Cimémoriel: to honor the deceased who worked for Guadeloupe

This Thursday, November 1 (All Saints Day), at 4:00 pm and at the cemetery of Pointe-à-Pitre, the association “Nou a Yo” had invited the Guadeloupean population to the 3rd Cimémoriel, an event whose objective is to discover or better know our illustrious dead and their works. Tombs of cultural and social figures were visited.

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This idea of highlighting the dead people who worked for Guadeloupe was launched by Patrick Nériny who presents himself as an advocate of local heritage. This year, it was the 3rd edition of this event that takes place during the period of All Saints’ Day. It must be known that in Guadeloupe this religious feast does not celebrate only the saints; Indeed, that day it is a tradition for the Guadeloupeans to go to the cemeteries to flower the graves, light candles and spend time with the dead of their families etc; on November 2 (Day of the dead), those who wish can also visit their dead…

The Cimémoriel 2018 has been included in the calendar of events of “Nou a Yo” (We to Others) which was founded in 2017 and is chaired by Servais Vilovar. “We created the association “Nou a Yo” after Hurricane Maria and our main objective was to help the victims, especially those who, in Guadeloupe, had lost their roof through volunteer work of a group of contractors”, he said.

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Moïse Benjamin aka “Benzo”, the guest of honor of the 3rd Cimémoriel

The participants in this original tribute had to meet at the main entrance of the cemetery. Several tombs should be visited that afternoon, including that of Aimée Adeline, Méry Elisé, Marcel Mavounzy and Manuella Pioche. Several people accepted this invitation : Moïse Benjamin aka “Benzo” (storyteller, Creole teacher, comedian, writer, saxophonist and leader of the band “Kasika”) who was the guest of honor of the Cimémoriel 2018; Rony Théophile (singer, dancer and president of the association “Les Cuisinières de la Guadeloupe”); Alvin Belrain (the young president of “Adeline et Ballet Brisquante”) with some beautiful dancers and members of this cultural association; Jocelyn Mavounzy (Marcel Mavounzy’s son); Marie Mavounzy (Robert Mavounzy’s daughter); José Gatibelza (Robert Mavounzy’s grandson ); Julienne Gob (official communication of the association “Restan-la”, well-known in local carnival) etc.

Then, in warm sun, all these people went in procession (or almost) to the cemetery. During the whole event, as a true master of ceremonies, Patrick Nériny will make a short presentation of each deceased to the participants and the three media present (Canal 10, France-Antilles and and, those who wish, will tell testimonies and anecdotes…

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Aimée Adeline, the founder of “La Brisquante”

The first tomb which was visited was that of Aimée Adeline (December 19, 1907-August 15, 1977) better known as Mrs (or Man, in Creole) Adeline, the founder of the association “L’Entraide féminine”. This great lady of culture who is often remembered during carnival also participated in the parades with her dance troupe called “La Brisquante” and some “tambouyé” (ka players) like Marcel Lollia nicknamed “Vélo”, Antoine Sopta and Artème Brabant. Before, in the 1950s-60s, she promoted our creole costume and our traditional music in France and abroad. On August 15, “Nou a Yo” affixed a plaque on the grave of Aimée Adeline with these words: “Man Adeline fè gwo tanbou vwayagé” (Mrs Adeline has traveled with the big drum).

For anything, the members of “La Brisquante” who cherish Man Adeline would not have missed this tribute at the cemetery. These ladies had put on their nice Creole dresses as if they were going onstage… To end, everyone sang for Mrs Adeline and Alvin Belrain placed a beautiful spray on her grave.

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Méry Élisé, the inspirer of the Maison Départementale de l’Enfance

Then, the procession stopped at Méry Élisé’s grave, where there were already members of her family, including one of her adopted daughters. The social work of this important person in the island is unknown to Guadeloupeans while it is similar to that of Mother Teresa (1910-1997). Indeed, after the devastating cyclone in 1928 that killed 1,200 people and caused significant damage on the island, there were delays on sea traffic with France, there were no medicines and diseases killed children. Méry Élisé was part of this group of people who decided to react to help the most underprivileged families. The association “La Goutte de lait” was created and, on the ground floor of the current Sub-Prefecture of Pointe-à-Pitre, free consultations were given for infants and milk was distributed. In her little house, Méry Élisé welcomed many children, then a wooden nursery will be built on Camilles Desmoulins Square thanks to the help of generous donors. In order to collect funds, Méry Élisé will organize contests and a sumptuous annual ball in which the middle class will participate, she will ask money to shopkeepers and will even sell her jewels to ensure the daily life of these children. Unfortunately, through lack of grant, this nursery will eventually close. Méry Élisé also fought for the building of a Departmental House of Childhood which exists, today, in Les Abymes.

