Written by: Halimat Olaniyan
There are a few things the sickle cell community at large agrees upon: 1. Our pain is real so believe us. 2. We cannot adequately describe all the ways in which we hurt. 3. A picture is worth 1000 words. Hertz Nazaire, Haitian-born artist, sickle cell warrior, and advocate – took those commonly shared truths to another level giving a voice to the community through his paintings.
He was devoted to his craft constantly seeking new ways to reach more people through social media and various in person exhibits and events. He built up platforms for more than just elevating his artwork. He used his art to advocate and raise awareness for sickle cell disease. He is most famously known for his pieces expressing the pain of sickle cell.
“It is strange how people only read the headlines without the details…. Sickle Cell cured again? Still we suffer,” captioned a tweet with his most famous paintings. Hertz Nazaire (@NazHz) / Twitter
He traveled around the country hosting exhibits and events that served as community gatherings. He held space for others to learn more about sickle cell by and art by actively engaging in online discussions. He was an artist to his core inspired by the pain he lived with and the world around him. The isolation he faced growing up from being sick all the time helped him appreciate silence. He described himself as a silent observer of the world, and rather than speak on what he saw, he learned to draw the world around him in exquisite detail. He took further inspiration from the women in his life, especially his mother whose death deeply affected him.
He used art as a means to cope with the pain and better understand the world around him. He would joke that he put the pain in painter, painting “pain and injustices of all kinds.” But his art was not just about capturing or articulating suffering, it was about the community he created. His art brought together those with sickle cell and those without. We could all appreciate the beauty of each paint stroke and the deeper meaning behind the story filling each canvas. Those of us living with sickle cell found understanding in the paintings we could relate to. Those without the disease gained a deeper appreciation for the struggle, or at the vary least an appreciation for the beauty in all things Nazaire created.
At the age of only 48, Nazaire left behind a beautiful legacy and the gift of his art.
More about him:
Hertz Nazaire (@NazHz) / Twitter
Artist | Nazaire ハイチのスーパーフラット ( Haitian Superflat )
Inside The Mind of A Painter: An Interview With Naz – / (kreyolicious.com)