French Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, was in Martinique from April 4 to 5 and Guadeloupe from April 06 to 07. He visited emblematic cultural sites and met cultural figures in both islands, including those operating in the heritage field.
Appointed 5 months ago Minister of Culture, Franck Riester was eager to come to the French communities in the Caribbean to discuss and advance important issues in the field of culture and heritage with local elected officials. It must be said that he had the opportunity to deal with cultural subjects because when he was a deputy, he was a member of the Cultural Affairs and Education Commission in the French National Assembly.
Franck Riester started his official visit to our region with Martinique where he participated in the launching of a “yole ronde”, a way of assuring the population that the government will support the candidacy for inscription of this traditional boat as a world heritage by Unesco as had announced President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, at the National Major Debate with the elected representatives from the overseas territories in Paris, last December. The Minister also visited the Lakou Sanblé school, Aimé Césaire’s House, the Tropiques Atrium in Fort-de-France. He talked about the local cultural projects developed in cooperation with the Government to Alfred Marie-Jeanne, President of the Executive Council of Martinique.
One of the important issues he had to treat was the Franck Perret Museum located in the former capital of Martinique, Saint-Pierre, which was founded in 1933 by American vulcanologist Frank Alvord Perret and which is devoted to the eruption of the Montagne Pelée volcano, on May 8, 1902. At the beginning of 2020, with the financial contribution of the Government, will start renovation work for 1.5 million euros to bring up the Franck Perret Museum to standard that is listed as “Musée de France”. The mayor of this “City of Art and History”, Pierre Christian Rapha, has just signed an agreement with the Culturabam Foundation, managed by Bernard Hayot, that will be responsible for the management of this public facility where many tourists go. The Minister also signed a convention to register archaeological objects at the Franck Perret Museum.
On Saturday, April 06, Franck Riester arrived in Guadeloupe and, immediately, he went to the town of Morne-à-l’Eau; he stopped at the cementery known for its chequered tombs and he visited the Saint-André Church whose bell tower will be renovated thanks to the participation of the Government and the Loto du Patrimoine, launched by Stéphane Bern. Then, the Minister went to the town of Le Moule to visit the Zévallos House with its chimney 18 metres high that is famous for its beautiful Eiffel style architecture dating from the 19th century and legends that surround it… This site also needs to be renovated.
A future Centre for contemporary art supported by the government
In the afternoon, Franck Riester went to the Memorial ACTe built on the site of the former sugar factory of Darboussier founded in 1869 in Pointe-à-Pitre. After visited the permanent exhibition on the history of slavery from antiquity to today, the Minister said he was “deeply upset” and recognized that the “Caribbean centre of expressions and memory of the transatlantic slave trade and slavery” was “a great success”. He announced the Government’s contribution up to 1 million euros to meet the expenses of this centre which opened its doors to the public in 2015 and which is running a 4 million euros deficit. The MACTe with its area of 7,800 m2 will soon change status, it will no longer be managed exclusively by the regional authority because it will become a Public Institution for Cultural Cooperation (EPCC) with the participation of the Cap Excellence Urban Area Community, the Université des Antilles or the Port Authority of Guadeloupe.
During his visit to the site, the Minister of Culture also said that the Government will financially support the creation of the “Centre of contemporary art” in the former administrative premises of the Darboussier factory. The city council of Pointe-à-Pitre agrees to provide these premises for the Regional Council of Guadeloupe to create this new cultural venue that will be in resonance with the Memorial ACTe and will constitute another tourist offer for the territory. “It will be a place of production, for experiments and business and will be with the local contemporary artists in the variety of their practices and will contribute to the emergence of Guadeloupean artists on the national, Caribbean and international market”, said Ary Chalus, the president of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe.
For his part, Franck Riester welcomed this ambitious cultural policy and admitted that Guadeloupean artists needed a place to exhibit their works, a place that could help spread their work on the national territory.“Culture is not decided in Paris but in collaboration with the territorial players. The French culture is plural and the overseas territories is an integral part of it. Guadeloupe is a land of artists. And I want to re-focus the cultural politicy on the artists and creators”, said the Minister of Culture during his official visit.
Franck Riester’s last stop was Basse-Terre, the administrative capital of Guadeloupe. He went to the Notre Dame de Guadeloupe Cathedral in the “City of Art and History” to see the organ inaugurated on December 15, 2018, the paintings listed as national heritage and the room of treasures presented to the audience on February 15. The Minister of Culture also was at a lyric concert in L’Artchipel, Scène nationale and met the artists and culturals figures on the island. Franck Riester continued his official visit to Guiana.