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Marcel Mavounzy, the first local music producer

Marcel Mavounzy (1919-2005) was one of the illustrious figures to be visited by the procession. His brother Robert Mavounzy (1917-1974) who was buried at the cemetery of Saint-Ouen (France) was not forgotten in this tribute ceremony. Both were born in Colon, Panama, of Guadeloupean parents: Robert was a famous saxophonist who worked with great French and American jazzmen, as for Marcel, he was the first local music producer and editor in Guadeloupe, an activity he started in 1953.

Several family members were present at the cementery of Pointe-à-Pitre. Jocelyn, Marcel’s son spoke about record production and we learned that Henri Debs was not always the great record producer since he worked for the Mavounzy as a driver… Patrick Nériny said that Marcel Mavounzy was the first who wrote on a record, the word “Gwo ka”: “before, people said “gwo tanbou” (big drum) as it is written on the tomb of Mrs Adeline. For writting the word “gwo ka”, he was threatened with excommunication by the Catholic Church, he had to leave his island, Guadeloupe, to take refuge in France”, said the member of the association “Nou a Yo”. “Marcel Mavounzy also had a brilliant career as an engineer at Dassault (…)”, Patrick Nériny continued. Marie, Robert’s daughter, who worked in the family business started singing a very rhythmic track in front of the grave that the participants took up in chorus.

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Manuella Pioche, the talented singer

The sun was beginning to disappear when the procession arrived in front of the tomb of Marie-Emmanuelle Anastasie Pioche, also known as Manuella Pioche (March 27, 1932-January 3, 1970). The famous artist who was often compared with Billie Holiday could sing all kinds of rhythms (biguine, Creole waltz, bolero, mazurka etc). In her career, she belonged to several bands in particular “Hot Swing Baby” with her brother who was a trumpet player and “Esperanza”. If today, it seems normal for a woman to join a group of musicians, at that time, it was not allowed so, Manuella was very criticized…

Her skills as a vocalist led her to work with all producers : Guy Anselme-Forestal (the one who gave her the stage name, Manuella), Henri Debs, Raymond Célini and Henri Béville.

More than forty years after her death, her interpretations like Bossi la”, “Bèl mori”, “Peut-être un jour”, “On bèl kostim’ kon sa”, “Limbé”, “Fleurs de mai”, “Moun aw sé moun aw”, “Une nuit à Port-Louis”, “Chat’ la” etc. have not dated at all and can be sold at the record dealers’. The participants were placed around the grave of this great lady to sing for her.

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The need for greater media coverage, according to Patrick Nériny

At the end of this tour at the Pointe-à-Pitre cemetery, we could see that the “last home” of these four figures is very simple…

At around 6:00 pm, the participants returned at the main entrance of the cemetery where Patrick Nériny, as a perfect organizer, served them various fruit juices, mini sandwiches and mini bokits or cake. Discussion between participants to get to know each other continued for over two hours…

“Nou a Yo” aims to make annual this event however, Patrick Nériny regreted that some local media did not come because more reports could encourage people to be interested in our elders who built our island, our heritage…

It must be said that in 2015, the Cimémoriel had already honored Aimé Adeline and Manuella Pioche but also Marcel Lollia in the presence of another great Guadeloupean musician and singer, Daniel Forestal, who died in 2016 at the age of 83.

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The optimism of Servais Vilovar, president of “Nou a Yo”

For his part, Servais Vilovar gave a rather positive review of these various tributes. “I think that this third edition of the Cimémoriel was very moving. The light is on the graves, then it is on the living; we must first light the way for the dead so that we receive light (…) I am not worried about the future of this event”, he said. The president of the association “Nou a Yo” who was the principal at the Charles de Gaulle secondary school and the Gerty Archimède High School in Morne-à-l’Eau relies heavily on transmission of knowledge to younger generations. “When I was 30, they came to get me to belong to the Association départementale des intérêts guadeloupéens (ADIG), it was chaired by Raoul Nicolo, I was the general secretary and I never left the community life”, he said. The Unité de recherches et d’actions de la Guadeloupe (UNIRAG), the Fédération des oeuvres laïques (FOLG), the Association départementale des pupilles de l’enseignement public (ADEPEP) and the Institut thérapeutique éducatif et pédagogique (ITEP) are some of the many associations to which Servais Vilovar made his contribution. Moreover, Patrick Nériny said: “I don’t know who sent me this gentleman, probably he is heaven-sent!”