On May 22 and May 27, respectively, Martinique and Guadeloupe commemorate the abolition of slavery (1848). With the call of the conch shells, numerous celebrations, conferences, parades, plays, costumes, drumming, and dancing take place in Fort-de-France and Point- à-Pitre to celebrate the abolition and to pay homage to the men and women who were torn from their African homelands and enslaved for more than three centuries for colonial profit. Many of the festivities focus not only on the trauma caused by these dislocations (also see the March 17 post “Anse Cafard Memorial in Southern Martinique”), but also on the resistance and contestation undertaken by generation after generation.
This year’s festivities may present even more poignancy after the strikes and demonstrations in Guadeloupe and Martinique earlier this year. Many feel that the previous slaveholding masters, the békés, have continued to exert economic control in Martinique, with the blessing of the Parisian center of power, and consider these dates as reminders of the need for an ongoing struggle to transform the present system. (Also see related posts from March 2, “Caribbean intellectuals draft a proclamation for essential ‘products’,” March 3, “Interview with Patrick Chamoiseau,” and March 4, “Guadeloupe and Martinique sign accords to implement changes.”)
The photo included here shows “L’arbre de la liberté” [the tree of freedom], a sculpture by Henri Guédon. It was inaugurated in 1998 at its site at Place Arawaks in Martinique.
For testimonies on slavery, including an interview with Aimé Césaire, see “Paroles de l’esclavage” at http://www.parolesdesclavage.com/sitefr/