We Owe Haiti a Debt We Can’t Repay

Here is a guest essay by Annette Gordon-Reed, professor of law and of history at Harvard University (and author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family). Read full essay at The New York Times.

When assassins killed President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti on July 7, pushing the country to the brink of chaos, it may have struck many Americans as the latest in a string of political upheavals and destabilizing disasters in an unfortunate country with which the United States should have little to do. But the revelation that two of the suspects were American citizens was a reminder of the complicated history of our relations with Haiti — a needlessly tragic history, driven by self-interest and the politics of racism. As the United States now offers to help Haiti restore political order, it should be kept squarely in mind that Haiti is more than just a troubled neighbor. It is a nation whose revolutionary fight for freedom helped make the United States the country that it is today.

In 1791 the enslaved people of Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue, engineered the first and only successful slave revolt in modern history. Saint-Domingue was France’s richest colony, made so by the worldwide demand for sugar and the slavery-based economy that fulfilled it. Led by Toussaint Louverture, Africans on the island violently threw off their enslavers, whose countrymen themselves had only recently overthrown a monarchy that had oppressed people for generations. For reasons both strategic and principled, in early 1794, the French government accepted the declaration of the end of slavery in Saint-Domingue made by the rebels in August of 1793. Some in France saw abolition as in keeping with their own revolutionary ideals.

This period is popularly known as the “Age of Revolution.” First came the Americans, aided by the French, in 1776. The French followed with the fall of the Bastille in 1789. Thomas Jefferson, an ardent supporter of the French Revolution and still under its spell, wrote to his daughter Martha in 1793 as if the events in Saint-Domingue were part of an unstoppable wave sweeping the globe. “St. Domingo has expelled all it’s (sic) whites, has given freedom to all it’s (sic) blacks, has established a regular government of the blacks and coloured people, and seems now to have taken it’s (sic) ultimate form, and that to which all of the West India islands must come.”

Americans watched these proceedings closely. As refugees from Saint-Domingue arrived in the United States, bringing news of the successful revolt, white Southerners were alarmed, fearing replication of the events on the island. Apparently, when whites fought and killed for their freedom, as the Americans and French had, it was noble and heroic. But when Blacks killed whites, who had used force to enslave them and would not be talked out of the practice, they were simply murderers.

Many Black Southerners, however, were inspired. In 1800, a man named Gabriel planned, with some other Blacks in Richmond, Va., to strike against slavery. The plot was foiled, and white Virginians put in place new restrictions on the enslaved and on free Blacks in the state, hoping to prevent other revolts. President Jefferson, mindful of the desires of his Southern political base, adopted a hostile stance toward Saint-Domingue. The stage was set for isolation of the tiny island nation, a choice that had enormous consequences for its development.

Napoleon brought a new challenge to Saint-Domingue when he decided in 1802 to reassert control over French colonies in the Americas. He sent a fleet to the island to accomplish the task. The residents fought back and, with the help of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries yellow fever, repelled the invaders. This victory was fateful not only for the residents of Saint-Domingue, who went on to form an independent republic that they renamed Haiti, but also for the course of American history.

Napoleon, as part of his plan to re-establish the French empire in the Caribbean, was hoping to use the territory of Louisiana as a supply station for the island colonies. Once the Haitians had shattered his dream, Napoleon saw no reason to hold on to the territory. He was eager to sell it, and President Jefferson was equally eager to buy. The purchase doubled the size of the United States, which obtained 530 million acres for $15 million. If not for the French defeat at the hands of the Haitians, the sale may not have come off, leaving the United States possibly forever divided by a huge swath of French-controlled land or forced into armed conflict with the French over it. Of course, what the United States really bought from France was the right to contend with the various Indigenous people who had their own claims to the land.

Instead of welcoming and supporting the fledgling republic, the United States refused to recognize Haiti until 1862, after the Southern states seceded from the Union. Despite this formal recognition, after the assassination of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam in 1915, the United States occupied the island until 1934. Think of how different its prospects would have been had Haiti been fully embraced from the very beginning, instead of reviled, and if Haitians hadn’t been forced in 1825, in one of the most disgraceful details in the history of the oppression of Haiti, to pay reparations to their enslavers and their heirs in exchange for official recognition. The reparations created a crushing debt that blighted the country’s future.

