“La Pointe hier et aujourd’hui”, an exhibition to discover and love Pointe-à-Pitre

Opening of the exhibition "La Pointe, hier et aujourd'hui" - Photo: Évelyne Chaville

From February 2 to 22 takes place at the Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta (Rémy Nainsouta Cultural Centre) in Pointe-à-Pitre an exhibition entitled “La Pointe hier et aujourd’hui” (La Pointe yesterday and today) which is composed of 350 documents (old and current photos, texts, plans, cuttings). It is the result of a long research work on the city of Pointe-à-Pitre, carried out for ten months by historian Maryse Rinaldo and photographer David Grégoire.

Expo La Pointe hier & aujourd'hui 9A

This exhibition “La Pointe hier et aujourd’hui” is the result of a collaboration between two people who have a passion for the historical record and the architectural heritage of the city of Pointe-à-Pitre. Maryse Rinaldo, a retired history and geography teacher who worked for several years at Nestor Kermadec Junior high school in Pointe-à-Pitre and has been collecting for decades postcards of her island dating from 1895 to 1935 and David Grégoire, a globe-trotter who likes photography and visual arts and who has been living in Pointe-à-Pitre since 2015.

“I met Mrs. Rinaldo last year when she came to visit an exhibition I had done on architecture in Pointe-à-Pitre. She told me that she had a collection of old postcards and she wanted I made current photos of the places, the buildings that were on these pictures. We discussed for two months and I succeeded in convincing her that we should make an exhibition to show to everybody the results of our research”, said David Grégoire.

Photo: Archives Départementales de la Guadeloupe FRAD971_5FI020_108_C

350 documents on several districts

For ten long months, both history and photography lovers will analyze the old photos, tourist guides, maps, booklets, books, in short all kinds of documents already published in particular by the city, the Société d’Histoire de la Guadeloupe, the pensioners’ Club of the Mutuelle Nationale de l’Éducation Nationale (MGEN) etc. “Sometimes we phoned each other late into the night if we had found interesting things. We regularly talked about the selection of photos and stories to tell people. In concrete terms, we took a map of the city and we chose the districts and places in these districts to highlight but we had to have their pictures. Today we have regular discussions”, he continued.

This very long work led to this great exhibition entitled “La Pointe hier et aujourd’hui” which is composed of 350 documents (including 200 old and current photos, texts, cuttings and maps) and which takes place at the Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta.

Photo: Archives Départementales de la Guadeloupe FRAD971_5FI020_147_C

A trip to the past of Pointe-à-Pitre

So, the visitor will walk in the past of several districts of the city such as: Fond Laugier, Raspail, Massabielle, Assainissement, Bergevin, Lauricisque, La Marina. He will learn, among other things, that the Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta was before the Hospice Saint-Jules; the seat of the Chambre de Commerce des Îles de la Guadeloupe (Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Islands of Guadeloupe) was the Hotel Diligenti (former Grand Hotel); the media library located in Achille René-Boisneuf street was the old town hall; Lycée Carnot (Carnot High School) was the Hôpital Militaire (Military Hospital); at the present location of La Poste de Bergevin (Post Office) was the Morne Loret where lived a certain Mr Lauricisque, this hill was bought by the municipality of the time which razed it and the new district became Lauricisque; there were two charcoal markets in the city, one near the current town hall and the other at La Darse etc. The visitor will also see old and current photos of these places.

Today, the success of this exhibition is indisputable. Last February 1, at 6:00 pm, about a hundred people attended the private view. Last year, David Grégoire had already had the opportunity to organize a photographic exhibition entitled “Habitations d’hier et d’aujourd’hui à Pointe-à-Pitre” (Houses of yesterday and today in Pointe-à-Pitre), in this same hall which also had a great success.

Photo: Archives Départementales de la Guadeloupe FRAD971_5FI020_035_C

A very large audience

“For this exhibition, there are ten times as many visitors, the flows are regular. From Monday to Friday, young people come between 12 o’clock and 2:00 pm, between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm and on Saturday, adults come during the day (…) The communication is done above all by word of mouth, the audience is very happy with what it sees. Some visitors have already seen the exhibition two or three times. We want that everyone to be satisfied to learn something”, said David Grégoire.

The photographer and the former history and geography teacher bank on pedagogy to promote the human and architectural wealth of the city. “Many people think there is nothing about Pointe-à-Pitre, in fact, there are many documents written, among others, by historians, researchers, writers etc. We just have to half-open the door and go in and see what’s inside, I do not want to close this door”, said the young man who, one year after he arrived in the city, made a tour from the cruise terminal to the Memorial ACTe with historic places to discover…

Photo: Archives Départementales de la Guadeloupe FRAD971_5FI020_067_C

Schoolchildren, eager for knowledge

Among the many visitors who rush to the Centre Culturel Rémy Nainsouta, from Monday to Saturday, there are pupils from Pointe-à-Pitre schools who come with their teachers. On Thursday, February 14, the day of our report, these visits began. “This morning, we had pupils from fourth and fifth year in primary school in the Externat de Cluny who were really glad to discover the history of the city, they did not stop to ask questions about the floods, Frébault street, Place de la Victoire, for example and they were taking notes. Some children often said: “my parents do not like Pointe-à-Pitre (…)” but when they ask questions about the past and we brought them explanations, they said: “now, I love Pointe-à-Pitre”. The transmission of knowledge is not done any more, young people must learn to love this city”, explained David Grégoire. The other schoolchildren – especially those from Raphaël Jolivière School and Front de Mer Junior High School – who will come to visit this exhibition will also be eager for information about the city where they live but which, unfortunately, makes the headlines because of crime…

Photo: Archives Départementales de la Guadeloupe FRAD971_5FI020_083_C

Researchers interested by this exhibition

According to the photographer, Pointe-à-Pitre lacks a little romance, a storytelling to tell locals and tourists: “With my outside view, I try to recreate that, to show people what they do not see. Pointe-à-Pitre, by its lana area, is a small town but it has a very rich heritage and it is beautiful. It is like a cake that overflows the tin because of its history”.

This exhibition is also a great opportunity to hear and collect a lot of anecdotes about the city, stories that seem to have been buried in the memory perhaps because some people were ashamed to say that they belong to this city. For example, there was this man who remembered that his family had about ten houses which were rented to the Syrians and Lebanese; there was also this woman who told that her family owned Le Rialto and Le Grand Hôtel des Antilles, a fire broke out in the first in 1950 and in the second in 1953…

In addition, French and Swedish researchers would be very interested in the abundance of this exhibition on Pointe-à-Pitre. Maryse Rinaldo and David Grégoire will soon publish a educational book with all this documentation.