Sixto, Maurice. Humourist and raconteur – Born in Gonaives on 23 May 1919, Sixto attended the prestigious Saint-Louis de Gonzague high school in Port-au-Prince. He then joined the Police Academy (Académie Militaire) but dropped out after just three months and later became journalist. He worked for the daily paper Le Matin and the MBC (HHBM at the time) radio station. To make ends meet, he also worked part time as a guide for the Department of Tourism. In 1961, he left Haiti for the Republic of Congo – Kinshasa (later Zaire, and now Congo) where he taught English. In 1969, he left Zaire for Paris, and later settled with his wife in Philadelphia, USA, where he died in 1984.
Sixto brought to life the many faces of the Haitian aristocracy through his recordings such as “Léa Kokoyé” (1975), “Ti Sainte Anize” (1978), “Maitre Zabelboc Berre-à-chatte” (1979), “Gwo Mosso” (1984), and “Madan Saint Viluce” (1985).
Over the years, the story of Ti Sainte Anize, a fictional ‘restavek’ girl who lives in the house of a professor greatly concerned with human rights but oblivious to the injustice beneath his nose, has become a classic, constantly requested on Haitian radio stations. Restavek is the Haitian word for child servants who are sent to live with better-off families in the hope of finding a better life and an education but more often than not suffer a life of drudgery and abuse. Ti Sainte Anize, who must look after “Mademoiselle,” the professor’s daughter, Chantale, is constantly chastised by the professor’s shrewish wife who calls the child a liar, and a thief.
“Sainte Anize,” says the wife, “come, take Mademoiselle’s book bag. Do I have to tell you every day? You’ll make her late for school. Oh, my. This book bag is filthy. Why don’t you clean it with your tongue, if you can’t find a rag?”
It wasn’t the first time a Haitian artist had mentioned the abusive treatment of restaveks. But Sixto’s satire hit home, particularly among the many educated Haitians who had lived, like Sixto, in exile abroad.
In 1990, the Swiss organisation, Terre des Hommes, set up the Foyer Maurice Sixto, a home for restavek children named after the famous raconteur. The home in Port-au-Prince is run by the Haitian priest, Père Miguel Jean-Baptiste.