For full article, see https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/21/opinion/haiti-us-history.html (also see https://repeatingislands.com/2021/07/27/we-owe-haiti-a-debt-we-cant-repay/)

Le grand retour de Balenciaga à la haute couture

Mercredi 7 juillet 2021, la maison Balenciaga présentait sa première collection de haute couture depuis que son fondateur, Cristobal Balenciaga, fermait les portes de son studio de création, en 1968. C’est dans les anciens studios du couturier espagnol, situés au 10 avenue George V à Paris, que Demna Gvasalia, directeur artistique depuis 6 ans, a renoué avec la tradition et l’héritage de la maison.

En 1968, quand Cristóbal Balenciaga ferme les portes de son studio de création situé au 10 avenue George V, bien que le prêt-à-porter n’en soit qu’à ses balbutiements, ce nouveau mode de consommation gagne rapidement en popularité auprès des clientes. Et le couturier espagnol, adepte de la haute couture, ne se sent plus en phase avec l’époque. Avec 49 collections parisiennes conçues entre 1937, date où il s’est installé à Paris, et cette année fatidique, Cristóbal Balenciaga, marquera pour toujours l’histoire de la mode et du costume. Considéré comme “le couturier des couturiers” par ses pairs – Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet et Christian Dior inclus -, il continuera d’influencer et inspirer les générations suivantes. Ainsi Azzedine Alaïa achète les archives du couturier après la fermeture de son studio, tandis que Nicolas Ghesquière, directeur artistique qui relance la maison en 1997, perpétue sa quête de radicalité. D’autres créateurs à l’instar de Phoebe Philo chez Céline, Rei Kawakubo ou encore Proenza Schouler ont fait plusieurs fois référence à son travail au sein de leurs collections. Grâce à sa technique et sa rigueur incomparables, ainsi qu’à son sens remarquable de la coupe (il a commencé comme tailleur à l’âge de 12 ans), il compose des robes et manteaux aux lignes pures et aux volumes architecturaux. Encore aujourd’hui, les créations de Cristóbal Balenciaga n’ont rien perdu de leur grandeur et de leur majestuosité, comme si le temps et les modes n’avaient eu aucun effet sur elles.

Cinquante-trois ans plus tard, ce mercredi 7 juillet 2021, Demna Gvasalia, directeur artistique de la maison depuis 2015, renouait avec la tradition haute couture chère au fondateur de la maison, allant même, par mimétisme, jusqu’à défiler en silence, au sein de la mythique adresse de l’avenue George V. C’est dans l’ambiance calfeutré des salons de couture, entièrement restaurés, et empreints de ce charme suranné propre à l’époque, que vont se succéder les 63 silhouettes homme et femme qui composent cette collection, repoussée d’un an à cause de la pandémie. Un décor à mille lieux de l’univers de celui qui s’est imposé avec le subversif label Vêtements, a relooké les boutiques Balenciaga façon usines de confection ou a présenté sa collection fall 2020 via un jeu vidéo, mais pas non plus surprenant. Non seulement, Demna Gvasalia aime être là où ne l’attend pas mais il a plusieurs fois témoigné son appétence pour des scénographies en adéquation avec ses collections. En mémoire, les silhouettes Vêtements printemps-été 2017 composées de plusieurs collaborations avec d’autres labels et présentées dans les Galeries Lafayette ou son défilé Balenciaga homme printemps-été 2018 au Bois de Boulogne avec ces pères accompagnés de leurs enfants. 

Bien que durant ces six années chez Balenciaga, le créateur géorgien a largement prouvé son talent et sa légitimité, ses détracteurs aiment limiter son succès à la vente de ses imposantes baskets Triple S et de ses cabas multicolore Bazar, plutôt qu’à son aptitude à faire perdurer l’héritage avant-gardiste de son fondateur. Autres temps, autres mœurs, et en 2021, le succès des maisons de luxe s’évalue davantage à leur capacité à vendre des sacs à mains et souliers plutôt qu’à une activité consacrée au sur-mesure, désuète et exclusive. Aujourd’hui bien que Demna Gvasalia n’a plus à prouver son influence, il va donner une véritable leçon de mode et de couture, à contre-courant du tout-digital qui a émergé ces derniers mois. [. . .]

