Martinique is an interesting island, though very different from other countries in the Caribbean. A French territory, Martinique is a blend of the European and Caribbean, which means there are huge differences between Martinique and other islands. Most transparently to me so far, Martinique abides by French law and an overriding French sensibility, and the region is quite safe in comparison to surrounding nations. However, life does not teem here along the streets as it does in other Caribbean countries. There is little in the way of public transportation, something that is prevalent in other Caribbean countries where many cannot afford private vehicles. And the island is very expensive.
How does all of this affect writing and the creative act? While the French language and its dominance in Martinique have created an awareness of new rhythms and diction that can appear in my writing, it seems that it will take more effort, somehow, to source subject matter for creative material. What I mean is that life in other Caribbean islands seems to reach out and grab me immediately. The constant bustle, hustle and energy of places like Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana instantly make me aware of grand differences between my life up North and life down South and give me immediate material to write about. Life in Martinique seems to be a bit more reserved and subtle. Though there is a distinct history here, as there always is in a region, contemporary and quotidian life is more sheltered, in a sense, behind private doors. I’m not sure yet if this is simply a result of a country associated with another country removed from its immediate demographic (I have not yet travelled to many places in the Caribbean that are part of outside holdings) or if this is a specific characteristic of Martinique.
All of this said, there are three things thus far that have given me pause for consideration and inspiration.
The first is the ruins of an old theatre found at Pointe du Bout, covered by wonderful graffiti, an art form I have long admired. The seclusion of this setting, found behind built-up tourist hotels, reminds me of the often separate worlds of what tourists come to see and the contemporary life that actually exists in a place.
The second point of fascination for me thus far is the old home of poet, critic and politician Aimé Césaire. To place the life of one whom I have studied as an influential thinker amongst an understanding of where he actually came from prompts me to rethink and reread his contributions with a different eye.
The third is a memorial called Cap 110 which local artist Laurent Valere designed and erected at Anse Caffard, North of the city of Diamond, to remember the tragic sinking of a slave ship in 1830 and the act of slavery. The monument faces the sea and the Gulf of Guinea, from where the ship is thought to have come. The haunting and magnificent installation is a powerful reminder of how the past must be remembered, how the past still influences the present, and how the power of art illuminates important lessons and lives.