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Caribbean: Following the path of the Caribs

Since the beginning of 2009, French West Indians have questioned their identity, their national heritage and their present-day situation in different ways. Kintamingo Ema, a Martinican blog, presents an initiative which mixes a social insertion, historical and archeological project with an identity quest. Dubbed “Kintamingo Ema, sur le chemin de nos ancêtres” (Kintamingo Ema, following the path of our ancestors), the project was launched by Association Karisko , an association focusing on social integration, as explained here [Fr]:

Ce sont les jeunes du foyer d'insertion de Sainte-Marie qui ont bénéficié de cette formation.

Young adults from the insertion structure of Sainte-Marie are the recipients of this vocational training.

They benefited from the knowledge and experience of the Caribs, by learning to build a canoe and then ride it from Martinique to Antigua. But before reaching to all these islands from le Prêcheur in Martinique, many young adults in search of a professional project and practical training participated in the creation of the Kanawa (the native name for a canoe). The social integration building site quickly became a genuine shipyard, where the traditional skills of the native inhabitants were used to create this massive canoe. A comment on CocoNews post gives us more details concerning the measures of the canoe [Fr]:

Le kanawa pèse plus d'une tonne ( à vide !) , 18 mètres de long et 27 rameurs.

The Kanawa weighs more than a ton (empty) (about 2200 pounds) and is 18 meters long (about 60 feet) and needs 27 rowers.

One of the team members has posted pictures of the construction site and lists the 4 steps involved in the making of the Kanawa: cutting the tree, transporting the trunk, preparing the top of the trunk and finally digging it up. Here is a diaporama describing all the different steps of the making.

CocoNews Guadeloupe introduces the project to its readers and reveals the itinerary of the ride [Fr].

@ CocoNews Guadeloupe

@ CocoNews Guadeloupe

The journey was scheduled as follows: leave le Prêcheur in Martinique on May 21st and go back to le Prêcheur on June 1st, after stops in the Caribbean islands of Dominica, les Saintes, Guadeloupe (Basse-Terre then Grande-Terre) and Antigua. The trip included about thirty people, including historians, athletes, sociologists and writers, but it was also open to anyone else who had an interest in the project. This post lists all the participants.

Quite apart from its social integration and historical aspects, this project has had an important impact at the level of memory and conscience. To understand this better, CocoNews quotes one of the objectives of the project [Fr]:

L'objectif de KYTANGOMINGO EMA est la réouverture symbolique et matérielle de la route de navigation maritime des temps anciens,…

The objective of KYTANGOMINGO EMA is the symbolic and material opening of the old-time seafaring…

But the best way to understand the motivation behind the project is to read about the experiences of the passengers and rowers [Fr]:

L'aventure Martinique-Antigua a été pour moi une expérience très valorisante humainement parlant. Découvrir les îles des Caraïbes comme nos ancêtres amérindiens et pouvoir ressentir les moments forts de leur arrivée sur une terre inconnue

The Martinique-Antigua adventure was a very enriching human experience for me. Discovering the Caribbean islands as our native ancestors did it and being able to experience the strong feelings they had when they landed on these unknown lands.

The general success of the initiative has gone a long way to inspire the team in its plan for next year: reaching Puerto Rico by kanawa.

1 comment

  • What a wonderful journey – St. Lucia still has the tradition of making Carib canoes but it’s fast disappearing as ‘progress’ makes its path…what a way to connect with the past.

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