À lire (et voir 63 photos): https://www.numero.com/fr/fashion-week/defile-balenciaga-couture-50-demna-gvasalia-hommage

Frankétienne remporte le Grand Prix de la Francophonie 2021

Selon Raoul Junior Lorfils (Haiti Loop News), l’écrivain et peintre haïtien Frankétienne vient de remporter le Grand Prix de la Francophonie 2021 dans le cadre du Palmarès 2021 de l’Académie française.

L’écrivain haïtien Frankétienne remporte le Grand Prix de la Francophonie dans le cadre du Palmarès 2021 de l’Académie française, a appris Loop Haiti ce mardi 24 juin. L’homme de lettres de 85 ans devient le deuxième Haïtien à recevoir cette distinction après Jean Métellus en 2010. 

Accompagné d’une enveloppe de 30000 euros, le Grand Prix de la Francophonie couronne “l’œuvre d’une personne physique francophone qui, dans son pays ou à l’échelle internationale, aura contribué de façon éminente au maintien et à l’illustration de la langue française”.

Deux autres haïtiens figurent le palmarès 2021 de l’Académie française qui distingue au total 65 personnalités de lettres et de plume.

Il s’agit d’abord de la romancière et directrice du Bureau haïtien du droit d’auteur, Emmelie Prophète-Milcé. Elle est coloréate du Prix du rayonnement de la langue et de la littérature françaises.

Citons ensuite le romancier Philippe Dalembert, récipiendaire du Prix François Coppée dans la catégorie Prix Poésie pour son recueil de poème Cantique du balbutiement (2020).

À lire : https://haiti.loopnews.com/content/franketienne-remporte-le-grand-prix-de-la-francophonie-2021

Edwidge Danticat: An Internationally Acclaimed Literary Force

Rachele Viard interviews renowned Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat for Caribbean Essence. Here are excerpts:

It was a thrill, to be able to reach out and interview one of my favorite not only Haitian authors, women authors but author period Edwidge Danticat. As a young girl reading and writing became an early escape and was a way for me to travel to different places and meet new and interesting people. I was exposed to all kinds of writers and books not only in school, but at home as well. F Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, were and are just a few of my favorites.

Edwidge, who began writing at the age of nine was born in Haiti, and immigrated to the US as a preteen at the age of 12. Danticat has penned several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, which was an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist and a favorite of mine, as well as The Farming of Bones, The Dew Breaker, Create Dangerously, just to name a few. Her passion and skill for writing was something she began to develop early on, writing for newspapers geared for high school students, especially one called New Youth Connections and participating in writing contest as well. Her works focus on the lives of women and their relationships. She also addresses issues of power, injustice, and poverty and truly in so many ways universal stories pertaining to the immigrant experience as well as being a woman.

She has become a recognizable figure in the Haitian, literary and American community and uses her voice and platform as an author to advocate for those whose voices are often silenced. Hope this glance into Danticat’s journey as a writer and her inspirations prompts you, if you haven’t already to discover her body of work for yourself.

CE: What are some of your fondest memories growing up in Haiti?

ED: Some of my fondest memories of Haiti are of spending summers in the countryside with my cousins when I was a girl, and later on spending time in the summers in the countryside with my daughters and their grandmother, my husband’s mother. A lot of time had passed, but some things have not changed. There were a lot of kids from Port-au-Prince spending the summer in the countryside too when we were recently there. There were a lot of trips to the river, soccer games in the afternoons in nearby fields, visits with friends in the early evening, and flocks of moths invading the house after the rain. Of course the country has changed a lot and keeps changing, but there are so many beautiful moments like that that you might take for granted.

CE: What was the change like spending most of your early childhood in Haiti, then moving to NY? Was it a big culture shock for you?

ED: I moved to the United States in 1981 at age twelve soon after cases of AIDS were first being discussed in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control named four groups at “high risk” for the virus. We, Haitians were the only ones solely identified by nationality. Some of the non-Haitian students would regularly shove and hit me and the other Haitian kids, telling us that we had dirty blood. This was of course more than the regular culture shock. I did have a wonderful teacher, Mr. Dusseck. He taught us everything, including what exit to use in the school to avoid getting beaten up after school. One of my best memories of being in the US early on though was April 20, 1990 when thousands of us marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the FDA ban that kept us from donating blood, even to our own family members. Everyone I knew was there, old, young, everybody.

