalo with her husband. “For me, it wasn’t my first time coming to America, but it felt like my first time and the feeling was better than in my country after the earthquake,” she said.

Once she landed, Bonhometre felt more secured and comfortable, but unfortunately the language barrier was difficult. Nine months ago, she took ESL classes at SUNY Buffalo and she feels more comfortable now than she did before.

“When I came to U.B, I wanted to strengthen my English because my mother tongue is Creole and I can speak French.  Today I can take a bus and buy something without problem of my English,” she said.

For the past six years, she has been living in Buffalo with her husband. Bonhometre is still looking for a job and despite limited resources, she has talents she wants to share with the world.

“In my country, I profited off my paintings. Art for me is like a medicine, I feel good when I’m painting.  I think even in this country I can do the same but as I don’t have money to invest, it’s still tough for me. If I could have a chance to be sponsored, I would organize a big exhibition and show the people what I know to do,” she said.

“Life in Buffalo is not easy, but at least I’m safe and I hope one day to open doors and to do a big Art Exhibition,” Bonhometre said, adding “Living in Buffalo is better, and much better than going back to my country.”

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