Creole is a genre
There is basically no way I can talk about Caribbean culture and skip the rich literature born from our historical turmoil. Guadeloupe is too a very fertile soil, home to a number of successful authors.
Maybe you heard of the Négritude movement, fathered by Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon-Gontran Damas? Or the famed The Wretched of the Earth author, Frantz Fanon?
Prominent figures of the French Caribbean literature, they had a lot to say about racism, the consequences of colonisation, and so on. They laid the groundwork which helped reconcile the multi layered identity of French people of Caribbean and African descent.
They fought with words and wit where they couldn’t with fists, paving the way for generations of Caribbean and African writers, poets and politics.
When it comes to Guadeloupean authors, my two favourites are:
Her life itself is already an adventure. She spent years in Africa where she married Guinean actor, Mamadou Condé. She taught in Guinea, Ghana, Senegal and in the USA. She’s now retired from Columbia University as Professor Emerita of French.
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, is the very first novel she penned that I read. Tituba’s story will take you from the shores of Barbados to the infamous village of Salem, Massachusetts where she will eventually stand trial, accused of witchcraft. You won’t be able to leave that book alone ! You’ve been warned…
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Gisèle Pineau has a unique and acute way of digging up traumas hidden in every Guadeloupean families. Fleur de Barbarie made me cry like never before and offered me the best cathartic experience of my life.
The story follows Josette, a little girl born in Guadeloupe and left to the care of a foster family living in la Sarthe by Social Services when her mother, barely a teenager, abandoned her to start a new life. After years in France, she is sent back to her estranged grand-mother on the island of Marie-Galante. From then, Josette begins a journey of self-discovery, waging a war within to find inner peace.
I don’t think there is an English translation available though. Sorry 😕
This series comes to an end here although we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Caribbean/Guadeloupean culture really is… and I fear it seems a bit cliché at times.
The nature and wildlife, the gastronomy, the music, the architecture, history… everything that makes us so uniquely beautiful just cannot be expressed only through words. It’s an experience that needs to be lived, felt and shared.
Simply writing about it helped me understand how profoundly rooted it is in me and I wouldn’t let go of that pride for nothing in the world.
If you get a chance to visit, breathe it in and let Guadeloupe inspire you.
We’re very warm and welcoming, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
📷 ©Philippe GIRAUD/GAMMA-RAPHO
Photos are a selection from @ilesguadeloupe. You can also check out @idees, @wat_magazine, @happyman_photography and @visit_pointeapitre wonderful shots and takes on the Caribbean life.
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