CE: When or at what age did you start taking writing seriously as a career path? You began writing at the age of nine years old, did you know from that young an age you wanted to be a writer?

ED: I did, even though I wasn’t really sure how I would go about it. I would just read books and think to myself I want to do that. Even though I was writing through high school and published in newspapers for high school students, especially one called New Youth Connections, I didn’t think of writing as a possible career until I was in college and started winning some writing contests. That’s when I applied to the Masters of Fine Arts program at Brown University and started writing my novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory there.

CE: Did your family encourage and support your passion for writing, did you grow up in a creative artistic environment would you say?

ED: My parents wanted me to be a doctor, and if not that, a nurse. They thought writing was risky, both in terms of having no guarantees of making a living and putting yourself in danger by sharing intimate things about yourself. My parents came of age during the Duvalier dictatorship, in the Papa Doc era in Haiti so they were always worried about words coming back to hurt a person or that person’s family. For them being a writer seemed like something you would do as a hobby but not a job. My father was a cab driver and my mother worked in a factory. They felt that my brothers and I had been given such extraordinary opportunities that we should do extraordinary and safe things that offered a clearer path to success. In that sense, they were not that different from many other immigrant parents from all over the world. [. . .]

CE: Which one of your books was the most challenging to write? Please explain why.

ED: Probably Brother, I’m Dying. It was hard because it was very painful. It’s about the death of my father to a lung disease and my uncle, who raised me in Haiti, and died in immigration custody here in Miami. The book was a memorial to both of them and a celebration of the birth of my oldest daughter who was born that same year. The fact that they are both now gone made it very challenging to write, but ultimately rewarding too. [. . .]

For full interview, see https://www.caribbeanessence.net/post/edwidge-danticat-an-internationally-acclaimed-literary-force

Yseult « Rien à prouver »

Yseult (Yseult Onguenet) est une interprète/auteure et mannequin française avec des racines caméroniennes. Dans ses chansons et vidéos elle explore le racisme, le sexisme, le corps, la grossophobie, et d’autres formes de stigmatisation dans la société.

« Rien à prouver »

Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille

Le ventre vide, un rien dans les poches
Pas un rond pour acheter le succès mérité
Combien m’ont tendu la main, pas un proche
Artiste aigris, en perte de vitesse, assassin
Avide de gloire, de reconnaissance, ils m’ont fait perdre mon adolescence
D’après mon père je vendrais mon ul-c, je ferais les putes dans le coin d’une rue
Maman était là et le grand frère aussi
Tout le monde était là mais personne n’a rien dit
De maisons de disque en maisons closes
Toujours les mêmes partys de fesses
Mama Africa, Katy-Perrysée
Je bouge mon boule là, pour enfiler leur cash, assassins

Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille

Ainsi va ma vie
Des liasses de regret
Vivre à crédit pour éponger mes dettes
Serrer les dents pour que tout ça s’arrête
J’me voyais déjà en haut de l’affiche
La réalité m’rattrape au réveil
La réalité me chuchote au réveil
Au petit matin j’ai quittée le nid
Pris mon envol petit à petit
J’suis tombée cent fois et j’ai su me relever
Devant le miroir j’ai su me retrouver
Devant le miroir je me suis retrouvée
Devant le miroir je me suis retrouvée

Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Oh, j’ai plus rien à prouver à part faire de l’oseille
Bah, nanana
Ainsi va ma vie, ayaya
Bah, nanana
Ainsi va ma vie, ayaya, eh ben

Gims – “Only You” feat. Dhurata Dora

Here is a song by DRC-born, Parisian rapper Gims—also known Maître Gims—with Albanian singer Dhurata Dora. Here are some of the lyrics—in French and Albanian.

