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Catawba Student-Athlete Captures Scenes from his Haitian Home in His Artwork

November 13, 2015

Category: Biology, Events, Students


belonyjoseph15.jpgYou would never know by looking at the paintings of Catawba College student Belony Joseph that they were rendered by the hands of a collegiate soccer player. Or you might not realize that Joseph is a self-taught Haitian artist who developed his style by using the paints, brushes and art supplies that a missionary left behind after visiting Joseph's country.

It is Joseph's art that ties him to his native Haiti and helps him remember five years after he departed it a painted blue church in his hometown of Perche, and the taste of fresh-picked mangos.

"I first started painting when a missionary came to Haiti and made a painting of Jesus. This is something I always wanted to do as a kid," Joseph said. "The missionary brought paint and paintbrushes and left everything behind. I starting using that stuff and found I enjoyed it, and I kept on doing it. I kept on painting and drawing, and I got better eventually. I started experimenting with new techniques and materials like colored pencils."

Joseph's journey to become a student-athlete at Catawba began in 2010, when he arrived as a 16-year-old refugee in Texas following the devastating Haitian earthquake that leveled much in his country. He spoke no English when he arrived, only Creole (the language he describes as of the common people in Haiti) and French (the language he says is learned in Haitian schools).  He was picked up at the airport when he arrived by a host family that he would also live with during his first year in the U.S.

belonyjoseph15c.jpgHis early years in the U.S. were difficult ones for him, but he does not complain and smiles as he remembers. "I started in eighth grade in Texas and was just there listening, trying to learn the language."

He confided that the cold weather in the U.S. was "the hardest thing for me," and the different food and the fact that "I was not able to properly speak English and could not talk to people."

His ninth grade year brought him to Concord, N.C., where a second host family, associated with his church, The Way (El Camino), took him in. He enrolled at Central Cabarrus High School and finished high school there. His soccer playing at Central Cabarrus helped pave his way to be recruited to Catawba's. He still plays forward on Catawba's team, now in his second year on the squad.

"Soccer is very important to me. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to play soccer," Joseph explained. "We played soccer in the street when I was a little kid and we never had a soccer ball — we used whatever we could find to play soccer with — orange, grapefruit, whatever we could find.

"I feel like soccer is part of my life and I cannot keep myself from playing," he said, noting that Didier Drogba, a professional soccer player from Ivory Coast, was his inspiration for years.belonyjoseph15d.jpg

At Catawba, Joseph is focusing on life after college. He is majoring in biology and trying to keep his grade point average above 3.0. He wants to go to P.A. school after he graduates and then, "I really want to go back to Haiti and help out. There is a great need in Haiti — the medical — the hospital system.

"I kind of want to be a missionary too as I get older and I really want to help people with their health."

When asked what he has learned about himself during his five years alone in the U.S., he shares: "That I can accomplish anything I want to do, I just have to keep on working hard and put in a lot of effort."

The artwork of Belony Joseph will be on display in the Corriher-Linn-Black Library on Catawba's campus during the library's normal operating hours between Monday, Nov. 16 and Monday, Dec. 14.