Taking of the Centre des Arts et de la Culture by ANG: an unnecessary act

On Monday 5 July, the Centre des Arts et de la Culture in Pointe-à-Pitre was taken over. We learned that the “assailants” or occupiers were artists from the Alyans Nasyonal Gwadloup (ANG), a nationalist political movement that ran in the recent regional elections with a list called “Nou”. It came third among the 12 candidate-lists with 8,591 votes, its activists surely thought they had the legitimacy to make a bang in the night. One of the artists, in a somewhat confused speech on national television, rather cheerful and not serious given the circumstances, said that they were waiting for someone to come and talk to them…

It may be asked what was the point of all this? To do a bit of communication and promotion on the back of this “poor Centre des Arts et de la Culture” in agony for years? Culture is obviously at half-mast since the appearance of Covid-19 (responsible for all the ills) but this situation is not unique to Guadeloupe, it is global. In the Caribbean, where financial aid was less than in our country, artists are patient and their condition is critical…

Therefore, we can be surprised by this way of doing things because all the members of the ANG who are knowledgeable about the political news in Guadeloupe know perfectly well who is responsible for the Centre des Arts et de la Culture in Pointe-à-Pitre. They know perfectly well that it is the Cap Excellence agglomeration community that has been in charge of this structure for many years… So why did the ANG leaders and a delegation of artists who are members of this movement not ask for an audience with the president of Cap Excellence, whom they know very well? Some of them call him by his first name, are on familiar terms with him, pat him on the back, have a drink with him, laugh with him, joke with him, discuss serious and non-serious subjects with him, send him applications for grants to make their cultural projects a reality, etc. In short, he’s their “boug” (friend).

Of course, during the big televised debate on national television with the 12 heads of list during the regional elections, culture, which is the soul of the country and which creates jobs, was totally forgotten among the topics of discussion. We were very surprised that no artist or cultural movement denounced this state of affairs in the period between the two rounds of the elections.

It is never too late to do the right thing, but some artists did not understand this show of force last Monday and some even claim that it is the most “spoiled”, the most “well-off” artists who always demand more : “those who have already had thousands of euros in public subsidies to organize their festival, travel to represent the archipelago in France or elsewhere, participate in international exhibitions, organize exhibitions and concerts in Guadeloupe and abroad, those whose family name opens all the doors who shout the loudest while our files are buried (. .)”, they said with indignation.

This astonishment was also seen in the interview given by the president of the culture commission of Cap Excellence on Wednesday 7 July to a private radio. For her, this “group of citizens” should have contacted the local authority to find out about the progress of this file. However, if we followed the episodes of this series of the Centre des Arts et de la Culture in Pointe-à-Pitre, we cannot help being surprised by the statements of this elected representative for culture of Cap Excellence. Indeed, in November 2020, was it not planned to sell the Centre des Arts et de la Culture since the city of Pointe-à-Pitre is bankrupt and the Cap Excellence agglomeration community said it could no longer afford to pay all the expenses? In the weeks following, we saw trucks coming to pick up equipment (cranes, etc.) on the site.

Today, this elected representative of the town hall of Les Abymes and the Cap Excellence agglomeration community said : “It was initially a project of the city of Pointe-à-Pitre, but the city of Pointe-à-Pitre could not carry out the project, so it is Cap Excellence that is carrying the project”. An agglomeration community is a marriage where the spouses are supportive, so it is normal that Cap Excellence is in charge of this project.

“But a project carried by Cap Excellence is not a project stamped Cap Excellence, the Centre des Arts is a structure that belongs to Guadeloupe, that belongs to artists from everywhere (…)”, she explained. Really? Cap Excellence has been legally managing the renovation work since 2010 and 11 years later it realizes that it is not strong enough to complete the project? They talk about several companies that would have gone bankrupt, if this is true, for why such a financial disaster? Would the Centre des Arts et de la Culture de Pointe-à-Pitre cursed?

“The Centre des Arts project has three components: a creation component, a training component and a distribution component. We think that the distribution component should be prioritized. This is why we are going to implement our action programme very quickly so that at least the viewing room will be available for the second half of 2022 (…)”, said the elected representative on this local private radio station. In other words, part of the building site will be completed for the production of shows in one year. Can they do this and anyway, with what money? Money from the Regional Council and the Departmental Council of Guadeloupe? Was this stunt intended to put pressure on the presidents of the archipelago’s two major local authorities?

One thing is certain, the election campaign is over. The next regional elections are in March 2028 and no one knows if voters will massively support Alyans Nasyonal Gwadloup or if this political movement will still exist. For the next 7 years will the ANG be in construction or protest? Moreover, if the ANG artists want to lead our archipelago one day, they must know that politics is not a “flash mob” and that they will have to sit down and discuss the various issues in peace and quiet in order to take the necessary decisions.

Centre des Arts et de la Culture de Pointe-à-Pitre 2018