“Only You”

Ah, ah, ah, ah
Ton départ m’a couté la vie, no, no

Zonin po ta ni o babe (regarde-moi)
Kado qe sillna (reviens vers moi)
O ka m’vjen permas (regarde-moi, reviens vers moi)
Zoti vec e din o babe (regarde-moi)
Qysh jom ka nina (reviens vers moi)
Sa shume ty t’kam dasht oh (regarde-moi)

Je t’ai vue partir comme une comète
J’ai pas su tenir toutes mes promesses (ah, ah)
Persuadé qu’y en a pas deux comme elle (yeah)
J’le savais mais je l’ai fait quand même
Ty ti fali, fali prape
Edhe jeten per ty e jap
O bre zemer ku po shkon? Mos ik
Hajde kapem edhe trego rri se vec ty

T’du, ouh, ouh, ouh
Prape te du, ouh, ouh, ouh
J’ai le blues
J’ai le blues

Hala ta ni eren ty n’dhome (oh no)
U largove, “Te dua” pa m’thone (uh)
Edhe ty a po t’mungon?
Qysh u kon mes neve xhan xhan (uh)
Se ty po t’lypi ka je?
Ka je mon amour? (Mon amour, mon amour)
Vec po du me dit a je?
Allô mon amour (mon amour), oh
S’di ca ndodhi, nuk e prita
Nuk po m’fol mo aj, aj, aj
Vec njehere, (?)
Ki me pa s’kom faj
Je t’ai vue partir comme une comète
J’ai pas su tenir toutes mes promesses (oh, oh)
Persuadé qu’y en a pas deux comme elle (yeah)
J’le savais mais je l’ai fait quand même
Ty ti fali, fali prape
Edhe jeten per ty e jap
O bre zemer ku po shkon? Mos ik
Hajde kapem edhe trego rri se vec ty

T’du, ouh, ouh, ouh
Prape te du, ouh, ouh, ouh
J’ai le blues, J’ai le blues

Regarde-moi, reviens vers moi
Regarde-moi, ensuite, reviens vers moi
N’oublie pas, je suis à toi
N’oublie pas que tu es à moi
Redis-moi dans les yeux
Que tu n’veux pas de nous deux
Tes mots sonnent plus comme une
Preuve d’amour qu’un adieu
Tu pars dans l’mauvais sens, bébé
J’parle avec l’innocence d’un bébé
Tu fais couler le sang d’mon Corazon [. . .]

Maryse Condé awarded the Cino Del Duca World Prize

Évelyne Chaville (Kariculture) writes about Maryse Condé’s most recent award: The Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca [Cino Del Duca World Prize]. This international literary award recognizes authors whose works constitute, in a scientific or literary form, a message of modern humanism. According to James Murua Literary, Jury president Hélène Carrère d’Encausse underlined how much Condé’s work that has done for the Francophone world and how it allows for better understanding of “the historical debate on colonization.”

The good news arrived on Monday 17 May: the Cino Del Duca World Prize 2021 will be awarded to Maryse Condé. On Wednesday 2 June, the 84-year-old Guadeloupean writer, despite her health problems, left her peaceful home in Gordes, located in the Vaucluse department, to go to the Institut de France in Paris – the headquarters of the Académie française and the Académie des sciences, among others – to receive this prestigious award.

The Cino Del Duca World Prize, which pays tribute to the Italian press owner, publisher and resistance fighter, was created by his widow, Simone, in 1969. Each year, it rewards an author “whose work constitutes, in scientific or literary form, a message of humanism”.

Before Maryse Condé, writers and scientists also won the Cino Del Duca Prize. They include Cuban Alejo Carpentier (1975), Russian Andrei Sakharov (1974), Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor (1978), Argentine Jorge Luis Borges (1980), Brazilian Jorge Amado (1990), Frenchman Yves Pouliquen (1994), Czech Václav Havel (1997), Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa (2008) and Frenchman Patrick Modiano (2010). With its 200,000 euros, the Cino Del Ducca Prize has the largest literary prize amount after the Nobel Prize.

Many see this new award as a first step for Maryse Condé towards the Nobel Prize for Literature, as was the case for Vargas Llosa in 2010 or Modiano in 2014.

Let us recall that in 2018, the author of “I, Tituba Black Witch of Salem” was the winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize for Literature.

During the ceremony, Maryse Condé said she was pleased to have won this new prize; the 14-member jury elected her unanimously.

