Why is the World Kréyol Art Festival taking place while Guadeloupe is on lockdown?

Joey Starr, French singer and actor native of Martinique - Work by Skem (World Kréyol Art Festival 2019) - Photo: Évelyne Chaville

While many thought that the World Kréyol Art Festival scheduled from May 1 to 8, 2021 would be cancelled because Guadeloupe has been on lockdown for three weeks since Tuesday, April 27, they are surprised to learn that the event is being held.

This cultural event is taking place, moreover, in a rather particular way. Street art fans are waiting for a programme promised by the organization which, at the time of writing, has still not been published. We learn that artists are placed here and there without too many details to perform their works. For its part, the statement by the prefecture of Guadeloupe, that we recieved on April 30, is very clear about this event : “To date, the prefecture did not receive any request for a derogation to maintain this festival”.

Would the 3rd edition of the WKAF be clandestine during this lockdown? Our life is punctuated by attestations justifying our every move if we do not want to have a 135-fine from the police… What attestation of movement will these artists provide if there is a police check? Will the current municipality of Pointe-à-Pitre issue them with an attestation of movement for “beautification” of the city? These are questions that some of the artists invited to take part in the event are also asking…

In the past, graffiti artists and their graffiti have been fought and misunderstood in Guadeloupe and elsewhere. Indeed, people often passed in front of a “blank” wall and the next day they were surprised to discover a fresco done at night by one or more individuals on the sly and without authorization.

The launch of the WKAF has succeeded in staging artists in their own right and putting names to faces that were previously unknown. Only a few were known to have painted on the walls of residences, bridges, stadiums and other places against payment. In 2019, for several days, these artists were able to express their talents on walls after obtaining permission from the former municipality of Pointe-à-Pitre, private or public organizations and residents.

The popular success of this cultural event, during this 2nd edition, was possible because the spectators (residents of Pointe-à-Pitre and other towns or tourists) were able to see the artists create their works live, make photos and videos of their artistic performances, take selfies with them, comment on the frescoes, discuss with these creators who were very accessible. They enjoyed a real live show.

So, what can explain the organization of this street art festival in the middle of a lockdown when it would have been wiser to wait until the number of people infected with Covid-19 to drop and Guadeloupe to come out of lockdown? Is it a question of pleasing the artists but without the presence of the public or with spectators who are not allowed to be in the streets by law? Of course, after this lockdown, people will surely discover these drawings with joy, but they will not have participated in this festival, which would have taken place in a sort of clandestinity… Some people will perhaps take a rickshaw tour of the city to get explanations from the artists and will have to pay 35 euros…