Visual artist Laurrence Brudey and art master Yves Thôle share their love of the Ka-drum

Visual artist Laurrence Brudey and art master Yves Thôle - Photo: Evelyne Chaville

From Wednesday 5 to Sunday 9 June, Mouvman Kiltirèl Akiyo organized an exhibition entitled “Sonjé Vélo” at the Pavillon de la Ville in Pointe-à-Pitre, as part of the 40th anniversary of the death of percussionist Marcel Lollia aka “Vélo”. Visual artist Laurrence Brudey presented 40 pieces made from 40 Ka-drum made by famous art master, percussion builder and restorer Yves Thôle during a 5-month artistic collaboration. On Thursday June 06, Kariculture spoke with Laurrence Brudey about this highly original and rewarding project

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Kariculture : Could you introduce yourself?

L. B. : I was “revealed” because I was doing artistic activities, but never to the general public, it was really in a very personal context. I went to New Caledonia for four years…

Expo Laurrence Brudey & Yves Thôle 7CKariculture : Over there?

L. B. : Yes, I was lucky enough to meet Kanak women who introduced me to the secret of matter, the work of vegetable matter, and especially, especially, especially “reconciled” me with my Guadeloupean culture, where I had trouble finding my place. And that’s where it all started. They passed on to me what they had to pass on for four years, and I learned a lot of things in New Caledonia: I learned to make my own frames, to cut my own wood, to create my own works, to color the sand I use and I insist, it’s building site sand because we are not allowed to collect it on the beaches. It’s white sand that I wash, dry and color. They taught me, they gave me all this, I returned to Guadeloupe and I said to myself that I absolutely must be able to create works that speak and promote the culture of Guadeloupe.

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Kariculture : When did you have your Caledonian experience?

L. B. : My experience in New Caledonia was from 2006 to 2010.

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Kariculture : So, 14 years ago…

L. B. : It’s been 14 years and I’m still not back…

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Kariculture : Is your soul still there?

L. B. : My soul, I think there’s a part of me that stayed in New Caledonia.

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Kariculture : Is this exhibition just for this event, or will you redo these works? Is it a kind of signature?

L. B. : This is my signature indeed because I’m a visual artist who works exclusively with plant matter from our Guadeloupe territory. Of course, by educating, reminding everyone of the virtues of this material transmitted by my elders, I’m surrounded by seniors who talk to me about it, and it’s part of my research process for my artistic approach ; then there’s the symbolism it represents, for example, on the paintings you will find feathers representing lightness, flight.

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Kariculture : I saw a list of materials you used in your works, is it only recycling?

L. B. : It’s all recycled. I was given some plant seeds, and the wood is Yves Thôle’s ka staves, which were to be sent to the recycling center because they weren’t suitable for making the ka, so I picked them up and sublimated them.

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Kariculture : How did this collaboration between you and Yves Thôle begin?

L. B. : Quite simply, it began with a dream. An artist is a process, we are all artists at heart, we all have to look inside of ourselves, we all know how to create something. So the process is simple. How did it happen? It’s this desire, I would not say to give life back, but to prolong it. Regarding the pair we have today, it’s Akiyo who, as part of the 40th anniversary of the death of “Vélo”, wanted to invite us, and I accepted the invitation to honor the work I had already started with Yves, because it’s also my vision. So, it was an opportunity to show the different stages of ka making according to the Yves Thôle method.

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Kariculture : Here, your work entitled “Ka la paré pou soné”, is it a copy of a drum-ka? I saw you explain it to schoolchildren…

L. B. : In fact, I diclined all the stages involved in the ka making, so inevitably the ka is presented in an artistic way. Indeed, the composition of the works responds to the image, to the real object in an artistic way. I’ve added my little style, my little vision, my little feminine touch…

Expo Laurrence Brudey & Yves Thôle 4KKariculture : Can you explain this work?

L. B. : Just above it, there’s a barrel stave. Yves is a cooper and this barrel was broken, so I salvaged this stave. It represents the drum’s rope artistically. The staves that are glued upright to make the drum are calabash pieces that I hung one by one. There are 251 of them. If you look closely (you take a step back), you’re looking at the drum from the front, you don’t try to look at the top, the work is exactly the drum seen from the front with its three circles that are represented with the offspring of the royal palm that was bent to give the shape. Then, the drum’s “cochettes” are represented with bamboo circles, and the key is a piece of welded wire mesh (waste from my workshop that I built not long ago). The string is banana tree fiber. On this piece, you have 7 drums representing the 7 rhythms of gwo-ka. There is a soursop flower in relation to its health benefits, since it’s used to make baths, decoctions and so on. That’s why I told you about symbolism. The drum is something that captures, that allows to connect with the energies around it, it is something that brings joy. I represented the horns with the “hura crépitans” seeds. The goatskin is present because, when Yves works, there is waste, which you’ll find here at the level of the lying stave.

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Kariculture : So you “cleaned” his workshop (laughs)…

L. B. : Yes, he’s happy because I’ve “cleaned” his workshop (laughs).

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Kariculture : What does this collaboration bring to you?

L. B. : As an artist, it’s very important to me.

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Kariculture : Yves Thôle is a monument…

L. B. : Yves Thôle is a monument, he is someone with a big heart, and he is also someone who knows how to transmit. In Guadeloupe, many of our elders leave with their secrets, but he’s one of those who pass them on, so he passed them on to me during the 5 months of immersion and creation to produce 40 pieces. There was a kind of duet, of binomial, of osmosis, and above all special moments with Yves, who explained to me all the little secrets of making the ka. Now I can make a ka all by myself (laughs)…

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Jacqueline Cachemire-Thôle

Kariculture : You will compete with him (laughs)…

L. B. : Competition, but in an artistic way, because I respect the work of my craftsmen, because I wanted to honor them through my works, because, as you say, it’s a monument and it’s during people’s lifetime that we should be able to say that there was work done in Guadeloupe, they did their part – when you see Yves, you see his wife Jacqueline – they made their contribution and it’s important to honor all these people.

Expo Laurrence Brudey & Yves Thôle 25PKariculture : Will this exhibition be touring?

L. B. : I will be at L’Arawak from 17 July to August 31, where some of the works will be on display. In October, I will be at Le Lamentin’s media library with some of these works and some new ones, because an artist never stops creating.