For original article in English, see http://www.kariculture.net/en/maryse-conde-awarded-the-cino-del-duca-world-prize, and in French, http://www.kariculture.net/maryse-conde-a-recu-prix-mondial-cino-del-duca

Also see:

 “Maryse Condé is Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca 2021 recipient”
James Murua Literary, May 24, 2021
https://www.jamesmurua.com/maryse-conde-is-prix-mondial-cino-del-duca-2021-recipient

Littérature : le prix Cino Del Duca pour Maryse Condé [VIDEO]
Guyane la 1ère, 2 juin 2021
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSSO26L8Jxg

French Archaeologists Discover 113 Intact Ancient Guadeloupe Burials

Nathan Falde (Ancient Origins) writes about a large number of intact Taíno burials in Guadeloupe, dating back to the 11th to 13th centuries.

French archaeologists working for  INRAP (the National Institute for Preventive Archaeology Research) recently found something unique and unprecedented on the archipelago of Guadeloupe in the southeastern Caribbean. They found a large number of intact Guadeloupe burials, dating back to pre-Columbian times (the 11th to 13th centuries). In total, the Guadeloupe burials archaeologists found contained  113 separate graves, which consisted of the skeletal remains of both adults and children. 

The Largest Collection of Guadeloupe Burials Ever!

This is easily the largest collection of ancient skeletons ever found in  Guadeloupe, a chain of six inhabited islands that is currently a department of France. The island’s  volcanic soil  is highly acidic, which usually causes buried bones to decay significantly over time. But in the newly found Guadeloupe burials, the remains survived long enough for archaeologists to discover them and recover them while they were still in good condition.

The bodies in the grave were folded in different positions so they could fit in relatively tight spaces. This style of burial explains why the skeletal remains were so well preserved, since the folding of the bodies created uneven surfaces that the acidic earth could only partially cover.

The Guadeloupe burials was not an isolated discovery. Digging further around the burials, the INRAP researchers found hundreds of deep imprints in the ground they identified as  post holes . Tracing the post hole patterns, they could recreate the shapes of the residential structures the associated posts would have supported.

More than 50 pits were also unearthed. These wider holes may have been used for storage or garbage disposal, or some combination of both. Inside of them the archaeologists discovered a multitude of interesting artifacts. They found stone tools, shards of pottery, and heating stones, along with the discarded bones and shells of both land and sea animals, which were presumably used for food. The archaeologists were digging at the planned site of a future housing project, on Guadeloupe’s most populous island (Grand-Terre) on the outskirts of its largest city, Les Abymes. As a precautionary measure, government officials in Guadeloupe had requested the services of INRAP, to make sure no valuable artifacts would be destroyed once construction began. 

This turned out to be a wise decision. Because it has been so difficult to find sites left behind by  pre-Columbian indigenous people , this surprising discovery could yield vital information that will boost the fortunes of Caribbean island archaeology.

Who Were the Lost People of Ancient Guadeloupe?

The archaeologists were able to date the settlement and the burials to the period from 750 to 1500 AD. This time is known as the Late Ceramic Age in the Caribbean, in honor of a distinctive style of pottery that was common in the area. At this time, the Lesser Antilles (of which the archipelago of Guadeloupe is a part) were occupied by the  Arawak people . Two different Arawak groups were present in the region, one that lived on the South American mainland and one that settled the Caribbean islands. To distinguish between the two, scholars often refer to the island Arawaks as the Taino.

The Taino were skilled agriculturalists who lived in small villages. They also hunted, fished, and harvested shellfish from the beaches and the sea. They were peaceful and communal, and created cooperative societies that shared the bounty of the land fairly, so that everyone could survive. [. . .]

Up to now, the Arawak or Taino footprint in the Lesser Antilles has been exceedingly limited. They left behind quite a bit of  rock art , which did reveal important information about their daily lives and spiritual traditions. But their absorption by the Caribs plus the poor soil conditions that tended to destroy most bones and artifacts on Guadeloupe made it impossible for scholars to expand their knowledge of the ancient Arawak people any further. 

That is why the new discovery near Les Abymes is so noteworthy. The French archaeologists can now perform a more in-depth study of the material culture of the ancient inhabitants of Guadeloupe, who first arrived on the archipelago in approximately 3,000 BC. 

To deepen their understanding even further, the archaeologists hope to extract readable DNA samples from the intact skeletal remains found in the recent Guadeloupe burials. This will allow them to create genetic maps that connect the individuals buried based on family relationships and common ancestors.  This genetic information may also help researchers establish links between the long-lost Taino of Guadeloupe, and Taino peoples who lived elsewhere. Such information would be highly valuable, because it could help archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians create more detailed and accurate maps of ancient migration patterns in the Caribbean and the surrounding area.

There are many blanks to fill in before a complete picture of the demographic history of pre-Columbian Guadeloupe can be obtained. The process of discovery may be speeded up substantially, thanks to this exciting Guadeloupe burial discovery and the new data it will provide scientists.

For full article, see https://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/guadeloupe-burials-0015334

[Shown above: One of the 113 Taino Guadeloupe burials (referred to as burial #60) recently discovered in Les Abymes, Guadeloupe. (Jessica Laguerre/Inrap)]

David Diop wins International Booker for “At Night All Blood Is Black”

Sian Cain (The Guardian) writes about David Diop, the first French writer to win the prize for translated fiction – split with his translator Anna Moschovakis – for novel about a Senegalese soldier fighting for France in the first world war.

Diop, the author of two novels, and his translator Anna Moschovakis, split the £50,000 annual prize, which goes to the best author and translator of a work translated into English. At Night All Blood Is Black follows Alfa Ndiaye, a Senegalese soldier fighting for France in the first world war, whose descent into madness after the death of a childhood friend on the frontline begins to show itself in extreme brutality against enemy German soldiers in the trenches.

Approximately 135,000 Senegalese tirailleurs fought in Europe, with 30,000 killed. Diop was inspired to write the book by his Senegalese great-grandfather’s silence about his time in the war. “He never said anything to his wife, or to my mother, about his experience. That is why I was always very interested by all the tales and accounts which gave one access to a form of intimacy with that particular war,” he recently told the BBC.

Chair of judges, the historian Lucy Hughes-Hallett, called At Night All Blood Is Black “an extraordinary novel”.

“The book is frightening – reading it, you feel you are being hypnotised,” Hughes-Hallett said. “Your emotions are all jangled up, your mind is being opened to new thoughts. It is an extraordinary piece of narrative, very powerful, very compelling. The protagonist is accused of sorcery and all of us, we judges, did feel this book had somehow put a spell on us. It is that hypnotically compelling.”

She described it as “a story about war, but also about love, the comradeship of those young men who fight together and the extraordinarily intense relationships that are formed by people who are risking death alongside each other. It is also a story about language – the protagonist does not speak much French, so it is a story written in French, which we read in English, about a man thinking in Wolof. Diop has done something very clever in creating a kind of incantatory language that somehow conveys that sense of what it is like to think outside your own language, as it were.”

She said that she hoped the violence would not put off prospective readers. “You can read the last act of King Lear when the bodies are piling up on stage and still be responding not just to the horror but the great beauty of the language,” she said.

“This book does what the best poetry does, entering the reader’s consciousness at a level that bypasses rationality and transcends the subject matter. So yes indeed, you are reading about horrible mutilations and a soldier going mad … but all the same, the whole tragedy relies on this dichotomy, of the awfulness of what you are being told and the beauty of how it is being expressed. So there is a great deal of pleasure to be had from this novel.”

Born in Paris in 1966, to a French mother and Senegalese father, Diop spent his childhood in Senegal before returning to study in France, becoming a professor of 18th-century literature at the University of Pau. Since it was published in 2018, At Night All Blood Is Black has been a bestseller in France where it was shortlisted for 10 literary prizes and won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. Its translations have also won Italy’s Premio Strega Europeo and the Netherlands’ Europese Literatuurprijs.

At Night All Blood Is Black was picked as the winner of the International Booker from 125 submitted books. Hughes-Hallett said that many of the books submitted this year, including Diop’s, examined colonialism or migration, “which is of course the sequel to colonialism,” she said. “That story about people moving around the world, maybe being welcomed by their new host countries or maybe being kept out, is one that a lot of the authors wanted to address.” [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jun/02/david-diop-wins-international-booker-for-frightening-at-night-all-blood-is-black