What happened to the Contemporary art Centre promised by the Regional Council of Guadeloupe?

On Saturday April 6, 2019, Franck Riester, the former Minister of Culture (now Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Attractiveness), was in Guadeloupe. During this tour in the Caribbean, the member of the French government met with cultural actors from our archipelago as well as those from Martinique. Among the announcements made in Guadeloupe by the Minister, there was the support of the French State in the implementation of the project of construction of a Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), presented by the Guadeloupe Region.

This new artistic structure was to be located opposite the Memorial ACTe in the administrative building of the former Darboussier factory. The Regional Council of Guadeloupe explained that this future “space will enhance the diversity of the regional cultural offer in order to promote Guadeloupean artists to local and tourist clients. At once shrine place of production, experimentation and business, it will accompany contemporary artists in the diversity of their practices and contribute to the emergence of Guadeloupean visual artists on the national and international art market”.

It should be noted that more than two and a half years after this announcement, we have never heard of this famous Contemporary art centre again. It is true that the Covid-19 pandemic has stopped or delayed many projects led by the public authorities, but what is strange is that artists do not even talk about it…

Did some artists who have been squatting at the Centre des arts et de la culture de Pointe-à-Pitre for more than 4 months, get the wrong squat?

It is true that the future building that will house the Contemporary Art Centre is not in a central location, it has already been squatted for years by “homeless people” and its walls are already covered with all kinds of graffiti…

During the webinar entitled “Which Centre des arts et de la culture for Guadeloupe ?” and organized on October 1 by the Cap Excellence agglomeration community, a “visual artist-squatter-patriot” complained that there is no exhibition space in Guadeloupe. “Worthy of the name”, added one of the speakers (a visual artist himself) specifying that the new Centre des Arts et de la Culture was not intended to meet all the artistic needs that have been expressed in the Guadeloupean archipelago over the past thirty years…

Could it be that this “visual artist-squatter-patriot” and his fellow squatters are fighting the wrong battle and the wrong place?

Contemporary art centres have been present in the French territory for over forty years. In February 2020, there were 27 labelled CACs. “Their exhibition, experimentation, production, research, dissemination and mediation activities contribute to artistic renewal and cultural democratization, as well as to the dynamism of the French scene and its international influence”, states the Ministry of Culture on its web portal.

Doesn’t this future contemporary art centre supported by the State not have a greater financial capacity to promote the talent of our artists in Guadeloupe, the Caribbean and the rest of the world than the Centre des arts et de la culture de Pointe-à-Pitre, which, although historic, remains a simple municipal structure whose rehabilitation is struggling to be completed by the urban community that has been responsible for it for years? What will happen to the operating costs, given that the “flagship” (as Cap Excellence’s cultural magazine dubbed it in 2017) is already taking on water from all sides?

Obviously, there is no question of abandoning the mythical Centre des arts et de la culture de Pointe-à-Pitre to its sad fate, but we must not forget that its reopening will not solve all the artistic problems of our archipelago…

We cannot help “link” the issue of the Contemporary Art Centre to this thorny issue of the Pointe-à-Pitre Arts and Culture Centre, which has been illegally occupied since last July by a collective of artists and others supported by a nationalist political movement.

Kariculture.net was the first media outlet to denounce in an article the closure of this cultural space in September 2018. But because we dared to say that we disapproved of this occupation of the premises, we were insulted, accused of being on duty, our professional skills questioned by supporters of this illegal occupation or sometimes anonymous henchmen. By the way, the word “Patriot” was used by one of those henchmen.

It is therefore necessary to ask ourselves about this so-called “new society” that these people would like to build in this country of Guadeloupe if it is forbidden to think differently, to say that we do not agree. Will the press be muzzled in this new society? Where will freedom of expression be?

Should we then call these people “cardboard Tontons-macoutes”, as suggested by an artist? No, out of respect for all the victims who knew the “real” members of this terrible militia in a large Caribbean island, Haiti.