Martinique: Celebrating Aimé Césaire

Il y a un an disparaissait le Nègre fondamental, laissant le pays et son peuple orphelins et livrés à leurs propres choix.

The “Nègre fondamental” passed away one year ago, leaving his country and his people, orphans and the only actors of their own choices.”

This is how Martinican blogger Imaniyé introduced her homage-post to the late Aimé Césaire [Fr]. It is indeed with great reverence that Martinicans celebrated the first anniversary of the death of Aimé Césaire, who passed away on April 17th 2008.

Last week's posts in the Martinican blogosphere said a lot about how much people felt – and still feel – about this great man. It is with a huge picture and a very brief quotation from one of Césaire's works that Bondamanjak paid homage to him on April 16th [Fr]; but the solemnity of the post does not hide the strength of its title: “AC pléré an nou lité” [Fr Creole], which means “Let's stop crying, let's fight now”. As a matter of fact, Aimé Césaire was one of the precursors to the ideals behind the popular movement which took place from February to March 2009 on the island, as he was a staunch defender of Négritude and “self-governance”.

The multiplicity of the causes defended by Césaire is clearly shown in the huge number of contributions and comments sparked by the anniversary of his death – especially on the blog Montray Kréyol: since April 16th, Montray Kréyol has published an average of fifteen posts about the man himself, his achievements or tangible ways in which to honor Césaire today. Indeed, one of the first posts on Montray Kréyol (published the day before the official anniversary) deals with the decision of the French national postal service to honor Aimé Césaire with a stamp. This decision triggers a very ironical comment from the author [Fr]:

Le nègre vous emmerde, et maintenant va falloir le lécher…

Il n’a pas l’air de plaisanter, M. Césaire, sur ce timbre-poste qui doit sortir le 17 avril en métropole, mais également les 17 et 18 à Fort-de-France, en Martinique. Et pourtant, c’est l’image de lui choisie par La Poste, qui a tout à y gagner, pour rendre hommage à celui qui élabora entre autres le concept de la négritude.

This Negro is getting on your nerves, but now you will have to lick…

He doesn't look that nice, Mr Césaire, on this stamp which will be issued on April 17th in Continental France, but also on April 17th and 18th in Fort-de-France, in Martinique. However, that is the picture which has been picked up by La Poste, which is making a good deal with this homage paid to the man, who created with others, the concept of Négritude”.

Martinican blogger Imaniyé also posted a message to Aimé Césaire, which she has chosen to call “Bélya Aimé Césaire” [Fr Creole], referring to a traditional Afro-Caribbean funeral wake dance and music, which also focus on the stamp.

In the blog Negritude, named after the concept Césaire founded, readers can have a look at a re-published post by Alain Nicolas, who has established a lineage between the recent social events in the French West Indies and Césaire's ideas [Fr]:

Un an après, au moment où se sont fait massivement entendre les voix des Guadeloupéens, Martiniquais, Guyanais, Réunionnais, aspirant à plus de décence et plus de dignité, le verbe du « Nègre vertical » résonne, étrangement prophétique.

One year later, at the time when Guadeloupean, Martinican, French Guianese and Reunionese voices made themselves heard, as they are yearning for more decency and more dignity, the words of the ‘Nègre vertical’ ring out as a surprising prophecy.

Negritude also shares different initiatives that are being staged to celebrate the late poet and politician:
– plays in Paris and in Benin.
official celebrations in Martinique.
the renaming of a university faculty after him in Haiti.

The thumbnail used in this post, “Marche en Hommage à Aimé Césaire, le 19 avril 2008 à Amiens”, is by Presse IndéPicarde, used under a Creative Commons License. Visit Presse IndéPicarde's flickr photostream.

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