Group Title: CARIFESTA I - 1972
Title: Martinique and Carifesta by Oliver Hunter
Full Citation
Permanent Link:
 Material Information
Title: Martinique and Carifesta by Oliver Hunter
Series Title: CARIFESTA I - 1972
Physical Description: Archival
Publication Date: 1972
Spatial Coverage: Guyana -- Georgetown
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00099679
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text


Martinique "Pearl of the Indies" *.. an Island where India,
Africa and France meet to form a friendly people and a gay patois sends

to CARIFESTA a 12 year old group "Ballets Martinique" portraying the
indigenous Biguine dance, Mazurka and the ancestral warrior dance "Leghi!".

This 35 strong tr-upci has done a series of successful tours and
comes to CARIFE3Ti- straight from performances at the International folk
Festival in Munich,

The interesting thing about the Groupe FDlklorique Martiniquais
as they are called in their French language is that all of the dances
capture grassroots images of the Island of Martinique ...of their
interesting past that has moulded the present into shape.

The Martinique story started in 1502 when the Caribs greeted

Christopher Colombus with a shower of arrows. The discoverer was se

confused that it is said that he left the Island without naming it.

The Caribs of course at that time called the Island "Madinina"
Island of Flowers,

Unlike the many Islands of the Caribbean that have changed

hands many times, MNrtinique has been continually under French rule

for the pest 320 years; and althoughh the French influence dominates the
lands cultural seene there are still strong images of ffrica, India,
a bit of Spanish, English end the lot.

On the main road to St, Piere Fonds St. Denis and at Basse Point
many Hindu temples can be seen; and at certain times of the year Hindu
ceremonies involving slow dances, the beats of long narrow drums.and

frenzied sword dances which culminate with the .crificc of sheep, give
an Asiatic touch to the land.

Even the varied clothes worn by the Martiniquies are a blending

of many worlds, The. "Tete", a kind of turban of Medres material; the

silk neckkerchief, the skirt of vivid and iridescent colours; the

blouse, embroidered underskirt and jewell:ry are combinations of the
East, West and pre-Colombian.

The Martinique folk group will try to capture the gay spirit
Df the people, which comes out mainly between Jcnuary 11 and Ash

Wednesday when there is a big Carnival.

tree, I

- 2-

There is also a blossoming of the arts during this time with

much folklore and music competitions, the selection of the Queen of

Carnival, parades in the streets with much floats and dancing.

The Madric GrAs is the big day of the devils, the masks, the

fancy dresses On Ash Wednesday the Festival is at its fullest, it is

the grand finale of the Carnival...the day of the dreaded She-Devils.

On this Martiniqu-is high day, when pious celebrates of other lands are

having their foreheads blackened with holy cinders, nearly 40,000 masked

Martiniquais jam the Islandts capital Fort-de-France...and what a

colourful sunny bacchanal erupts.

But it is the female devils in grotesque masks and costumes that make

Martiniques Cariival is important that they wear costumes

that must only be in black and white; and it is said that this rule has

not been broken for a century.

The bacchanal is in honour of Vaval and Bois Bois. In the after-

noon the pulsating crowd builds a pyre for Vaval in the Savannah of

Fort-de-France. The people go wild as it gets dark and with the darkness

comes the fire from a thousand torches furdled unto the pyre consuming

Vaval. At this point the female devils literally go mad dancing around the
flames crying, screaming, w-ving torches with plaintive mournful cries and

shouts. Vaval is dead, dead, dead ....indeed those cries also toll the

world that Martiniquets Carnival is dead until next year January.

Maybe it can be said that the most unique thing about Martinique

is the dance; and all of the dances tell a story...a story of the people

and the land. It is this story that the Groupe Folklorique Manrtiniqu-is

will be telling in strange rhythms and movements on the CARIFESTA strGc.

They will present the 2iguine, Laghia, Mnzurk-, Les Negriers, Le

Bel Air, Calenda, and the Ting Bang.

The Biguine originated in MWrtinique and it is said that one can

tell the nature of a Martinique maiden her grace, impetuosity, etc -

by the way she dances the Piguine with its Frenzied, provoking, exciting


The Laghia is one of the few surviving warrior dances which the

slaves brought with them from Africa. It is a wrestling-d:nce nearly like

the Capoaire which the Viva B-his group will be bringing to CARIFESTA

from Er:zil.


- 3 -

This dance with is done all over the Island during the Festivities
for the patron saints calls for much flexibility and skill.

The Martiniquais sacred instrument "The Conch of Lambi'""

which reminds the people of the liberation of man by hard work and the
abolition of the slave trade, is used for this unique dance.

The Mizurka is danced only after one o'clock in the morning.
The natives feel that its movements allow the "bhlles" to abandon them-
selves in the arms of their partners.

The Les Negriers comes down from a time when the people used the
rhythms of the drum and the "ti-bois" to give them strength to cut the
sugar cane. It is said that fields of cane literally vanished as.the

men, women and children, all moving together in the same rhythmic, measured
movement, swung their cutlasses as they sung "zip zap zabap".

In many lands of the New World the planLation culture and society
suppressed the culture that the slaves brought with them from Africa.

In many cases these people were forced to go into the bush to plny
their drums and do their dances and chant sons of their homeland and

ancestoar. This also happened in Hartinique.

The Calendi a frenzied slave dance done to the beat of drums and
*ti-boisll was forbidden by the French masters. This forced the slaves

to do it in the woods. This dance with all its colour comes to CARIFEST.,

The folk-art will highlight Martinique's participation in

C..RIFESTA. And this can be understood; for the folk in Martinique is a

gay, rich folk...a folk which helped the land earn the coveted title

"Pearl of the Indies".

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs