Liliane Nérette Louis
2006 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Most Haitians are familiar with a large body of old traditional kont, or tales, which were often told in the evenings to entertain children, other family members, or friends. Some of the most common are the Bouki and Malice stories, which are derived from African narratives. In the tales, the trickster Bouki usually undertakes a shameful scheme which ultimately backfires on him.
Liliane Nérette Louis (Miami) grew up in a large family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the daughter of a doctor. When she was a child, her mother used to sit down with the children in the evenings and tell stories in Haitian Creole. As she grew older, Louis herself began to tell the stories to her seven younger siblings and then later to her own four children. She begins all her engaging stories with a traditional formula: “Kric, krak. We used to start all the Haitian kont with krik, and the people listening to the kont will say krak.”
Louis fled the Duvalier regime by moving to New York in 1964. Looking for a better climate, she settled in Miami in 1977. Louis earned a B.A. in professional studies and an M.A. inhuman resource development and administration from Barry University. Before retiring from Jackson Memorial Hospital in 1999, she worked for many years as a health information manager. Since the 1980s, she regularly performs the tales at festivals, schools, and other events. Louis has served twice as a master artist in the Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program, and has twice won the Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Folk Arts. She also wrote When Night Falls, Kric! Krak! Haitian Folktales (1999). Louis is also an extremely accomplished cook, frequently offering Haitian cooking courses through Miami-Dade College and other institutions, and is very knowledgeable about the use of plants in Haitian culture.