Home to history, memory of slavery

It stands majestically on the edge of the sea in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, the first of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s called the Memorial ACTe, an €83 million facility funded by France and the European Union and dedicated to the history and memory of slavery.

Firmly situated on the site of the former Darboussier sugar refinery, the building is an architectural masterpiece made up of “silver roots on a black box”, with a 150-metre long footbridge suspended some 12 feet in the air.

The Memorial ACTe, the first ever facility in the  Eastern Caribbean dedicated to the memory of slavery.
The Memorial ACTe, the first ever facility in the Eastern Caribbean dedicated to the memory of slavery.

According to Guadeloupe region president Victorin Lurel, the facility “reflects Guadeloupe’s determination to play a key role in constructing a universal, shared memory of slavery”.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart being greeted by France’s President Francois Hollande yesterday at the opening of the Memorial ACTe in Guadeloupe.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart being greeted by France’s President Francois Hollande on Sunday at the opening of the Memorial ACTe in Guadeloupe.

“It is now time to heal the wounds of the past in order to help the women and men of this country, and of all the countries that suffered from crime, to move forward together regardless of their origins.

“The enslavement of Negroes was a crime against humanity. Its scope left lasting scars on the African continent. It’s is also one of the building blocks of Caribbean societies in general and the Guadeloupean society in particular. To this very day, they still bear the stigma of that era,” Lurel said.

The Memorial ACTe houses permanent exhibitions that begin as soon as one enters the courtyard where a magnificent Poto-Mitan Tree, made of metal, stands representatively outside the building, encompassing the many communal images of the country’s people.

Masqueraders of carnival.
Masqueraders of carnival.
Toyou’s L’Arbre De L’Oubli (The Tree Of Forgetting). 
Toyou’s L’Arbre De L’Oubli (The Tree Of Forgetting).

Inside there are many artefacts and other displays paying tribute to the victims of the slave trade and slavery, and the millions who lost their lives in that era. There are also video murals telling the story of the lives of four extraordinary black men who were among the first to travel to the Americas, especially John Garrido, The Black Conquistador, who voyaged with Christopher Columbus.

One will also observe slave drums, busts of slaves with chains around their necks, a graffiti piece by Shuck One that takes up an entire wall depicting the the history of the march. There is also a room of fully costumed “masqueraders” ready for a carnival, as well as L’Arbre De L’Oubli (The Tree Of Forgetting) done by Pascale Marthine Tayou.

There is as well the temporary collection of pictures entitled the Festival Caribbean De L’Image.

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