If it’s mere colour that’s the criteria for a vibrant city, try Port au Prince, Haiti

by Rashmee

Posted on February 24, 2014



 

In this picture taken in March last year, homes painted in bright colors cover a hill in Jalousie, a cinder block shantytown in Petionville, Haiti
In this picture taken in March last year, homes painted in bright colors cover a hill in Jalousie, a cinder block shantytown in Petionville, the swish part of Port au Prince

This is a simply magical list of the 10 most vibrant, most colourful cities in the world, ranging from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas to Jodhpur, India’s ‘blue city’ (as opposed to Jaipur, which is the pink one).

But methinks it’s just the teeniest bit misleading, because Cinque Terre, Italy, is not a city at all. It is (as the list itself handsomely acknowledges) five seaside villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, all beautiful, all appearing like watercolour paintings.

And St Johns, Newfoundland, on the easternmost point of North America, has a “visual quality”, says the list, “noticeable even from the ships that pass by”. That quality is the array of colours that low-rise buildings are painted.

If that’s the criteria, why not consider a couple of additions?

North Greenwich (near my home) in south-east London? The expensive new flats built near the O2 Centre are all the pastel colours from a child’s paintbox. Not stunning; just a watercolour-listless Legoland.

And then there’s Port au Prince. Its Jalousie, one of Haiti’s biggest shantytowns, clambers up the mountains of the capital, in rows of purple, pink, lime and cream houses. The colours  cost $1.4 million and were part of a creative, if rather disingenuous, idea from President Martelly’s government. Ie to prettify a hard place a la the late Prefete Duffaut, one of the greats of Haitian painting. (Read my blog on Port au Prince’s paintobox approach to a slum here.)

To my mind, colourful cities are about organic, rather than artificial, realities.

Perhaps like Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the blue-brick paving was shipped over from Spain in the 16th century? And beautiful San Francisco, where the brightly coloured Painted Ladies, a row of houses in the Lower Haight district, have their own distinct identity? Or, Valparaiso in Chile, free-spirited, brightly coloured San Francisco of the South?

Jack Kerouac
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac

 


Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK

Enter your email address: