March 20th ushered in La Journée International de la Francophonie and another celebration hosted by The French Embassy, in collaboration with Alliance Française de Sainte Lucie. The invite only guest list included Governor General, Dame Pearlette Louisy; Secretary-General of the Saint Lucia National Commission for UNESCO, Marcia Symphorien; former UNESCO representative Lawrence Laurent; Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, ambassadors from the diplomatic corps and representatives from Guyane, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
“It is indeed important to promote the French language, the fifth most spoken of the five continents, the third language of business internationally with more than 250 million speakers today and probably five hundred million tomorrow.”
But as the ambassador explained, the concept of Francophonie is not limited to all things linguistic.
“Francophonie is also values related to humanist, generosity, democracy, respect of the diversity of cultures, religions and even each other’s language. This is the reason why we are happy to exchange on these issues with other non French speaking countries which in St Lucia are largely in the majority. Despite our language differences, we agree on the essential values that I just mentioned and it is a real pleasure for me to work everyday with the representative of English, Portuguese or Spanish speaking countries that I wish to meet and thank for their presence here tonight with us.”
De la Moussaye expressed his appreciation to the country for their support after the January 7th attack at the offices of newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France which left 12 people dead.
“This year the Francophonie and its values made the news. First with the demonstration of solidarity that has risen worldwide in January following the attacks that bloodied Paris for reasons relating to one of the most precious values of the Francophonie, namely that of freedom of expression. I thank all those in St Lucia who showed their support, in their own special way, in the name of their country or in their own name.”
Not to be outdone the Governor General showed her bilingual chops, also addressing the crowd in both languages. Louisy highlighted the longstanding relationship between the Francophone culture and St Lucia.
“As you, and perhaps I should not presume that everybody knows, that this festival was created in 1988 so that states and governments of the organization could celebrate what we have in common; that is the French language. But also to celebrate our diversity, both linguistic and cultural. St Lucia was already a member of the Francophonie when this particular festival was established and we have always tried to participate in these celebrations. We have always tried to find ways on this particular occasion to express our solidarity with the Francophone world in all its differences and its diversity. For us here in St Lucia when the French eludes us, there is also the creole or for some of us there is always the ‘Frenglish’.”
The evening concluded with a mini concert from one of Martinique’s premier singer-songwriters, E.SY Kennenga followed by a cocktail.