The month has been filled with activities leading up to La Journée International de la Francophonie, which is held annually on March 20th, and Thursday’s offering was the pièce de résistance. The French Embassy, in collaboration with Alliance Française de Sainte Lucie, hosted an evening of creative arts entertainment, featuring artists from Guadeloupe. In attendance was the Governor General, Dame Pearlette Louisy; Conseiller Régional de Coopération et d’Action Culturelle pour les Caraïbes, Jean-Luc Mure; Secretary-General of the Saint Lucia National Commission for UNESCO, Marcia Symphorien; former UNESCO representative and noted French patron Lawrence Laurent; and Nobel laureate Derek Walcott.
The new Ambassador of France to the OECS, Eric de La Moussaye, gave a short speech, the bulk of which was in his native tongue but as he explained, it was only fitting on such an occasion.
“It is my duty on the Day of the Francophonie. I know that most of the people who were invited here this evening understand French language. But I also know that some of you don’t understand perfectly our language that’s why I will try to speak as slowly as possible.”
La Moussaye thanked everyone for attending and spoke of the productive meetings that had taken place with various officials supportive of the French initiative.
The Governor General showed her dexterity by presenting her speech in both English and French.
Dame Pearlette Louisy pointed out that though this year marks the 34th anniversary of Saint Lucia’s induction into the Francophonie, one can say that the island has been part of the French community for centuries, taking into account the battles between France and England for ownership. And despite eventually succumbing to British rule, the French culture still looms large over the nation.
“The principles of multilinguism and cultural diversity which really underline the Francophone ideology are the principles that form our own national ideology. You can see evidence of this all around us in our names, our place names, our culture, our cultural habits.”
But according to the GG, we are still lacking what she termed the ‘concretization’ of these principles in our daily and national lives, and there is a simple solution.
“We can begin making this concrete by the most visible, the most recognizable form of diversity, of plurality; that is the language. So today let us begin to speak and learn the languages which are ours. But it is a special appeal this evening, because it is La Journée Internationale de Francophonie, to embrace the French language as well as well as French-based Creole so we can ensure that we can get this linguistic cultural diversity that we speak of. We can make it a reality and not a dream that always seems to be beyond our reach.”
Ambassador La Moussaye then presented Louisy and Laurent with a special gift of books chronicling the history of French foreign affairs. La Moussaye sang the praises of Laurent, who he praised for her enthusiasm and support of French culture in Saint Lucia.
The artistic portion of the programme started off with an interpretive dance from Myriam Soulanges and her partner Xavier Daniel-Chasseur entitled ‘Mika heure locale.’ The audience was rapt in silence as the duo showed pure skill in the fluidity of their movements and incomprehensible contortions, surrounded by seemingly innocuous plastic sandals.
The performance was quickly followed by circus act ‘Camaïeu’, starring Spaniard Pedro Izquierdo and musician Diego Galaz. It was a clever concept using elements of music, sound, acrobatics, puppetry and miming. One of the highlights was the crowd interaction which saw Izquierdo throw socks at the crowd, silently egging them on to throw them back into a small tin bucket. A faux tennis match drew laughter from the onlookers as an audience member gamely kept up with Izquierdo, despite the absence of an actual ball. But the loudest response came from a lively dance between the jovial mime and Louisy who showed the full array of her fancy footwork.
Soulanges and Daniel-Chasseur closed the showcase with another piece, ‘Alé é rivé’, which they describe as being “born from a reflection on the need and feeling of attachment to a land, a person, a memory, a space, or may simply be a smell or sound.” It was another hit which left the gathering transfixed.
Guests were then treated to fine wines and hors d’oeuvres.
Other activities this month included breakfast and movie mornings for kids, a special theatre performance for youngsters, and a spelling bee for secondary school students.